The U.S. cattle industry is showing further signs of contraction.
The USDA says the total number of cattle and calves in the U.S. on July 1st was 95.9 million head, 3% below a year ago, the lowest inventory in about a decade and a bigger than anticipated decrease.
There were declines in most major inventory categories, including all cows and heifers that have calved and replacement heifers, along with steers, bulls, and calves.
At 29.4 million head, beef cows matched the lowest number in recorded data, going back to 1971.
Several factors are contributing to that decline, including persistent drought conditions in some of the major U.S. cattle areas and relatively high feed costs.
Contraction will likely continue as the US calf crop for the first half of 2023 is 2% below last year at 24.8 million head.
The numbers look neutral to supportive for cash cattle and wholesale beef prices, but that will also depend on demand.