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Beef is pulling both ends of the dairy herd

Milk prices are finally on the rise, and some of that is thanks to what’s going on in beef markets.

The USDA Cattle report that is released in January and July each year provides a snapshot of one dairy herd data point in particular that otherwise has limited visibility: the estimated number of heifers intended for milk cow replacement. But the most recent report also includes other numbers that hint at what could drive reductions in the milk cow herd in the second half of this year.

Heifers that are at least 500 pounds and intended for milk cow replacement were reported at 3.65 million head as of July 1, 2023. That’s down 100,000 head from the same time last year and is a continuation of the declines seen since 2018. Replacement costs are typically among the top three expense areas on a dairy along with feed and labor, so when milk revenues are low, it can be an area of focus for managing costs.

Beyond just the dairy heifer number, the report highlights constrictions in the total cattle herd.

Ben Laine

September 4, 2023



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