South Carolina’s $140 million cattle industry is poised to grow with market demand on the rise.

A new report shows U.S. cattle and calve inventories increasing for the first time since 2007.

“I know that producers are beginning to retain females in order to increase production numbers due to the market demand,” said Matthew Burns, an animal scientist and beef specialist with Clemson University Extension.

To assist with growth and profitability, Extension is helping producers with product evaluation, performance testing, farm and records management, forage management, marketing, and combatting parasites and disease.

Cattle at Clemson's Simpson Experiment Station.

Cattle at Clemson’s Simpson Experiment Station.

The inventory of South Carolina cattle and calves was up 1.4% at the beginning of 2014, even as the nation reported an average decline of more than 1.7%, according to stats from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service.

The USDA reported Jan. 30 that calf and cattle inventories on farms have increased 1% from a year ago, the first national increase since 2014. That’s about 1.3 million more cattle and calves on U.S. farms. The increases beat analysts’ expectations, according to multiple reports.

Prices on live cattle have increased steadily the past three years from around $130 to around $154 currently, according to figures from NASDAQ.

In South Carolina, overall inventories were relatively flat as of Jan. 1 but that is poised to change. The inventory of calves weighing under 500 pounds in South Carolina is up 5% at 80,000 head, according to the USDA report. Overall, there are 335,000 cattle and calves in the state, with annual sales topping $92 million, according to the USDA. Total economic output of the cattle industry in South Carolina is nearly $140 million, with the sector supporting more than 1,361 jobs, USDA records show.

Among its many livestock-related programs, Extension works with cattle producers to implement grazing systems that lower farmers’ production costs and use nutrient-rich forages that aid cattle weight gain. Extension also operates annual bull tests to supply farmers with both grain- and grass-fed bulls that show maximum weight gain on feed supply. Last year’s Bull Test Sale at Edisto set sales records. The Simpson sale is Saturday at the T. Ed Garrison Livestock Arena in Pendleton. More than 50 registered bulls and 20 commercial heifers will be auctioned.

Extension also begins its annual Master Cattlemen Class this month to help producers maximize the value of their herd. Registration for the six-week course in Greenville and Florence is full as interest in cattle farming continues to be strong in South Carolina.

Additionally, Clemson Livestock Poultry Health identifies foreign and emerging diseases that not only impact consumer health, but eat into producer profits.