At the recent annual meeting of the Technical Advisory Committee of the Livestock Marketing Information Center (LMIC), members from around the country were polled as to their expectations for the beef cow herd and beef replacement heifer situation in their region.

Peel derrell
Livestock Marketing Specialist / Oklahoma State University Extension

Nationally and by region, the group was unanimous that the beef cow herd is down so far this year, with the U.S. assessments ranging from less than 1 percent to over 2 percent. The majority of the group indicated that the beef cow herd was likely down between 1 and 2 percent as of July 1.

Assessments on beef replacement heifers were more variable, with some limited view that modest heifer retention was occurring in some areas and with a majority feeling that no significant heifer retention was occurring yet or that some heifers earlier retained for breeding had been diverted into feeder supplies.

080713 peep news tb 1Based on member input and other available data, the LMIC has developed estimates in the format of previous July 1 inventory reports. It is important to remember that these estimates do not reflect USDA survey and statistical methodology and should not be viewed as a replacement for official estimates.

See Table 1 for LMIC estimates for July 1, 2013.


These estimates reflect indications from various data that are available and historical relationships – importantly, they started with a baseline of the July 1, 2012 mid-year report. The only category posting any year-on-year increase was the number of dairy cows.

All cattle and cows as of July 1 were likely down between 1 and 2 percent. Beef cows likely dropped just over 2 percent, resulting in reductions for seven consecutive years.

Beef cow slaughter was down 3.1 percent year-over-year in the first half of 2013. Beef cow slaughter has fallen sharply recently and is likely to be down for most of the remainder of the year.

The number of heifers on feed usually decreases between January and July, and was down this year but dropped less than normal indicating that some animals previously identified as replacements likely entered feedlots in the first six months of this year.

Heifer slaughter is down year-to-date but has been above year-ago levels recently, indicating the larger number of heifers finishing in feedlots. Heifer retention may well pick up in the last half of the year.

Still, the combined effects of higher beef cow slaughter and decreased heifers entering the herd likely means that the beef cow herd will be down year-over-year on January 1, 2014.

The lack of USDA mid-year inventory estimates prevents the usual calculations of estimated feeder supplies outside feedlots. However, using the LMIC estimates, along with additional assumptions about the total U.S. cattle on feed inventory as of July 1, suggests that feeder supplies were down fully 2 percent year-on-year.

This estimate factors in a smaller 2013 calf crop and reduced feeder cattle imports in 2013. Renewed heifer retention interest in the last half of this year could squeeze feeder supplies dramatically in 2014.  end mark

Derrell Peel is an Oklahoma State University Extension livestock marketing specialist. James Robb and Katelyn McCullock are with the Livestock Marketing Information Center. This article originally appeared in the Oklahoma State University Cow/Calf Corner newsletter.