The USDA’s 2013 Cattle report, released February 1, shows the nation’s total cattle inventory contracted another 2 percent to 90.8 million head during 2012, reaching its lowest level since 1952. Beef cows, at 29.3  million head, are down 3 percent from a year ago.

The report estimates the 2012 calf crop at 34.3 million head, down 3 percent from 2011. This is the smallest calf crop since 1949, when 33.7 million calves were born. Calves born during the first half of 2012 are estimated at 25.0 million, also down 3 percent from 2011.

There is some sign herds could begin to grow, as the report lists beef replacement heifers at 5.4 million, up 2 percent from a year ago.

Other key figures in the report include:

  • Steers weighing 500 pounds and over are unchanged from a year ago at 15.8 million head.
  •  Bulls weighing 500 pounds and over, at 2.1 million head, are down 2 percent.
  • Calves under 500 pounds also are down 2 percent at 13.8 million head.
  • Cattle and calves on feed for slaughter in all feedlots are at 13.4 million head as of January 1, 2013, down 5 percent from a year earlier.
  • The combined total of calves under 500 pounds and other heifers and steers over 500 pounds outside of feedlots was 25.5 million, up 1 percent.

View the full report from USDA.