Cattle Inventory: First Expansion Year Since 2007


   The January 1 Cattle Inventory Report was released on January 30th, and it indicated an increase in cattle inventory of 1.4 percent for all cattle and calves in the United States. The 2015 report marks the first year since 2007 that the total cattle inventory exceeded the previous year’s inventory. Total cattle and calves as of January 1 was 89.8 million head, up 1.274 million head from one year ago.
   Many analyst and industry professionals have focused on the fact that total cattle and calf inventory has increased and rightfully so. Additionally, the focus has been on the increase that was witnessed in the Southern Plains. So, what is the buzz about the Southern Plains? Looking at Texas and Oklahoma, the increases in their total cattle and calves inventory accounted for 78.5 percent of the total increase in cattle inventory.
   Looking at beef cows specifically, the number of beef cows in Texas and Oklahoma increased 6.9 and 5.9 percent respectively in the past year. Texas and Oklahoma accounted for 61.7 percent of the increase in the national beef cow herd. When including Kansas and Missouri, the four states accounted for 82.1 percent of the annual increase in the beef cow herd. This may seem outrageous to some onlookers in the industry, but it makes sense for these four states to have the largest increases in beef cows since they experienced the largest losses the past several years. From 2007 to 2011 Texas, Oklahoma, Missouri and Kansas beef cow numbers accounted for 33.2 to 33.7 percent of the total beef cow herd in the United States. From 2012 to 2014, the same four states accounted for 30.2 to 31.6 percent of the beef cow herd and currently account for 31.8 percent of the beef cow herd.
   Most everyone is aware that the largest beef cow herds by state lie west of the Mississippi River. However, there are a several states east of the Mississippi River that also contribute to the beef cow herd. Some of those states include Kentucky, Tennessee, North Carolina and Virginia. Considering these four states, they accounted for 9.7 to 10.5 percent of the beef cow herd from 2007 to 2014 and currently account for 9.7 percent of the beef cow herd in the nation. Additionally, Kentucky, Tennessee, North Carolina and Virginia accounted for 6.9 percent of the beef cow herd growth in the past year. This may appear to be a small percentage of the total beef cow herd, but these four states are likely contributing to the growth of the herd in the Plains States.
   Beef heifers for cow replacement increased 4.1 percent from a year ago and set a record as a percent of the beef cow herd at 19.5 percent. Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas and Missouri accounted for 68.6 percent (155,000 head) of the heifers for beef cow replacements while Kentucky, Tennessee, North Carolina and Virginia resulted in an overall decline of 23,000 head. It is highly likely that the decline of heifers for replacement in the eastern states actually contributed to the increase in heifers for beef cow replacements in the western states as the demand for rebuilding the herd is much larger west of the Mississippi River than it is east of the river. Additionally, there were likely several heifers that departed the eastern part of the country as high quality feeder heifers that have found themselves in a pasture instead of a feedlot.
   The increase in cattle and calf inventory is no surprise as high cattle prices have spurred heifer retention and weather conditions in 2014 were favorable to expansion. It is also not a surprise where the growth occurred since inventories had been depleted the past several years. What may have been unexpected was the magnitude of the expansion.
   Looking ahead 11 months, the industry would expect cattle herd expansion when the 2016 Cattle Inventory Report is released. However, the industry sits and waits as many unknowns will have to play out before another year of herd expansion is guaranteed. Any number of occurrences could put a damper on continued her expansion including drought, animal health scare, decline in beef demand, etc. But, industry participants should not be dismayed as cattle will be king in 2015. ∆
   DR. ANDREW P. GRIFFITH: Assistant Professor, University of Tennessee
MidAmerica Farm Publications, Inc
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