August 23, 2006 | By: Aimee Nielson

The mid-year cattle inventory report recently released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture suggested beef cow numbers slightly increased during the past 12 months. The twice-yearly report establishes the size of the U.S. cow herd.

According to the USDA’s July report, the total number of cattle and calves in the United States is estimated to be up about one percent from July 2005. The total number of beef cows was up by less than half a percent. Kenny Burdine, University of Kentucky College of Agriculture economist, said the only surprise in the report was the number of heifers being held for beef cow replacement.

“That number was unchanged from last year,” he said. “But, it was expected to be up by about two percent. This does suggest continued expansion, but at a very slow rate. Drought in some of the western states has forced many ranchers to cull some cows and moved some calves into feedlots earlier than usual.”

The western drought may also mean a smaller run of spring-born calves coming to market. That’s a positive factor for Kentucky’s cow-calf producers as they market their spring-born calves, he said.

The total number of beef cows in the United States has increased by about 1.5 percent over the past two years. Burdine said that in all likelihood, that means a slightly longer cattle cycle as cattle producers have been unable to grow their herds as much as they wanted. Prices are still suggesting that there is some expanding to do in the beef industry, he noted.

The change in dairy cow numbers was similar to beef numbers, but unlike the beef industry, the number of dairy heifers being developed increased by about three percent.

“On the dairy side, it looks like expansion is continuing at an increasing pace,” Burdine said. “This is surprising because fluid milk prices were disappointing in the first half of 2006.”
The April-to-June U.S. all milk price this year barely averaged $12 per hundredweight, which was the worst quarter since the second quarter of 2003.

Burdine said the U.S. dairy herd is likely to see an increase in cow numbers in 2007.

“That increase could pressure dairy prices even more,” he added. “Dairy producers probably will need some help from the demand side if they hope to see improved prices in 2007.”


Kenny Burdine, 859-257-7272, ext. 229