Where are the Girls?

One article on cattle inventory just will not suffice given the extremely low inventory. This article will try to address the same question a bunch of college guys have at a party with no females. Where are all the girls? When will they get here? The values can be dissected in a number of ways, but being elementary may be the best route.

Total beef cow inventory was estimated to be down 716,000 head compared to the previous year with most of that decline coming from the Great Plains and the Southeast United States. This decline was largely drought influenced as widespread drought reduced late summer and fall forage production and resulted in many producers being forced to feed hay earlier than is typical. Thus, it is fairly easy to know where all the young girls are. One simply has to look at the quantity of heifers on feed. Clearly, the feedlot is where most of these young females reside. As it relates to more mature females, beef cow slaughter in 2023 tells most of the story for the beef cow herd. The industry has harvested a large quantity of beef cows.

Figure 1 contains information concerning the quantity of beef heifers retained for replacement. Heifers held as beef cow replacements have been extremely low for two consecutive years, which means it will be difficult to grow the beef cow herd much in 2024. In reality, most heifer replacement decisions will not be made by spring calving producers until the second half of the year and it will be two years before any of those retained females have a calf old enough to enter the feedlot.

The final thoughts here are that most females have been on a dinner plate, are on a dinner plate, or destined for a dinner plate. Cattle producers will begin to make heifer retention decisions. One would suspect there will be some aggressive decisions to retain females in the coming years, but significant retention will be slower than many may think.

Figure 1. Beef Heifers Held for Replacement

Griffith, Andrew. “Where are the Girls?Southern Ag Today 4(7.2). February 13, 2024. Permalink