The January 2024 Cattle Inventory Report from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) drew some major attention, which American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) economist Bernt Nelson covered in his recent Market Intel piece. The numbers have some rather historically stark reference points.
“All cattle and calves in the United States on Jan. 1, 2024, were 87.2 million head, 2 percent lower than this time in 2023.” Nelson wrote, continuing “This is the lowest Jan. 1 inventory since USDA’s 82.08 million estimate in 1951.”
“The calf crop is estimated at 33.6 million head, down 2 percent from last year and the smallest calf crop since 33.1 million in 1948.”
Nelson noted that because of the number of cattle on feed, there’s no anticipated immediate shortage of beef, but longer term, consumers might see some higher prices at the meat counter later in 2024 and into 2025.
“The latest cattle numbers are a stark reminder of the challenges facing America’s farmers and ranchers,” said AFBF President Zippy Duvall. “Severe weather, high inflation and geopolitical uncertainty are taking a toll on farmers across the country, and families will see the effects in their grocery bills.”
“Fortunately, America has one of the most robust food supplies in the world, thanks in part to strong agricultural policies outlined in the farm bill. We encourage lawmakers to pass a new farm bill to ensure farmers can survive the tough times and continue to stock the pantries of America’s families.”