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The US beef herd continues to expand

The U.S. beef cattle herd is continuing to increase, a 3 percent increase in beef cow numbers over 2016.
A 3.5 percent increase may not seem that large, however it is worth noting that we have not seen a year-over-year increase of that magnitude since 1994,” writes Lee Schulz, Iowa State University Extension livestock economist in his “Beef Cattle Herd Expansion Progress Report.
13.1 million head of cattle in feedlots, down from 13.2 million head in 2016. Feedlots with a capacity of 1,000 head or more account for 81.2 percent of the total inventory, a 1 percent increase from 2015
The NASS cattle report provides inventory numbers as of Jan. 1, 2017, and compares them to Jan. 1, 2016. The total population, all cattle and calves, including dairy cattle, increased 2 percent from 2016, 93.6 million head versus 91.9 million head. Total three-year herd expansion, 2014 through 2016,” he said, “is the largest since the mid-1970s.
In Minnesota, the total cattle inventory is down from 2.42 million head in 2016 to 2.40 million head currently, a 1 percent decrease; however, that decrease is not in beef cow numbers.
The current inventory for beef cows that have calved is up 6 percent, 370,000 head versus 350,000 head last year. Milk cows that have calved remains constant in Minnesota at 460,000 head.
There was a significant decrease in the number of steers over 500 pounds in Minnesota. The NASS reports a 20,000-head drop. Current inventory for Minnesota is at 500,000 head, while a year ago, it was reported at 520,000 head.
Nationally, the number of steers 500 pounds and over has increased slightly.
Current inventory is 16.35 million head, while 2016 reported 16.31 million head.
Among the 10 largest beef cow states by inventory, the beef cow herd was up in all states except South Dakota and Montana,” he said.
South Dakota’s beef cow numbers decreased by about 6,000 head, while the number of beef replacement heifers increased from 375,000 head in 2016 to 395,000 head in 2017. Milk cow numbers are up 5 percent or 6,000 head.
The Jan. 1, 2017 inventory of beef replacement heifers was 6.42 million head, up 1.2 percent year over year,” he said. “Among the top 10 beef cow states, beef replacement heifers were up in six states Texas, Montana, South Dakota, Missouri, Kansas and North Dakota.
Before the report came out, expectations were that beef replacement heifer numbers would decrease by about 1.2 percent and not increase.
It was actually up 1.2 percent” he said, “showing that even though we have seen much lower calf prices and cow/calf producer profits eroded, there are still producers expanding through increasing replacement heifers.
The NASS report shows that the U.S. calf crop of 2016 was 35.08 million head. That is an increase of about 99,000 head from 34.09 million head born in 2015. Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota all saw increases in the 2016 calf crop from 2015, 4 percent, 10 percent, and 2 percent respectively.
A larger calf crop resulted in a 2.2 percent increase in estimated feeder cattle supplies on Jan. 1, 2017,” he said. “Increased heifer retention and fewer feeder cattle imports limited what could have been a much larger inventory of feeder cattle supplies.
The 2017 report shows 13.1 million head of cattle in feedlots, down from 13.2 million head in 2016. Feedlots with a capacity of 1,000 head or more account for 81.2 percent of the total inventory, a 1 percent increase from 2015.
We are now three years into herd expansion and unless something drastic changes between now and the end of the year, herd expansion will surely continue in 2017, albeit a more moderate pace than the aggressive rate of herd expansion of the last several years

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