Whatever the factors - and there are a number of them - the beef cow biz just ain't what it used to be.

Montana's Northern Ag News Network tells us that to no one's surprise, the USDA Cattle Inventory report released yesterday (January 31) was right in line with predictions: the nation’s beef cow herd has shrunk over the past ten years and now sits at its lowest level in the Inventory Report's 50-year history.

As of the first of this year, just under 29 million head of beef cows were accounted for.  That is a four percent drop from just one year ago. The overall inventory from the January 1st headcount shows just over 89 million head of cattle within the nation’s borders. That is a three percent decline in just one year.


The USDA offers several major factors contributing to the decline.

---Beef cow cycle.

---Widespread drought over several years.

---Increased processing speeds at the packing plants.

---Lack of profitability.

Northern Ag News quoted an analyst's summary of the dollars and cents aspect to consumers, suggesting that the impact will be, "an extremely bullish factor to the cattle market and the beef industry. Tight supplies amid strong demand beckon for prices to become stronger, and stronger prices will likely be the theme of the market over the next two to potentially three years until the market sees substantial build back.”

The fancy way of saying we beef lovers will be paying more.


Montana, Texas, Oklahoma, Missouri, Nebraska, South Dakota, Kansas, Kentucky, North Dakota, and Florida rounded out the top ten states for beef cow inventory. Only Missouri had the same number of beef cows as compared to a year ago. The other states saw decreases in their beef cow herds anywhere from 1% to 7%. Montana's decline looks to be in the two percent range. You can see all the report's numbers here.

We hope there is good news ahead for Montana's beef producers, but it may take awhile for herds to rebuild significantly, with a reduction in the nation’s calf crop dropping two percent, to 34.4 million head.

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