February 6, 2015


A 'surprise': US beef herd expanded in 2014, says USDA



The total number of beef and dairy cattle increased 1 percent, or 1.3 million head, to 89.9 million as of January 1 compared with the year-ago number, according to the inventory report of the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), surprising industry analysts. 


Considering that they've been declining during the past several years, the cattle numbers showed "a pretty significant uptick", said Jessica Sampson, agricultural economist with Livestock Marketing Information Center.


"Overall, the numbers are higher than expected on the beef side in general", she added.


The USDA report showed that beef cows numbered 29.7 million, up 608,000 head, or 2%, from the previous year, while the beef replacement heifers totalled nearly 5.8 million, up 226,000, or 4%. Of the total 35.5 million, almost 34 million are expected to calve this year, up 7% from last year.


Sampson said the increase in beef cows was one of the biggest surprises.


Derrell Peel, livestock marketing specialist with Oklahoma State University, said the four states of Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas and Missouri made up 82 percent of the total increase of beef cows. He said an increase in the beef cow herd was expected but that the increase was larger than anticipated.


Beef replacement heifers also increased noticeably in Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas, as well as in California, Sampson said.


The USDA earlier predicted that beef production in the US this year would be surpassed by that of pork for the first time in 62 years.

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