Estimated feeder cattle supplies on Jan. 1, 2017, were 2.1% above year-ago levels, and 7.4% larger than two years ago.

That estimate was compiled by Sterling Marketing, Inc., Vale, Ore., based on data from USDA’s annual Cattle Inventory report. To calculate the estimated feeder cattle supply, Sterling adds together three categories from the Cattle Inventory report: calves under 500 pounds, steers and other heifers 500 pounds and over. The total number of cattle on feed is then subtracted from that total.

Sterling Marketing president John Nalivka says the estimated feeder cattle supply for 2017 using that formula is 26.552 million head. That’s 543,000 head more than on Jan. 1, 2016, and 2.489 million head more than in 2015.

In fact, the 2017 total is the highest estimated feeder cattle supply number in six years – since the 2011 estimate of 26.8 million head.  Nalivka points out this estimate of feeder cattle supplies can change significantly if cattlemen either increase or reduce the number of heifers held for replacements from what they indicated in the survey.  In fact, he says “that is a key variable in the estimate.”