The annual USDA Cattle report contains new numbers on cattle inventories and significant revisions to the 2015 numbers. It’s important to consider the revisions when interpreting the new numbers. In general, the report confirms, as expected, that cattle inventories in the U.S. grew in 2015.

Peel derrell
Livestock Marketing Specialist / Oklahoma State University Extension

However, the magnitude of the changes is somewhat different than expected in some cases and reflects the impacts of the revisions in last year’s values. It’s important to look back at how the 2014 story changes as a part of understanding the 2015 story.

The latest report pegs the Jan. 1, 2016, all cattle and calves inventory at 92 million head, up 3.2 percent from one year ago. This increase was larger than expected, but the 2015 total was revised down by roughly 650,000 head, implying that total herd growth in 2014 was 0.7 percent rather than the previously reported 1.4 percent year-over-year increase.

The overall increase over the two-year period is close to expectations, but the report now says more growth occurred in 2015 and less in 2014.

The beef cow herd was up 3.5 percent, adding just more than 1 million head to the herd inventory, as expected. However, the 2015 beef cow total was revised down nearly 400,000 head, indicating that 2014 herd growth was only 0.7 percent rather than 2.1 percent as earlier reported. Thus, the herd growth in 2015 was equal to my expectations, but the 2016 level of 30.33 million head is smaller than I anticipated.


Perhaps the biggest surprises were in the beef replacement heifer numbers. The 2016 level was up 3.3 percent, smaller than expected – but the 2015 number was revised up by roughly 300,000 head, indicating that the 2015 beef heifer total was up 9.6 percent over 2014, compared to the previously reported 4.1 percent year-over-year increase.

As a result, the revised numbers have the 2015 beef replacement heifer total at 6.09 million head and the 2016 total at 6.29 million head. The 9.6 percent increase in beef replacement heifers from 2014 to 2015 is the largest year-over-year increase in replacement heifers since 1974. Beef replacement heifers are now reported at more than 20 percent of the beef cow herd for both 2015 and 2016, the highest levels since 1969.

The 2015 calf crop was estimated at 34.3 million head, up 2.3 percent from 2014. However, the 2014 calf crop was revised down from 33.9 million head to 33.5 million head. The 2016 dairy cow inventory was unchanged at 9.3 million head from the 2015 level (unrevised).

Dairy replacement heifers were up 2.4 percent at 4.8 million head on top of a revised 2015 total revised up by about 100,000 head.

The 2015 inventories of other heifers (more than 500 pounds), steers (more than 500 pounds) and calves (less than 500 pounds) were all revised down.

Other heifers changed from being down 0.2 percent to down 4.6 percent; steers were revised from being up 0.7 percent to being down 0.2 percent from 2014 levels. Calves were revised from being up 0.9 percent to being down 0.2 percent year-over-year from 2014.

The result is that the 2015 estimate of feeder supplies outside of feedlots was down 1.9 percent in 2015 rather than being up 0.5 percent as previously reported.

The 2016 report leads to an estimated Jan. 1 feeder supply of 25.9 million head, up sharply by 5.3 percent from 2015 based on more other heifers, up 2.9 percent; more steers, 4.4 percent; and more calves, up 3.9 percent. Without the revisions to the 2015 numbers, the 2016 estimated feeder supply would be up 2.8 percent.  end mark

—Excerpts from the Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service newsletter Cow/Calf Corner

Derrell Peel
  • Derrell Peel

  • Livestock Marketing Specialist
  • Oklahoma State University Extension
  • Email Derrell Peel