Herd expansion is a thought that is on many cattlemen’s minds. Most are considering if they should expand and by how much. Others are questioning if expansion has already begun, and if it hasn’t, when it will.
In recent weeks beef cow slaughter as compared to last year has dramatically fallen. In fact, when compared to 2012 year-to-date numbers, 2013 is running about 4 percent less for the year.
So what does this mean for herd expansion and cattle prices? According to UGA forecasts, beef cow inventory should be about 28.9 million head as of January 1, 2014 (Figure 1). This would be a decline of about one percent from last year and would indicate that herd expansion is nearing but not quite here.
These projections are based on what we already know about beef cow slaughter thus far this year. These projections also assume that beef cow slaughter continues at a pace near where it is now. Even if beef cow slaughter ended this week, January 1 numbers would still be what they were last year. In other words, several surprises would have to occur to indicate herd expansion on January 1, 2014.
All of this should be encouraging news to cattlemen concerned about expansion and implications for prices.