The uncertainty that continues to plague the farm economy seems to be a factor in keeping beef and dairy production at a slow pace. According to last Friday’s livestock inventory and Cattle on Feed reports, we currently have 13.6 million head of cattle in feedlots, up 2% from a year ago and the highest total in 23 years.
But USDA livestock analyst Shayle Shagam, says, overall, the report showed a livestock sector that is holding production steady. “There were 32.4 million beef cows unchanged from a year ago, and 9.3 million milk cows down 1% from a year ago,” stated Shagam. He added that beef replacement heifers fell by 4% “which indicates producers are pulling back on expanding their herds.”
The report also showed a decline in the calf crop which Shagam said is another a sign that expansion is not underway, “The calf crop was put at 36.3 million head which was lower than last year.” While a strong consumer economy is usually a sign for meat expansion, the uncertainty in feed prices and export demand are keeping many livestock producers cautious.