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When Will Cattle Herd Rebuilding Start?

Joint annual meetings of the Agricultural and Applied Economics Association and the Western Agricultural Economics Association and annual meetings of the National Cattlemen's Beef Association (NCBA) and the Livestock Marketing Information Center Technical Advisory Committee were all held in Denver this summer. All four authors of the "In The Cattle Market" columns and many of our counterparts from around the country attended at least parts of these meetings.

A topic of conversation, both formally and informally, at those meetings was what has happened to the traditional cattle cycle and when will beef herd rebuilding begin. The following comments are points from some of those discussions and come from many different sources.

The traditional supply-driven, approximate 10-year cattle cycle usually included 6 to 8 years of increasing numbers followed by 3 to 4 years of liquidation. However, in the past decade, beef cow numbers only increased in 2005 and 2006. And, on July 23, the Friday before all the meetings, USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) released the semi-annual cattle inventory report. NASS reported beef cows and heifers that have calved 31.7 million head on July 1, down 500,000 head from last year. So, with both fewer beef cows and replacements, beef herd expansion will likely not take place this year.

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