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U.S. Cattle Numbers At Record Low

U.S. Cattle Numbers At Record Low

Earlier this week, I attended a statewide drought management meeting hosted by South Dakota State University (SDSU) Extension. According to SDSU, 90% of South Dakota is experiencing some form of drought.
 
“Last year, the southern U.S. was in a very severe drought. This year, we have the whole Corn Belt, except for parts of Minnesota, and the rest of the U.S. It has been many years since we have seen a drought of this scale,” said Dennis Todey, SDSU climatologist.

With no relief in sight, Todey predicts that the rest of the summer will continue to be hot and dry.

“Some of the issues we are seeing in the livestock sector, first and foremost, are the dramatic decrease in the amount and condition of pastures and hay production. It’s been disappointing at best and disastrous at worst. We are starting to see some cattle be liquidated. When we think about feed costs in general, the shortage of forages is going to be a significant issue for livestock producers. I believe the feed supply situation is going to be one of the biggest challenges for livestock producers in the upcoming months,” added Warren Rusche, SDSU cow-calf field specialist.

“Corn prices are trending higher, and there are few if any cheap options. This will change the market environment with lowered feeder cattle prices. Cattle will have less value in the marketplace. So not only will producers have to deal with higher feed costs, but they will also be receiving a smaller paycheck for their calves when they sell,” Rusche said.

As the drought progresses, more producers are selling their cattle, shrinking the nation’s herd to the smallest number in at least four decades.

According to the latest USDA Crop Progress report, the situation continues to deteriorate on America’s pasture and rangeland, as well as in corn condition. See those reports here. [3]

According to the Clarion Ledger in Jackson, MS [4], “The National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) reported that the number of cattle and calves in the U.S. totaled 97.8 million head as of July 1. That's 2% less than a year ago. Beef cattle numbers were down 3% at 30.5 million head counted, while dairy cow numbers remained unchanged at 9.2 million. Overall, it's the smallest cattle inventory since the agency began a July count in 1973.”

How are you managing for the drought? Are you selling your cows this summer as pasture resources run dry?