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USDA reports lower cattle numbers in 2022

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The USDA has released its mid-year cattle report, and the July 1 numbers spell a downward trend. All cattle inventory is down a full 2 percent, with 98.8 million head of cattle and calves on U.S. farms. 

Beef cattle are down 2 percent at 30.4 million, while milk cows numbers are down 1 percent at 9.45 million head in the United States. All cows and heifers that have calved totaled 39.8 million head — last year, 40.6 million head had calved by July 2, 2021. 

Surprisingly, the number of cattle on feed totaled 13.4 million. This number is unchanged from previous years, while beef cow slaughter remains aggressive. However, feeder cattle and calf supplies will likely be tighter in the coming months, with calves under 500 pounds down 3 percent from last year and the 2022 calf crop down to 13.4 million head, a total of 1 percent lower than last year. 

Why are numbers decreasing? Drought is likely a factor as producers liquidate herds in states hardest hit. Additionally, slaughter numbers are up 14.5 percent to date as liquidations continue. In total, CattleFax predicts a downward spiral of 5 percent in 2023. 

What does that mean for the future? The U.S cattle herd sees cyclical trends about every 10 years. The industry saw contracted numbers between 2007 and 2013, with an inventory low in 2014. Contacted cattle numbers typically spell higher beef prices, motivating producers to expand. 

To obtain an accurate measurement of the current state of the U.S. cattle industry, NASS surveyed approximately 15,400 operators during the first half of July. Surveyed producers were asked to report their cattle inventories as of July 1, 2022, and calf crops for the entire year of 2022 by internet, mail, or telephone.

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