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The Cattle Business - Cattle Inventory Reports

Livestock Update, August 1999

Bill R. McKinnon, Extension Animal Scientist, Marketing, Virginia Tech

The recently released July 1, 1999, U.S. Cattle Inventory Report confirms that the beef industry has not yet begun to expand; and in fact, may still yet be in the liquidation phase of the cycle. Both the total cattle inventory and the number of beef cows were down 1% from 1998 and down 2% from two years ago. Beef replacement heifer numbers down 4% from a year ago indicate that cattle producers were not lured into the expansion mode by 1998 feeder cattle prices.

July 1, 1999
U.S. Cattle Inventory Report
1,000 Head
1999199819971999 as a
% of 1998
All cattle and calves109,800107,700109,20099
Cows and heifer that have calved 43,20043,60044,10099
   Beef cows34,05034,40034,80099
   Milk cows9,1509,2009,30099
Heifers 500 pounds and over16,60016,70017,10099
   Beef replacements4,8005,0005,30096
   Dairy replacements3,7003,6003,600103
Steers 500 pounds and over14,40014,60014,80099
Calf crop38,30038,58238,96199

Source: USDA

The 1999 calf crop expectations of 38.3 million head would be the smallest calf crop since 1952. The 1999 calf crop would be down 1% from both 1998 and 1997. A potentially huge national grain crop coupled with the smaller supplies of feeders should help to provide strength in feeder cattle prices. Modestly better feeder cattle prices along with adequate moisture and forage supplies in major cow/calf regions of the country may encourage some heifer retention during the fall of 1999.

The July 1, 1999, U.S. Cattle on Feed Report was basically regarded as bearish for fall fed cattle prices. The total cattle on feed count was up 4% over 1998 and 5% above the July 1, 1997, number. When numbers were counted for the 1000 head or more feedlots the on feed total was up 4% and 7% from 1998 and 1997. The 1000 head plus feedlots account for roughly 84% of the total cattle on feed. Within this larger feedlot category, the states of Texas, Kansas, Nebraska, and Colorado account for 76% of the total cattle on feed.

With cattle feeders showing at least modest profits this spring compared to the disastrous losses of last year, the appetite for feeder cattle grew. Cattle placed on feed during June 1999 were up 14% over the same period in 1998 and up 24% over 1997. The current on feed supply seems targeted to come to town from late September into the 4th quarter of the year.

July 1, 1999, U.S. Cattle on Feed Report
1,000 Hd.+ Capacity Feedlots
Number (1,000 Hd.)



1999 as a
% of 1998
1999 as a
% of 1997
Cattle on feed July 19,9779,7039,615104107
Placed on feed during June 1,7841,5641,444114124
Fed cattle marketings (June)2,1432,0342,041105105

Source USDA

The larger fed cattle marketings during June took place at prices roughly $2-3 per hundredweight higher than the same period of 1998. Finished weights were not significantly lighter this year than during the same time frame in 1998. Moving more fed cattle at modestly stronger prices would seem to indicate that either there is improved demand for beef in 1999 or that the cattle feeder was in a much stronger bargaining position than last year. During this time period, both factors were probably at work.

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