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Cattle numbers Calf crop increases seen for 2018

by Wyoming Livestock Roundup

According to the Livestock Marketing Information Center’s (LMIC cattle inventory estimates, all cattle and calves for 2018 on July 1 are projected at 103.2 million head, 101 percent of 2017’s numbers. 

The most notable increase from 2017 to 2018 was in other heifers not identified as replacements, which were projected to be at 105.5 percent of 2017’s numbers. 

LMIC released their estimate ahead of USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service numbers, which were released on July 20 at 1 p.m. 

“LMIC expects the calf crop for 2018 to be 36.3 million head, 492,000 head – 1.4 percent – higher than the previous year,” said the Daily Livestock Report (DLR) in a July 19 report. “The increase in the calf crop implies that cattle slaughter should continue to increase in the next 18 to 24 months, but the rate of increase will likely slow down.”

As a result of dry conditions in key cow/calf producing regions, feed supplies have been impacted, and DLR expects more cows to be pushed to market this year. Already for 2018, beef cow slaughter for January through June is at 10.8 percent higher than 2017. 

Rather than being an indication of herd contraction, DLR said, “The increase in beef cow slaughter does not necessarily mean a contraction in the beef herd and liquidation. After all, the beef cow inventory has been increasing in recent years, and this implies a larger supply of cull cows.” 

DLR also expects that heifer retention will decline, with decreases of about 200,000 head or 4.3 percent, compared to a year ago, according to LMIC data. 

“If heifer retention declines by 4.3 percent on July 1, it could imply a 1.5 percent reduction in the beef cowherd on July 1, 2019,” DLR said, noting these numbers are currently estimates. “But much will depend on pasture conditions and beef demand in the next 12 months.”

Saige Albert is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at

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