As overall cattle numbers across the country inched up by one percent in 2014, beef cattle numbers in Arkansas remained unchanged while dairy cattle numbers dropped significantly, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Jan. 1, 2015 Cattle Inventory.
The report shows overall U.S. cattle — including all cattle and calves — increasing 1 percent over Jan. 1, 2014 numbers to 89.9 million head as of Jan. 1, 2015. Almost all categories of cattle, including heifers, steers, bulls and calves weighing less than 500 lbs., increased across the country.
While the overall number is an increase over the Jan. 1, 2014 cattle census of 88.5 million head, it is still significantly lower than the 25-year peak of more than 103 million head across the country in 1996.
In Arkansas, however, total cattle and calves across the state decreased by 1 percent to about 1.64 million head, with several other benchmark numbers remaining roughly the same. While the number of bulls remained unchanged at 55,000 head and the number of calves weighing less than 500 lbs. increased from 360,000 to 380,000, the number of adult steers decreased by 15,000 head to 130,000.
The number of Arkansas beef cows that calved in 2014 increased slightly over the previous year, from 862,000 to 863,000, but the number of milk cows that calved in 2014 dropped by 12 percent from 2013 numbers, from 8,000 head to 7,000.
University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture Professor Tom Troxel, Associate Department Head of Animal Science, said calving rates across the country during 2014 were strong.
“On a positive note, the 2014 U.S. calf crop was reported at 33.9 million, which implies a crop percentage of 89 percent, the highest percentage since 2006,” Troxel said. The figure means that about 89 percent of all cows and heifers produced calves.
“The increase in calf crop percentage maybe a result of culling unproductive cows, primarily due to drought over the past 3-5 years.”
Arkansas ranchers enjoyed cool spring and summer with plenty of rain throughout the state in 2014, a situation that Troxel said may set the stage for ranchers to increase their herds.
“With record prices, many cattle producers found it very difficult to keep extra heifers,” Troxel said. “Other ranchers, given the extra forage and hay production, decided to retain extra heifers to expand their herd size for future production.”
Troxel said cattle producers will likely see high selling prices in 2015, and many producers are expecting prices for weaned and yearling calves to average 13 and 10 percent higher, respectively, over last year’s prices in 2015.
He said the slight increase in supply across the country may take a while to affect the average consumer’s pocketbook, however.
“I don’t anticipate any decline in retail price of meat until 2016,” Troxel said.