As reported by USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS), the U.S. cattle herd increased for the third consecutive year during 2016, adding 1.6 million head over the course of the year, a 2% gain. The increase was not as big as 2015, when 2.8 million cattle were added to the herd. The big difference between 2015 and 2016 was the accelerated pace of cattle marketings from feedlots during the past year. Year-over-year Federally Inspected steer slaughter increased by 1.2 million head in 2016 and heifer slaughter was up 300,000 head. In 2015, steer slaughter was unchanged from the year prior and heifer slaughter declined 1.0 million head which augmented an increase in calves that were born from 2014 to 2015.
The U.S. beef cow breeding herd was up one million head as of January 1st compared to a year earlier, a 3% increase. Dairy cow numbers grew by 39,000 head over the course of 2016, a change of less than half a percent. Nationwide, calves born in 2016 were up 1 million head or 3% from 2015’s.
Generally good regional forage and pasture conditions in recent years led to some rather dramatic changes in cow numbers by state. Most notable were Oklahoma, Texas, Missouri and New Mexico. In the last year, the beef cow population in Oklahoma increased by 172,000 (+9%), Texas was up 170,000 (+4%), Missouri gained 150,000 (+8%) and New Mexico increased 50,000 (+12%). The opposite situation was seen in some Southeastern states that were dealing with drought during 2016. Mississippi beef cows declined 24,000 head (-5%). Year-overyear, beef cow counts in Georgia and South Carolina dropped 8,000 head (-2%) and 5,000 (-3%), respectively.