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Cattle Inventory, Beef Cow Herd Decline 2%


By GREG HENDERSON February 1, 2022

America’s cattle herd shrank by 2% last year, according to the annual Cattle report issued by USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS). The total number of cattle and calves on farms and in feedlots was estimated at 91.9 million head.

The beef cow herd also declined by 2% to 30.1 million, and heifers intended for replacement fell about 3% for both dairy and beef.

The all cattle on feed totaled 14.7 million head, up slightly from 2021.



The total inventory and the beef cow numbers were both lower than what industry analysts had expected. The cattle on feed number was higher than the trade expected.



All cows and heifers that have calved, at 39.5 million head, were 2% below the 40.3 million head on Jan. 1, 2021. The 2021 U.S. calf crop was estimated at 35.1 million head, down 1 percent from the previous year's calf crop.

All heifers 500 pounds and over as of Jan. 1, 2022, totaled 19.8 million head, 2% below the 20.2 million head on Jan. 1, 2021. Beef replacement heifers, at 5.61 million head, were down 3% from a year ago. Milk replacement heifers, at 4.45 million head, were down 3% from the previous year. Other heifers, at 9.71 million head, were 1% below a year ago.


USDA made revisions to prior inventory estimates for the calf crop, increasing the 2021 figure by 360,000 head. The all cattle and calves number had an adjustment of nearly 200,000 head.

Drought-stricken Montana saw the largest percentage change in total cattle and calves, down 10.2% from last year, or 250,000. Several states lost more than 5%, including North Dakota, South Dakota, New Mexico, Arkansas, Missouri, Pennsylvania and South Carolina.

Two states recorded a new record high for cattle inventory – Idaho at 2.55 million head, and Alaska at 5,900 head.


While the overall number of beef replacement heifers was 3% lower, several states actually increased heifer retention. States that increased heifer retention 5,000 head each from last year were: Colorado, Iowa, Minnesota, South Dakota, Washington, and Wisconsin. Kansas and Nebraska each increased 20,000 head of heifers. A handful of other states were up less than 5,000 head.

NASS revised its 2020 calf crop estimate with an increase of 360,000 head, and this year’s number was reduced to 35.135 million head, a 1% decline.



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