Market News & Headlines >> U.S. Cattle Herd Larger Than Expected

Friday afternoon’s semiannual Cattle Inventory report from USDA held negative news for the feeder cattle and live cattle markets as it pegged the Jan. 1 U.S. cattle herd above trade expectations at the highest level in five years. 

USDA reported the Jan. 1 total cattle herd at 91.988 million head, 103.2% of the year earlier total of 89.143 million and above trade estimates that averaged 102% in a range from 101.5-102.3%, according to a Reuters News Service survey of three analysts. 

USDA pegged the U.S. cow herd at 39.646 million head, 102.7% of the year-earlier level of 38.609 million compared with trade estimates that averaged 102.6% of a year earlier in a range from 101.9%-103.85%. The beef cow herd was 103.5% of a year earlier, compared with trade estimates averaging 103.4% in a range from 102.4%-105.1%. 

Friday’s report did show the supply of heifers kept for beef cow replacement purposes at 103.3% of  a year earlier, below trade estimates that averaged 105.0% in a range from 103.5%-107.3%. However, the supply of beef replacement heifers expected to calve was 105.7% of a year earlier. 

The 2015 calf crop came in at 102.3% of a year earlier compared with pre-report estimates that averaged 102.4% of a year earlier, in a range from 101.2%-104.1% of a year earlier. 

The U.S. supply of steers weighing 500 pounds or more was pegged by USDA at 104.4% of a year earlier, 1.4 percentage points above the high end of trade estimates, while the supply of “other” heifers was pegged at 102.9%, nearly 3 percentage points above the high end of trade estimates. These numbers indicate larger than expected feeder cattle supplies. 

Friday’s report pegged the total U.S. feedlot inventory at 101.1% of a year earlier. The recent monthly 12-state Cattle-on-Feed report showed the feedlot inventory at 99.5% of a year earlier.