US Cattle Herds Still in Decline

US - The US cattle herd started 2009 2 per cent below year ago levels, at 94.5 million head, as drought, high production costs and increased cow slaughter all contributed to a falling inventory throughout 2008 (United States Department of Agriculture).
calendar icon 6 February 2009
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Meat & Livestock Australia

The majority of the decline in the US cattle herd at 1 January 2009 was due to the beef cow herd, which fell 2.4 per cent year-on-year, or 760,000 head, to 31.7 million head. A 12 per cent increase in beef cow slaughter during 2008, to 6.3 million head, was the main factor behind the decline, with higher production costs and low incomes making it more difficult for producers to retain breeding numbers. According to CattleFax, the current US beef cow inventory is now smaller than the previous low in the US cattle cycle set in 2004.

More favourable trading conditions throughout 2008 for dairy cattle producers led to the US dairy cow herd growing by just under 1 per cent, to 9.3 million head, leaving the total US cow herd at 41 million head at the start of 2009.

Given the falling US cattle supply, demand for Australian imported beef could be expected to strengthen in coming years, especially if the US industry enters a rebuilding phase and producers retain breeding numbers from slaughter.

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