WASHINGTON – The United States cattle herd expanded beyond expectations to a seven-year high. Cattle inventory in the US totaled 93.6 million head as of Jan. 1, which was 2 percent higher than the 91.9 million cattle and calves reported on Jan. 1, 2016, the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) of the US Dept. of Agriculture reported in its Cattle report on Jan. 31.
On Jan. 30, cattle futures for February declined 0.5 percent to $1.1560 per lb. on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange.
All cows and heifers that have calved advanced 3 percent to 40.6 million head, compared with 39.5 million head reported a year ago. Beef cows were 31.2 million, up 3 percent, while dairy cows numbers were up slightly at 9.35 million head.
The number of beef cows that produced a new calf in 2016 resulted in a 3 percent increase in the 2016 calf herd, NASS reported. Calves born during the first half of 2016 were estimated at 25.6 million head, up 4 percent from the first half of 2015. NASS said calves born during the second half of 2016 were estimated at 9.53 million head or 27 percent of the total 2016 calf crop.
All heifers weighing 500 lbs. and over totaled 20.1 million, a 1 percent gain over the 19.9 million head reported on Jan. 1, 2016, NASS said. The number of heifers kept for breeding was only 1 percent higher at 6.42 million head, while supplies of dairy replacement heifers slipped 1 percent to 4.75 million head. Other heifers totaled 8.8 million head, 1 percent higher than a year ago.
The inventory of calves weighing less than 500 lbs. totaled 14.4 million head, 2 percent above the 14.1 million head on Jan. 1, 2016. Steers weighing 500 lbs. and over totaled 16.4 million head, while bulls weighing 500 lbs. and over totaled 2.23 million head, up 4 percent from the previous year.
Cattle and calves on feed in all feedlots totaled 13.1 million on Jan. 1, down 1 percent from the 13.2 million head reported a year ago, according to NASS. Cattle in feedlots with capacity of 1,000 or more head accounted for 81.2 percent of the total cattle on feed on Jan.1, up 1 percent from the previous year. The combined total of calves weighing less than 500 lbs. and other heifers and steers over 500 lbs. (outside of feedlots) is 26.6 million head, 2 percent higher compared to a year ago.