Market News & Headlines >> USDA Cattle Inventory Report Friday

Friday afternoon’s annual USDA Cattle Inventory Report is expected to show that the total U.S. cattle herd shrank for the year in a row during 2013, but signal that expansion of the beef cattle herd got underway as sharply lower corn prices drove feeder cattle prices to record highs.

In a Reuters News Service survey of five livestock analysts estimates of the total U.S. cattle/calf herd averaged 98.6% of a year earlier in a range from 98.0%-99.1%. At the average of estimates, the Jan. 1 cattle herd would be 88.05 million head, down from 89.3 million a year earlier.

Estimates of the number of cows/heifers that have calved averaged 98.7% of a year earlier, but expectations for the number of heifers retained for beef replacement purposes average 103% in a range from 102.4%-103.5%.

A reduction in the number of heifers entering feedlots is a possible indication of herd expansion as is a reduction in beef cow slaughter during 2013. Preliminary data shows 2013 beef cow slaughter was down 6.4% from a year earlier and was the lowest since 2006.

If the total cattle herd comes in at 88.05 million head, it would be the smallest since 1950. Estimates of the 2013 calf crop average 97.9% of a year earlier. At that level, the 2013 calf crop would be 33.56 million head and would be the smallest on record going back to 1962.

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