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Inventory report says herd still expanding

Alan Newport Heifers grazing pasture
The number of replacement heifersa appears to be slowing dramatically, but it's possible the national herd will grow more this year.
Midyear cattle report shows more declines in replacement heifers, but the possibility of more total cattle in 2018.

Three separate analysts have said the midyear cattle inventory report shows herd expansion is still underway, but slowing dramatically.

Derrell Peel, Oklahoma State University extension livestock marketing specialist, said the July 1 quarterly inventory of heifers in feedlots was up 7.7% from last year, which he called a large enough value to suggest further slowing in heifer retention but down compared to the double-digit year over year increases of the previous four quarters.

Peel noted the modest increase in beef cows, combined with a smaller inventory of beef replacement heifers, suggests that herd expansion is slowing even more in 2018 after slowing in 2017.

"However, the ratio of July 1 to January 1 beef cow inventory is 102.4, a level that historically implies positive herd expansion in the current year," Peel said. "The ratio is down from 2015 and 2017 levels, again indicating slow expansion for the current year and perhaps a peak in the cow herd inventory in 2019."

Peel reminds us no 2016 July cattle inventory report was issued.

David P. Anderson, extension economist for Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service.

said the most important takeaways from the mid-year cattle inventory report were the number of heifers held for replacement and the calf crop. Heifers held for beef cow replacement declined 2.1% from a year ago and the calf crop was reported up 1.9%.

"When combined with beef cow and heifer slaughter the data continues to indicate a drastically slowing rate of herd growth," Anderson said. "There will be plenty of calves for sale this Fall and available to boost beef supplies through 2019."

CME's Daily Livestock Report from Steiner Consulting Group noted heifers held for replacements dropped by 2.1% and heifers not intended for replacement climbed by 3%. These changes already have been seen in the ratios of heifers to steers on feed in cattle-on-feed reports this year, the group noted.

Even though the U.S. herd is moderating growth the calf crop is still large this year, up 2% and more than half a million head over last year.

It is unlikely any decisions regarding retention for breeding have been made for heifer calves that were born this year, but expectations are that many of those will end up in the “other heifer” category for the January 1 cattle inventory report.

The Steiner group says this further implies the US is slowly making its way out of the current expansionary phase, although they warn cattle numbers on January 1, 2019, may still show a year-over-year increase in all cattle and calves.


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