U.S. Cow Herd Large and Young


The U.S. cow herd continues to grow at a very fast rate. An AgWeb.com piece examining the growth maintains the cow herd expansion from 2014 through 2016 was the biggest since the 1970s. The USDA–National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) Cattle Inventory report was released January 1. The report showed increased growth in cow herd, and that could mean both positive and negative things for 2017. 

Cow Herd Totals

The USDA–NASS Cattle Inventory report estimated the U.S. cattle inventory at 93.6 million cattle, a two percent increase over last year’s totals. The beef cow herd totaled 31.2 million head, a 3.5 percent increase from 2016, the largest since 2010. The Southeast has 16.2 percent of the cow herd with 5,046,000 head of cattle.

John Nalivka, president of Sterling Marketing Inc., was quoted in the article as saying, “Expansion is the result of profits and ample forage supplies. While the profits of two years ago have diminished significantly, range and pasture conditions throughout cattle country have continued to support herd expansion.”

Additional reasons for the expansion include:

A lower beef cow slaughter rate. According to the article, the 2016 beef cow slaughter rate was 2.58 million.
Slow cow culling.

An increase in beef replacement heifers. The article reported that 6.42 million beef replacement heifers were added, which was a 1.2 percent increase from 2016 and a five percent increase from 2015.

What the Cow Herd Size Means for 2017

According to the article, 2017’s average profits are expected to drop to $45 per cow. Lee Schulz, Iowa State University Extension economist, was quoted as identifying a silver lining: “We currently have one of the youngest herds in history. A young herd should be very productive, a plus in terms of cost of production and efficiency.” Analysts believe the growth of the cow herd will continue into 2018.

by MIKE ROBERTS

This Column is sponsored by Griffin Fertilizer Co.

BIO: Mike Roberts is the division manager of the Frostproof, Fla.-based Griffin Fertilizer Co. Roberts joined the company in November 2011. He has spent the majority of his career in the fertilizer/agchem industry. Roberts earned a Bachelor of Science degree in citrus production from Florida Southern College in Lakeland. He is currently the chairman of the Florida Fertilizer & Agrichemical Association. For more information, visit griffinfertilizer.com.