Cattle Numbers Up From 2015

All cattle and calves in the US as of July 1 totaled 102.6 million head, up 4.4 million, or 4.48%, from 98.2 million on July 1, 2015.

Comparisons to July 1, 2016, are not available because budget constraints then kept the USDA from publishing a mid-year cattle inventory report.  And, market analysts declined efforts by Reuters News and others to estimate this year’s cattle inventory because of a lack of historical data from the USDA, so no comparisons with market expectations are available.

But that doesn’t mean some inferences can’t be made.

 

FIRST, THE NUMBERS

 

All cows and heifers that have calved, at 41.9 million head, were up 2.1 million, or 5.28%, from 39.8 million in the 2015 report.  Beef cows, at 32.5 million head, were up 2.0 million, or 6.56%, over the period, while milk cows, at 9.4 million, were up 100,000, or 1.08%, from 9.3 million in 2015.

All heifers 500 pounds and over, as of July 1, totaled 16.2 million head, up 500,000, or 3.18%, from the 15.7 million two years ago.

Beef replacement heifers, at 4.7 million head, were down 100,000, or 2.08% from 2015’s midyear report of 4.8 million.

Milk replacement heifers, at 4.2 million, were unchanged from 2015.

Other heifers were reported at 7.3 million head, 600,000, or were 8.96% above 6.7 million two years earlier.

Steers, weighing 500 pounds or more were reported at 14.5 million head, up 400,000, or 2.84%, from 14.1 million two years earlier.

Bulls weighing 500 pounds or more numbered 2.0 million head as of July 1, up 100,000, or 5.26%, from 1.9 million in 2015.

Calves weighing less than 500 pounds were reported at 28.0 million head, up 1.3 million, or 4.87%, from 26.7 million in the 2015 midyear.

 

INFERENCES

 

The report showed an expected 2017 calf crop of 36.3 million head, up 2.213 million, or 6.49%, from 34.087 million in 2015.  This shows that the total US herd continued to grow, even though rising heifer slaughter rates increased, which were though to suggest a slowing rate of growth in the US herd.

However, beef replacement heifers in this report were down, indicating an intention by cow/calf producers to retain fewer heifers for breeding.

The problem with that number is that producer intentions can change by fall when a final decision must be made about the fate of these heifers.  Heifers that were angled toward the breeding herd in July can become feedlot fodder quickly if market conditions change – and vise-versa.

 

CATTLE, BEEF RECAP

 

Fed cattle sales on the livestock exchange video auction Wednesday averaged $118.27 per cwt, with trade in the south at $118.25 to $118.50 up $0.25 to $0.50 from last week.  In the North, trade was limited to one lot at $118.00, up $0.75 to down $0.75.  Lots with one- to nine-day delivery sold at $118.30, while lots with one- to 17-day delivery sold at $118.00.

Cash cattle trading was reported Thursday at $118.25 to $118.50 per cwt on a live basis, up $1 to down $2.50.  By Friday, prices had moved up to $119 to $120.50, mostly $120, with dressed trade at $189 to $190.

The USDA’s choice cutout Friday was down $0.74 per cwt at $206.91, while select was off $0.78 at $194.80.  The choice/select spread widened to $12.11 from $12.07 with 108 loads of fabricated product sold into the spot market.

The CME Feeder Cattle index for the seven days ended Thursday was $149.03 per cwt, up $1.81.  This compares with Friday’s Aug settlement at $152.95, up $0.67.