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herd shrinks by bob burgdorfer

The U. S. cattle herd is shrinking and better beef demand is needed to restore profits and turn the industry around, a cattle industry economist says.

A Jan. 30 U. S. Agriculture Department report showed the U. S. cattle herd is the smallest it’s been in 50 years.

“It is drought, producer retirement, reduced profitability and higher input costs,” said Gregg Doud after seeing the USDA report.

Speaking on the sidelines of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association convention here, Doud, who is the NCBA’s chief economist, said the report illustrates the problems facing the industry.

The U. S. Agriculture Department reported 94.5 million cattle were on U. S. farm and ranches as of Jan. 1, down two per cent from a year ago, and the smallest herd since 1959.

“We need better beef demand to right this ship,” said Doud.

Doud and others attending this week’s NCBA convention have said the United States must work to open more export markets for beef, including urging Japan to accept beef from older cattle. Currently, Japan only takes beef from U. S. cattle 20 months old or less as a precaution against mad cow disease. NCBA wants to increase that age limit to 30 months.

The U. S. beef cow herd at 31.7 million head was down two per cent from a year ago and shows the herd may be shrinking faster than anticipated, said Doud.

“This is a much lower number than what we were expecting,” Doud said of the beef cows. “It tells us we are reducing the size of our industry.”

The dairy cow supply in the report was up one per cent from a year ago at 9.33 million head, but Doud said that supply should come down as losses in the dairy industry have had producers aggressively culling dairy cows, he said.

“Since January 1, dairy cows have been coming to market in incredible fashion,” he said.

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