Market News & Headlines >> U.S. Cattle Herd Largest in 10 Years; Beef-Cow Replacement Down

Friday afternoon’s semi-annual Cattle Inventory report from USDA showed further moderate expansion of the overall U.S. cattle herd, but indicated that producers have started to liquidate their breeding herds. 

USDA pegged all cattle and calves as of July 1 at 101.0% of a year earlier. In actual numbers, the U.S. cattle herd was 1 million head larger than a year earlier at 103.2 million head, and was the largest in 10 years.   

The U.S. cow herd was pegged at 100.7% of a year earlier, or 41.9 million head, with the beef cow herd at 100.9% of a year earlier and the milk cow herd steady with a year earlier. The U.S. calf crop at 101.9% of a year earlier, or 36.5 million head, was the largest in 11 years, which suggests the number of cattle moving into feedlots should remain large for some time. 

However, the supply of heifers retained for beef cow replacement came in at 97.9% of a year earlier, after the January inventory report showed heifer retention at only 96.3%. The lower retention combined with a significant increase in beef cow slaughter this year suggests breeding herd liquidation is likely getting underway.