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United States Cattle Inventory and Situation

United States Cattle Inventory and Situation

By Brenda Boetel, UW Extension Livestock Economist

On January 27, 2012, the USDA/NASS released the semi-annual Cattle report. Most information in the report was expected. Record setting drought in the Southern U.S. caused beef cow herd liquidation, fewer calves on cereal grain pasture, and more cattle in feedlots. However, record high feeder cattle prices stimulated interest in beef heifers, with replacements increasing enough in areas with good moisture conditions to cause a slight increase for the U.S.

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What does seasonality mean this year for cattle markets?

Historically, seasonal cattle price patterns have been one of the most reliable tendencies in cattle markets. This is particularly true in a stable market environment. However, the market is anything but stable now and that means that normal price seasonality may not mean much this year. Anticipating cattle markets is always a daunting task and is particularly challenging this year with so many short and long run factors affecting the market at the current time. Feeder and fed cattle prices have advanced more than seasonally through the first quarter but still there are indications that markets may be close to a seasonal top or plateau. However, there is much turbulence in the water and the picture is far from clear.

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World Beef Production Outlook

For a third consecutive year, world beef production is expected to decline. USDA’s Foreign Ag Service forecasted a 0.7% decline in world beef production for 2010, as compared to 2009. Four of the five largest beef producing nations are expected to produce less beef. U.S. beef production is forecast to be down 0.8%.

USDA’s FAS forecast a 14% increase in exports by Brazil, the world’s largest beef exporter. The U.S. (number 3 in world beef exports) is forecast to increase beef exports by 10% due to the stronger than expected economic recovery in Asia. The U.S. is the largest importer of beef in the world and our 2010 imports are forecast lower, despite tighter domestic supplies, as Asian markets will likely bid aggressively for Oceania and Uruguayan product.

One question that I often get asked is “why does the U.S. continue to import beef?” The simple answer to this question is that not all beef is the same. One set of animals can produce a vast array of different products of different qualities. These products may not match the preferences of the domestic consumer. U.S. beef demand is largely for ground beef and steaks. Steak demand is oriented toward high-quality middle meat cuts, but ground beef can be made from a wide variety of lean meat.

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2010 Cow/Calf Workshop Resources

In March and April, the UW Extension Livestock Team conducted several Cow-Calf Workshops throughout the state. Here are the presentations and some additional resources from the workshop.

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