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Cattle inventory shrinks to lowest in 73 years, stoking fears of price hikes

U.S. cattle continue to dwindle following a period of drought and high input costs that pressured ranchers to sell off their herds, shrinking the national headcount to lows not seen in decades.

The latest numbers show the domestic inventory at 87.2 million head as of Jan. 1, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Cattle report. This is a 2% decline from the previous year or a 1.6 million reduction in cattle and calves.

It also marks the lowest January headcount since USDA’s 82.08 million estimate in 1951, according to the American Farm Bureau Federation.

Despite the historically low numbers, the supply of cattle at all U.S. feedlots is up 2% from 2023.

Published Feb. 7, 2024

By Nathan Owens



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