U.S. cattle herd smaller than expected

USDA’s semi-annual cattle inventory update has the smallest U.S. herd for this time of year since the series of reports began. That shows the impact of last year’s drought in the Southern Plains but doesn’t fully reflect conditions currently being experienced further north and east. The total U.S. inventory as of July 1 was 97.8 million head, down 2% on the year and below the average pre-report estimate of 98.6 million head.

All cows and heifers that have calved came out at 39.7 million head, 2% less than last year, with beef cows down 3% at 30.5 million and milk cows basically unchanged at 9.2 million head.

All heifers 500 pounds and up was pegged at 15.7 million head, 2% lower than a year ago, with beef replacement heifers at 4.2 million head, essentially steady, milk replacement heifers declining 2% at 4.1 million head, and other heifers down 3% at 7.4 million head.

Steers weighing 500 pounds and heavier were reported at 14 million head, a 1% decrease, bulls also 500 pounds and heavier dropped 5% to 1.9 million head, and calves weighing less than 500 pounds were 3% smaller at 26.5 million head.

All cattle and calves on feed for slaughter were up 1% on the year at 12.3 million head.

USDA’s projecting the 2012 calf crop at 34.5 million head, down 2% from 2011, with production during the first half of the year at 25.1 million head, also down 2% from this time last year.

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