US - Beef cow numbers will not rebound as strongly in the eastern half of the US as cattle are squeezed out by a rise in arable acreage, experts have said.
Pasture conversion over recent years is another obstacle as part of list of drought, ageing producers and high feeder prices that will limit the speed of a national herd recovery in the US, an Oklahoma University livestock marketing expert has summarised.
On top of a strong temptation to sell rather than retain heifers and drought conditions persisting, Dr Derrell Peel has explained why experts think cropping will limit herd recovery in the east.
“Herd expansion will start slow from the current low herd base under the best of circumstances,” said Dr Peel.
“Regional factors may be moderating herd expansion. Much of the eastern half of the country has lost pasture and hay acreage as crop production has expanded in recent years.”
“It appears that herd expansion is being further restricted at this time in some regions due to producer age and expectations; financial limitations; regional shifts in cow-calf production; continuing drought conditions; and recovering pasture/range conditions.”
But a recovery is more urgent in the centre of the country, according to Illinois extension economist Professor Chris Hurt.
His priority area is Texas, which has lost 1.4 million head – over a third of national decline.
Next in line is the South East, which has lost over 820,000 head, mainly in Tennessee and Kentucky.
Northern Plains areas, where there has been no drop in beef cow numbers, come third in the list.
Professor Hurt said: “Lower returns to grain production are expected to bring some conversion of land back to grazing in coming years as well.”
This is not the case for the Western Corn Belt area, heavily hit by the ‘ethanol boom’ which has left grain growers with another grain marketing option in a traditionally cheap grain area.
However, singling out Missouri, Professor Hurt added: “The ethanol impact is much less important in Missouri, where more marginal land is suited to beef cows, so that state is expected to lead the coming expansion for that region.”
Elsewhere, drought is a major factor. Central Plains areas - fourth on Professor Hurt’s list – are being hurt by lingering drought.
He concluded: "The rest of the country has a mixed situation. Severe drought in California and other parts of the West and Pacific Northwest are going to prevent expansion in some of those areas.
"On the other hand, the Eastern Corn Belt and the Northeast will see some expansion, but these have become relatively minor beef cow regions."
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