Cattle Inventory Report confirms drought losses

Feb 3, 2012

USDA’ Cattle Inventory Report came in with few surprises since the industry has continued to liquidate throughout severely drought-stricken areas. The report did show some early signs of expansion interest, but ranchers continue to remain cautious on reports that the drought may not be over.

The historic drought conditions have taken their toll on some states, including Texas, where the cow herd in 2011 lost more than 150,000 head, three times more than the 45,000 recorded in 2010.

Released Jan. 27 by the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS), Agricultural Statistics Board, and USDA, the Jan. 1 cattle inventory numbers were down by 2 percent.

All cattle and calves in the U.S. as of Jan. 1, 2012, totaled 90.8 million head, 2 percent below the 92.7 million on Jan. 1, 2011. This is the lowest Jan. 1 inventory of all cattle and calves since the 88.1 million on hand in 1952.

All cows and heifers that have calved were at 39.1 million, down 2 percent from the 40 million on Jan. 1, 2011.

Beef cows, at 29.9 million, were down 3 percent from Jan. 1, 2011.

Milk cows, at 9.2 million, were up 1 percent from Jan. 1, 2011.

Other class estimates on Jan. 1, 2012, and the change from Jan. 1, 2011, include: • All heifers 500 pounds and over, 19.4 million, down 1 percent.

• Beef replacement heifers, 5.2 million, up 1 percent.

• Milk replacement heifers, 4.5 million, down 1 percent.

• Other heifers, 9.6 million, down 2 percent.

• Steers weighing 500 pounds and over, 16.1 million, down 2 percent.

• Bulls weighing 500 pounds and over, 2.1 million, down 5 percent.

• Calves under 500 pounds, 14.1 million, down 3 percent.Cattle and calves on feed for slaughter in all feedlots, 14.1 million, were up 1 percent.

The combined total of calves under 500 pounds, and other heifers and steers over 500 pounds outside of feedlots, was 25.7 million, down 4 percent.

Retail beef expected to remain high

Calf crop down 1 percent

The 2011 calf crop was estimated at 35.3 million head, down 1 percent from 2010. This is the smallest calf crop since the 34.9 million born during 1950.

Calves born during the first half of 2011 are estimated at 25.7 million, down 1 percent from 2010.

All inventory and calf crop estimates for July 1, 2010, Jan. 1, 2011, and July 1, 2011, were reviewed using calf crop, official slaughter, import and export data, and the relationship of new survey information to the prior surveys. Based on the findings of this review, small adjustments of less than 0.5 percent were made to previously released inventory estimates by class and calf crop.

State level estimates were reviewed and changes were made to reallocate inventory and calf crop estimates to the U.S. total.

The Texas herd declined 1.4 million head to 11.9 million cattle and calves as of Jan. 1, an 11 percent decline

from a year earlier. Cow numbers declined 12 percent down 650,000 to 4.8 million cows. That is the biggest decline in the Texas cattle herd in nearly 150 years of record-keeping.

Dr. David Anderson, AgriLife Extension livestock marketing economist in College Station, cited Texas Animal Health Commission out shipment data, which is the number of animals receiving veterinary inspection certificates prior to interstate movement.

“Out shipments are cattle moving out of state from Texas and they might also be called Texas’ cattle exports to other states,” he said. “Reported out shipments rose dramatically above 2010 in August-October. Total cattle reported shipped out of state in 2011 was 1.113 million head, 287,000 more than in 2010.”

Top destinations for all Texas cattle outshipments were Kansas, Colorado, Oklahoma and Nebraska.

“Those states were also the top destinations for Texas cattle in 2010,” he said.

“The value in this data is certainly that it shows the general trends in cattle movements and highlights the effect of the drought in moving cattle numbers.”

Similar declines were seen in Oklahoma, where the total cattle and calves declined 12 percent to 4.5 million head, a loss of 600,000 animals. Cow numbers in Oklahoma totaled 1.78 million head as of Jan. 1, down 90,000 or 14 percent from a year earlier.

In Kansas, cow numbers and total cattle and calves both declined 3 percent for the year.

As expected, some of the animals moved north. Nebraska’s total herd increased 250,000, or 4 percent, last year to 6.45 million animals. The Cornhusker State added 80,000 cows to 1.94 million head at a 6 percent increase for the year. That now makes Nebraska the second-largest cattle-producing state in the nation.

Colorado cow numbers increased 4 percent to 880,000 while total cattle and calves increased 4 percent to 2.75 million head. Iowa’s total herd held steady for the year but cow numbers increased 5 percent to 1.1 million head.

Another interesting note, the report shows that while total cow numbers declined 12 percent in Texas last year, dairy cow numbers in the state increased 2 percent to 435,000. In fact, all of the western states added to their dairy cow herd. Arizona increased 3 percent, New Mexico added 4 percent, California increased 2 percent, Nevada added 4 percent, Utah up 3 percent, Oregon increased 2 percent, Washington increased 4 percent, Idaho added 1 percent and Colorado jumped 7 percent for the year.

Replacement dairy heifer numbers were down in Texas and New Mexico.

Cattle prices are predicted to continue to be at all-time highs, according to analysts. Retail beef prices are also expected to remain high, reflecting less supply.

Slaughter numbers continued to escalate in 2011 due to drought, Anderson said.

“The southwest region, which is Texas, New Mexico, Arkansas, Louisiana and Oklahoma, slaughtered almost 200,000 more beef cows in 2011 than the year before,” he said. “Nationwide, beef cow slaughter numbers were up 170,000 head. And also fewer heifers were held back to enter the cow herds due to the dry conditions. Each of these contributed to the Texas smaller cow herd.” — Traci Eatherton, WLJ Editor