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Trends: Mid-year U.S. Cattle Numbers Higher

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As of July 1st, USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) estimated that the total U.S. cattle herd was the largest since 2008. At 102.6 million head, the number of all cattle and calves was up 6.9 million head (increase of 7.2%) from the low posted as of July 1, 2014. The U.S. beef cowherd was reported at 32.5 million head, up 2.75 million (9.25) from 2014’s. This year’s calf crop was estimated to be 3.5% (1.2 million head) bigger than a year ago and 8.3% larger than 2014’s.

At mid-year, there were more cattle in all U.S. feedlots than a year ago. In the monthly surveyed feedlots (those with 1000 head or more capacity), NASS put the on-feed count at 10.8 million head, which was 4.5% above 2016’s. The number of steers and heifers on-feed for slaughter in all U.S. feedlots was pegged at 12.8 million head, the largest since 2006.

More heifers have been placed into feedlots than in recent years. The number of heifers’ on-feed as of July 1 was just over 10.8 million head, the largest since 2012. Of the steers and heifers in feedlots as of July 1, 35.6% were heifers, the largest percentage since 2014’s.

Profitability has allowed cattle feeders to aggressively buy animals (feeder cattle). The result has been more steers and heifers placed on-feed than a year ago and higher feeder cattle prices. Monthly Cattle on Feed reports from NASS show the number of cattle placed into feedlots with 1000 head or more capacity during the first six months of 2017 was 11.17 million head. That was a year-over-year jump of 1.10 million head or 11%. Further, the number of head placed during January through June was the largest for that timeframe since 2003.

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