Big jump in US cattle herd to open 2016

02 February 2016

The US cattle herd is continuing to grow, according to the recent national cattle survey run by the USDA. The US herd was estimated to have reached 91.99 million head as at 1 January 2016, a 3% increase on one year earlier. This was the second year in a row that the national herd increased after seven consecutive years of decline from 2008. The figure for 1 January 2015 was revised downward quite significantly, based on monthly slaughter figures.

Based on the changes in the number of cattle in various categories (see table below), there is a strong possibility that the growth will continue in 2016. According to the Steiner Consulting Group, this would be likely to continue moderating cattle and beef prices in the US in 2016 and 2017.


The annual cattle survey includes a figure for cattle on feed in all US feedlots as at 1 January 2016, which was estimated at 13.177 million head, 1.2% higher than last year. This is in contrast to the recent monthly USDA Cattle On Feed report, which indicated a figure 0.5% lower than last year. The difference is that the monthly report only includes feedlots with 1,000 head or greater capacity, while the annual survey includes all feedlots. This could see cattle and beef prices remain relatively steady over the next three to four months, a time they were previously expected to record a seasonal increase in response to improved consumer demand.

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