Source: Tim Petry, Livestock Economist, North Dakota State University Extension Service
The USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) released both the monthly July Cattle on Feed report for feedlots with capacity of 1,000 head or more; and the semi-annual July Cattle report, which reports the inventory of all classes of cattle including cattle on feed in all feedlots.
The severe drought conditions that impacted the Southern Plains and other Southern states in 2011, and has now spread to much of the major cattle producing areas of the U.S., impacted the numbers in both reports. The Cattle report indicated all cattle and calves in the U.S. as of July 1, 2012, totaled 97.8 million head, 2 percent below the 100 million on July 1, 2011. This is the lowest cattle and calves inventory for July 1 since the series began in 1973. Beef cows, at 30.5 million, were down 3% from last year and this was the 6th straight year of decline. Given the drought situation, and with beef replacement heifers unchanged from last year at 4.2 million head; the beef cow herd will likely be lower again in 2013. The same number of beef replacements the last two years is also the lowest number recorded since the series began in 1973. All categories of non-replacement, feeder cattle and calves were also down. NASS does not report a July 1 feeder cattle supply outside of feedlots category, but LMIC uses the NASS data to compute it. The feeder cattle supply at 35.7 million head was down 3.2% from last year, reflecting both a smaller calf crop and increased feedlot placements due to the drought. NASS reported that the 2012 calf crop is expected to be 34.5 million head, down 2.3% from last year. Total cattle on feed in all feedlots at 12.3 million were up almost 1% over last year.
Feeder cattle and calf prices are currently being negatively affected by sharply higher, drought impacted feed prices; but the smaller numbers of cattle in the Cattle report will likely be supportive to feeder cattle and calf prices for the next several years.
The Cattle on Feed report tracks numbers of cattle and calves being fed for slaughter in feedlots with capacity of 1,000 head or more. NASS reported just over 10.7 million head on feed on July 1, about 2.7% greater than last year. Note that the Cattle report indicated an increase of cattle on feed on feedlots of all sizes at just under 1%, so more cattle are being fed in the larger lots – a trend that has been discussed in this column before.