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Industry At A Glance: Heifers On Feed Indicate Little Herd Rebuilding

total on feed population
The resources and market signals haven’t collectively been sufficient to incentivize investment in growing the cowherd, which carries some significant implications for the entire business.

July’s Cattle on Feed report is always significant from several aspects. One, it sets the backdrop for the ensuing on-feed inventory through the remainder of the summer. Second, analysis of placement patterns during the first half of the year yields some insight into the potential placement dynamics going into the front edge of the fall run.

From a longer-run perspective, though, July’s report represents a quarterly assessment of the heifer population in feedyards. And July is particularly important because it’s indicative of producers’ willingness to turn out and develop heifers on grass through the summer for replacement purchases.

This year’s report reveals that heifers represent nearly 38% of the total on-feed inventory – up over 1% vs. last year. That’s the highest summer percentage since 2009. In other words, despite lots of discussion around rebuilding the cowherd, it appears the industry is not yet ready to make that commitment.

heifers on feed numbers for beef cowherd

A number of factors can drive the decision to keep back replacements – most important is forage availability. Nonetheless, from a national perspective, the resources and market signals haven’t collectively been sufficient to incentivize investment in growing the cowherd. Clearly, that has some significant implications for the entire business.

How do you perceive the attitude among producers out in the country about rebuilding the cowherd? Will there be some desire to retain a greater portion of this spring’s heifer crop? Beyond the forage question, what factors do you perceive are hindering cowherd expansion? How high do calf prices need to be and/or how low do feed prices need to go before we witness heifer retention?

Leave your thoughts below.   


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