Beef cow numbers are projected to reach their cyclical zenith next year at 31.8 million head, according to the recently released Baseline Update for U.S. Agricultural Markets from the Food and Agricultural Policy Institute (FAPRI) at the University of Missouri. After that, cow numbers are projected to decline to 30.8 million head by 2023.
The update—projections to 2023—is to the annual U.S. Baseline Outlook published each spring, which provides 10-year projections.
Likewise, total cattle and calves are projected to plateau next year at 94.6 million head—200,000 more than this year—before declining to 91.4 million head in 2023.
With that in mind, FAPRI projects cattle prices declining through 2020, with peak beef production of 28.32 billion pounds in 2021.
FAPRI estimated the average price of a 600-650-pound feeder steer (basis Oklahoma City) at $158.51 per cwt this year, declining as low as $141.06 in 2020; rising each year after that to $162.14 in 2023.
Prices for fed steers (Five Area Direct) are projected at $116.59 per cwt this year, declining as low as $110.19 in 2020, then ultimately increasing to $119.99 in 2023.