Cattle Herd Down 2% From 2021: USDA

The total US cattle herd on Jan. 1 was fewer than a year earlier and fewer than a small sampling of analyst estimates.

The semi-annual count of the US cattle herd came up with an estimated 91.902 million head, down 1.888 million, or 2.01%, from 93.790 million a year earlier and below the average of analyst estimates from Urner Barry published in the CME Group’s Daily Livestock Report.  The percentage decline also was more than the lowest estimate.

The report, though outside the lines of a small sampling of trade estimates, may affect live cattle futures markets only to a small degree on Tuesday, a market analyst said.  The production cycle for cattle is about two years, outside the range of available futures market contracts, and many producers could make changes to their herd size in the meantime.

Market analysts will use the data to reset their calculations for available feeder cattle for the next few months and to watch the general trend of the herd size and, thus, the calf crop, the analyst said.  Another herd inventory report is scheduled for July 22, but the sample size is much smaller, and many more herd-size decisions are made in the last half of the year than in the first.




The report showed a continued decline in the total US cattle herd, but the report showed a larger decline than many expected, at least openly.  Some university economists suggested the herd decline shown in this report could be larger than analysts were projecting.

Of particular interest to many is the size of the cow herd.  The report showed the total of all cows and heifers that have calved at 39.500 million head down 786,000, or 1.95%, from 40.286 million a year earlier.

Of that, 30.125 million were beef cows, down 719,000, or 2.33%, from 30.844 million a year ago.  Another 9.375 million were dairy cows, down 67,000, or 0.71%, from 9.442 million a year ago.

All heifers weighing 500 pounds or more totaled 19.776 million head, down 424,000, or 2.10%, from 20.200 million last year.  Of this, 5.612 million were targeted for beef replacements, down 191,000, or 3.29%, from 5.803 million a year ago.

Milk cow replacements numbered 4.451 million head, down 158,000, or 3.43%, from 4.609 million last year.

Other heifers totaled 9.715 million head, down 75,000, or 0.77%, from 9.789 million a year ago.

Steers weighing 500 pounds or more totaled 16.580 million head down 208,000, or 1.24%, from 16.788 million last year.  And calves weighing less than 500 pounds came to 13.936 million head, down 369,000, or 2.58%, from 14.305 million a year ago.




The USDA reported formula and contract base prices for live FOB steers and heifers this week ranged from $137.63 to $137.78 per cwt, compared with last week’s range of $136.74 to $139.41.  FOB dressed steers and heifers went for $215.42 to $216.12 per cwt, versus $213.43 to $218.04.

The USDA choice cutout Monday was down $0.02 per cwt at $290.40, while select was off $0.14 at $283.27.  The choice/select spread widened to $7.13 from $7.01 with 69 loads of fabricated product and 19 loads of trimmings and grinds sold into the spot market.

The USDA reported that basis bids for corn from feeders in the Southern Plains were steady to down $0.10 at $1.40 to $1.55 a bushel over the Mar futures and for southwest Kansas were unchanged at $0.30 over Mar, which settled at $6.26 a bushel, down $0.10.

The CME Feeder Cattle Index for the seven days ended Friday was $158.44 per cwt down $0.22.  This compares with Monday’s Mar contract settlement of $163.02 per cwt, up $3.40.