Texas A&M's David P. Anderson analyzes the market
Recent market news is provided by David P. Anderson, professor and extension economist with the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service. (Photo by his Caleb Woods on Unsplash)
LAKEWOOD, Colo. — The USDA released its long-awaited cattle inventory report on January 31st. The report found that by January 1, 2024, the total number of cattle in the United States is expected to decline by 1.9%. The 87.2 million head count was the lowest since 1982. $1 million in 1951.
While the total number of cattle gets a lot of headlines, some other categories are more important to the direction of the cattle market in the coming years. As of Jan. 1, the U.S. beef cattle population was 28.2 million, according to the report. This is the lowest number of beef cattle since 1961, when there were 27.3 million. The 2.5 percent decline was roughly in line with pre-report expectations. Beef cattle stocks were even lower than they were after the 2010-2013 drought. The number of cattle hit an all-time low of 28.96 million on January 1, 2014. Beef cattle numbers nationwide were lower than post-drought numbers, but not in Texas. While Texas' cattle herds did decline by 4.3 percent, a larger decline than the national cattle population to 4.115 million head, the herd remains larger than it was post-drought.
The number of heifers retained to replace beef cattle fell again, by 1.4%. As a percentage of the herd, this number does not seem to be large enough to suggest expansion of the herd. There were some significant revisions to heifer replacement in last year's report, but these revisions do not change the overall herd size picture.
This report includes estimates of the number of grazing cattle grazing on small grain pastures such as wheat pastures. Data includes Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas. It showed 1.59 million head on small grain pastures. This was the lowest number since 2018, when there were 1.5 million animals. This year's numbers are lower than average, as the number of grazers on wheat pastures over the past 10 years totaled 1.73 million head. This number is certainly consistent with more cows taking in forage than a year ago, as the cows were likely grazed earlier than they were released to pasture. The lack of grazers on winter grain pastures, combined with data on calves still on the farm or pasture, provides an estimate of the number of fed cows off the feedlot, and provides an estimate of the number of fed cows available. Information will be added. The supply of non-feedlot fed cattle was calculated at 24.2 million head, down 4.2 percent from last year and the lowest in decades.
This report can be considered longitudinal in nature. The number of cows allows us to more accurately estimate the number of calves born and future beef production. The low number of fed cattle outside the feedlot indicates tight supply going forward and further increases in prices once expansion begins.
Significant increases in calf prices have been reported at local auction markets. Abundant rain in the local area is certainly helping the outlook. The market appears to be moving past the turmoil of the winter storm with higher feeder cattle prices and some pressure on cattle leaders. Over the past few months, the price of primal brisket has increased significantly, putting some pressure on barbecue restaurants.
— David P. Anderson, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service Professor and Extension Economist
Livestock Distribution Information Center