Page 6 - MWC 10-26-2023s
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The Herd Rebuilding Challenge                                                             The Midwest Cattleman · October 26, 2023 · P6

                              By Derrell Peel - Oklahoma State University

         There can be little doubt  beef cow herd at 28.9 million  After record
      that the biggest issue in the  head, is the smallest since  beef                 pro-
      cattle industry right now is  1962.  The beef cow herd has  duction                in
      the question of when herd  continued to decrease in 2023  2022, due to
      rebuilding will begin.    The  and will be smaller yet going  drought liq-
      challenge of herd rebuilding  into 2024.                              uidation, beef
      can be summed up with the             Domestic and internation- production is
      following three questions.         al demand for U.S. beef will  falling in 2023 and expect- cows are located.  While herd
                                         support and encourage a sig- ed to fall sharply for at least  liquidation is likely still hap-
      What do we need to do?             nificantly larger herd going  two more years. By 2025,  pening in some regions, from
         Drought-forced herd liqui- forward.    This will require  beef production is forecast to  a national perspective, herd
      dation due to roving drought  increased heifer retention  be down 15-16 percent from  liquidation has slowed or
      from 2020-2022 has pushed  and reduced cow culling that  the 2022 level.  This will be  stopped.    Beef cow  slaugh-
      the beef herd smaller than  will  further  squeeze  cattle  the lowest level since 2015  ter is down year over year in
      intended and smaller than it  slaughter and beef produc- and possibly the lowest level  2023 but is not down enough
      needs to be.  The January 1  tion  for  at  least  2-3  years.   since 1993.  Herd rebuilding  to suggest that the cow herd
                                                                            will be needed and encour- has fully stabilized.
                                                                            aged by the market.                  Moreover, the continued
                                                                                                              liquidation of cows and heif-
                                                                            What can we do?                   ers in recent years means that
                                                                              Persistent drought is mak- the industry has little ability
                                                                            ing it difficult to stop herd  to begin any herd expansion
                                                                            liquidation, never mind sta- soon.    The latest monthly
                                                                            bilizing  and  then  rebuilding  slaughter data shows that
                                                                            the herd.  As of early October,  total female (cow+heifer)
                                                                            40 percent of the U.S. is in  slaughter has averaged 51.7
                                                                            some stage of drought with  percent of total cattle slaugh-
                                                                            23 percent in D2 (Severe) to  ter in the last year, the high-
                                                                            D4 (Exceptional) drought.  est average rate since 1986.
                                                                            This includes regions where  It will take several months
                                                                            significant numbers of beef                     continued on page 10

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