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Cattle inventory down, contraction likely to continue

There were fewer cattle in the U.S. at the start of 2024 than 2023 and it looks like that contraction will continue.

That’s mostly in line with pre-report expectations and due to several factors, including producers trying to improve their bottom lines and ongoing drought in many major feeding areas.

On January 1st, there were 87.157 million cattle in the U.S., 2% lower than a year ago, with all cows and heifers that have calved also declining 2%.

All types of heifers, steers, and bulls weighing more than 500 pounds were under last year’s levels.

The inventory of calves weighing less than 500 pounds at the start of this year were down 3% and the 2023 calf crop is estimated at 33.593 million head, 2% lower than 2022.

The numbers look friendly for cash, wholesale, and futures prices but that will also depend on how much of the decline was already priced in, along with beef demand.

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