In its semiannual report released Jan. 31, the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) reported the total number of all cattle and calves in the U.S. at 87.2 million head on Jan. 1, 2024. That represents a 2% drop from the 88.8 million head reported at the beginning of 2023 and indicates a fifth consecutive year of herd liquidation. All cows and heifers that calved totaled 37.6 million head, down 2%. Total beef cows were also down 2% at 28.2 million head. The milk cow population was down only slightly to 9.36 million head.

Marchant tyrell
Editor / Progressive Cattle

Heifers weighing 500 pounds and over on Jan. 1 totaled 18.5 million, down 1% from year-ago levels. Beef replacement heifers were down 1% at 4.86 million. Steers 500 pounds and over totaled 15.8 million head, again down 2%.

The report showed the population of calves under 500 pounds on Jan. 1 at 13.3 million head, down 3% from 2023. Animals on feed for slaughter in all feedlots was up 2% to a total of 14.4 million head. Cattle on feed in facilities with a capacity of 1,000 or more head accounted for 82.7% of total fed cattle, up slightly from the previous year. Outside of feedlots, the combined number of calves, heifers and steers was 24.2 million head, down 4% from the previous year.

The U.S. 2023 calf crop was estimated at 33.6 million, down 2% from the previous year’s calf crop. The population of calves born in the first half of 2023 was estimated to be 24.7 million, with some 8.89 million calves born later in the year – about 26% of the year’s total calf crop.

The full report can be found on the USDA NASS website.