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Expansion Phase Likely Flat

beef cowherd expansion outlook
Even when producers finally have the grass and water to work, herd expansion is likely to be relatively flat.

Livestock producers are struggling to supply growing world meat demand because of higher costs rather than low prices.

That’s what Scott Brown, University of Missouri economist, told the House and Senate agriculture committees recently. He was sharing baseline production and price projections developed by the Food and Agricultural Policy Research Institute (FAPRI) at the University of Missouri.

According to the FAPRI U.S. Baseline Briefing Book, between now and 2022, analysts project the nation’s beef cowherd to grow to 30.3 million in 2018 (it was 29.3 million Jan. 1 this year), and then contract back to 29.1 million head by 2022.

If close to being correct, when producers finally have the water and grass to work with, any herd expansion will likely be flat.


Another Perspective: What Will It Take To Rebuild The U.S. Beef Cowherd?


Incidentally, the beef cowherd at the beginning of this year was 35% less than its peak of 45.4 million cows in 1975. It’s 12% smaller than in 2000.

Between now and 2022, FAPRI projects net cow-calf returns at $106.33/head this year ($62.18/head last year), growing to $150.24/head in 2015, declining to a negative $15.18/head in 2019, and then increasing to $39.98/head by 2022.

Part of the projected flatness has do with the fact that even sharply lower corn prices – in the $5-$6/bu. range some economists envision if more typical weather enables a record crop – would still be sky-high in historical terms.


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