At the start of 2019, the US beef cow herd was higher than a year earlier by about 300,000 head. Coming into the start of the year, there were 31.765 million head, 1% higher than the year before. Oklahoma’s beef cow numbers were up by 3% from a year ago at 2.15 million head, making it the second-place state with Texas being the largest beef cow state in the nation at 6.455 million head at the start of 2019. Looking toward the end of 2019 and into 2020, Jim Robb, lead economist for the Livestock Marketing Information Center (LMIC), says based on the beef cow and beef heifer slaughter numbers of 2019, we may actually be in a slight decline in beef cow numbers.
“Those numbers will have some implications for the cattle inventory come January 1, 2020 and especially on the heifer slaughter side, these numbers have been very large posting large gains year-over-year,” he said, adding that both heifer and cow slaughter has picked up again in just recent weeks. “This has added pressure back into the cull cow price profile, but it definitely sets the stage for the Jan. 1, 2020, beef cow inventory to be down fully a half a percent, maybe even closer to 1% year-over-year.”
While Robb admits there is still several months to go in this calendar year, he contends that the profile is clearly developing. Perhaps not quite as large a contraction as some of the past cattle cycles, but certainly one that suggests the peak has come and gone. At present, Robb says it seems that numbers across the board are tightening, most aggressively in terms of slaughter cattle and bolstered specifically by the female slaughter component. Looking ahead, Robb expects only minimal changes to occur.
“We look ahead to 2020 and we expect beef production in the US to be up only 1%,” he predicted. “That’ll be the smallest increase since 2015. So, we’re looking at less than a 1% increase in beef output in 2020 and that gives us in terms of fed cattle a year-over-year increase in prices.”
Listen to Robb’s complete analysis on Thursday’s Beef Buzz audiocast with Radio Oklahoma Ag Network Farm Director Ron Hays below.
The Beef Buzz is a regular feature heard on radio stations around the region on the Radio Oklahoma Network and is a regular audio feature.