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US cattle herd shrinks, amid ideas of end to beef expansion


The US Department of Agriculture’s cattle inventory report released Friday afternoon showed the number of cattle and calves in the US as of January 1 at 99.6% of a year ago, just 0.1 percentage point above the average of analysts’ estimates.


The herd was reported at nearly 94.413m head, down from 94.805m a year ago, the USDA reported.


Analysts participating in the Urner Barry survey estimated on average a 0.5% decrease in the total herd from the previous year, or about 94.286m head. The range was 99.3% to 99.7%.


The nation’s calf crop in 2019 was reported at 36.060m head, down 0.3% from 2018, compared with the average of analysts’ estimates at 0.4% below a year ago.


Beef shrinkage

The number of beef cows that gave birth in 2020 was reported at 31.317m, down 1.2% from a year earlier.


Analysts had pegged the figure at 0.6% below a year earlier.


USDA reported a 1.9% decrease in the number of heifers held for beef cow replacement, compared with the average of analysts’ estimates at 3.5% under the previous year.


Dairy dynamics

Milk cows that calved in 2020 were reported at 0.2% below a year ago, 1% below the expectations.


Dairy replacement heifers were 1.4% below a year ago, above the average guess of 99.0%.


The report was viewed as generally neutral when trading resumes Monday.


The data indicates that only modest expansion occurred in the beef herd last year and the smaller number of heifers for beef cow replacement suggests an end to six straight years of expansion, according to Rich Nelson, chief strategist at Allendale.


Urner Barry, like Agrimoney, is owned by AgriBriefing.

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