Market News & Headlines >> USDA Confirms Cattle Herd Expansion

Friday afternoon’s semi-annual USDA Cattle Inventory report confirmed that the U.S. cattle herd is now expanding for the first time since 2007 as the industry responds to high cattle prices, lower feed costs and improved pasture conditions in the U.S. Plains.

USDA pegged the total U.S. cattle herd as of July 1 at 98.4 million head, 102.2% of the year-earlier level of 96.3 million head, compared with trade expectations that averaged 101.7% in a range from 101.2-102.2%. The 2015 calf crop was estimated at 34.3 million head or 101.2% of a year earlier, compared with pre-report estimates that averaged 101.4% in a range from 100.8-102.2%.

The total cow herd was pegged at 39.8 million head, 102.1% of the year earlier total of 39.0 million head, compared with trade estimates that averaged 102.3%. The beef cow herd came in at 30.5 million head, 102.5% of a year earlier, compared with trade estimates that averaged 102.8%. The number of heifers kept for beef cow replacement was 106.5% of a year earlier, against trade expectations that averaged 105.1%.

The retention of heifers for expansion will limit the available supply of feeder cattle. The supply of “other heifers” (heifers not kept for beef or milk cow replacement) weighing 500 lbs. or more as of July 1 was down 1.4% from a year earlier. However, the combined supply of steers and heifers weighing 500 pounds or more was up 1.5% from a year earlier, and the supply of calves weighing 500 lbs or less was up 2.3%.