Last week, USDA released its biannual U.S. cattle inventory report showing U.S. cattle totals as of Jan. 1, following its monthly cattle on feed report the week before that. The reports provide inventory data for the nation’s cattle, including estimates of the number of breeding animals for beef and milk production, as well as the number of animals placed on feed every month. The inventory report showed the total number of cattle and calves slightly below a year ago and mostly in line with expectations, while the monthly on-feed report surprised analysts with bearish placement data.

As of January 1, all cattle and calves in the U.S. totaled 93.595 million head, slightly below the 93.793 million head reported a year ago. Generally, the levels reported were somewhat in line with industry expectations. This report did include somewhat significant downward revisions to previous years’ estimates, which means production is likely lower than originally thought. These revisions for July 2019, January 2020 and July 2020 were made after reviewing calf crop, official slaughter, import/export data and new survey information.

A bigger story in this report concerned the calf crop for 2020, which USDA pegged at 35.136 million head. Calves born in the first half of 2020 were estimated 25.8 million head, a 1% decline from the first half of 2019.

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