The Cattle Business
Livestock Update, September 2000
Bill R. McKinnon, Extension Animal Scientist, Marketing, Virginia Tech
The July 1 U.S. Cattle Inventory Report failed to show any signs of expansion in the nation's cattle herd. Total cattle numbers were estimated at 106.4 million head, down 1 percent from the July 1, 1999, count. Beef cows were down 1 percent from July, 1999, at 34.0 million head. Beef replacement heifers were off 2 percent from 1999 and down 6 percent from 1998.
|2000 as a|
% of 1999
|(million head)||(million head)|
|All cattle and calves||106.40||107.00||99|
|All cows that have calved||43.20||43.30||100|
|Beef cows that have calved||33.95||34.15||99|
|Beef replacement heifers||4.70||4.80||98|
|Steers over 500 lbs.||14.30||14.40||99|
|Calves under 500 lbs.||30.30||30.50||99|
To this date, higher feeder cattle prices paid for heifers have pulled females into the feed yards and away from replacement programs. Federal inspected slaughter data through July indicated that heifer slaughter was up 1.6 percent from 1999. The increased level of heifer feeding and slaughter has helped move beef production to record levels for much of the year.
Some cow/calf operations may be reluctant to begin retaining heifers within the herd this fall. Feeder cattle prices will be near record levels for the fall months fueled by the expected largest ever corn crop. High priced feeder heifers may be used by a number of operations to pay down debt before expanding their herds. Drought conditions in much of the South, Southwest, West, and western Central Plains may also limit heifer retention on many ranches.
It would appear evident that some expansion will begin in late 2000 and into 2001. That will mean that the smallest supplies of feeder cattle and slaughter cattle of this cycle are yet ahead of us.
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