WASHINGTON – The U.S. had 94.49 million head of cattle and calves as of January 1, 1.6% below a year ago, according to recent data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service. As expected, all categories related to the beef industry reported a year-to-year decline, but the dairy numbers were slightly higher, according to the Livestock Marketing Information Center.

Meanwhile, U.S.D.A. estimates indicate the U.S. beef cowherd is at 31.67 million head, 2.4% smaller than a year ago, while the dairy cowherd at 9.33 million head was up approximately 1%.  Only eight states reported a yearly increase in beef cow numbers.

U.S.D.A. made downward revisions to prior year numbers and the downward revisions to the year-ago numbers were rather significant. The U.S. inventory of all cattle and calves for Jan. 1, 2008 was reduced by more than 600,000 head with the beef cow inventory reduced by more than 100,000 head.

The Jan. 1 beef cow inventory is the smallest reported since 1963, while the number of operations with cattle and calves continued on its downward trend in 2008. At the same time, the number of heifers held as beef cow replacements at 5.53 million head was 2% below a year ago, and the smallest reported since 2004. Given the decline in calf prices, regional drought, and surging fertilizer costs last year downward trending beef cattle numbers were expected.

U.S.D.A. reported the 2008 calf crop at 36.1 million head, 2% smaller than 2007’s. Given higher feedstuff prices in 2008 and the placement of calves at heavier weights, the estimated number of cattle outside of feedlots was expected to be larger than last year. As of Jan. 1st, the calculated available supply of feeder cattle outside feedlots was 27.6 million head, up about 261,000 head, or 1%, from last year.

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