U.S. Beef Suddenly Goes Short For First Time Since 1962 

(PresidentialHill.com)- According to Beef Magazine, last year’s input costs and drought look to be obstacles and explanations for the sudden fall in beef cows. For many producers across the country, 2022 had presented a perfect storm of economic and weather-related challenges, as Ryan McGeeney of the magazine noted.  

USDA statistics state there are fewer beef cattle in the United States now than there have been at any time since 1962.  

The USDA’s semiannual livestock report shows that the number of cattle on hand as of January 1, 2023, was 89.3 million heads, down 3% from the previous year and the lowest amount since 2015. In that total, 38.3 million cows and heifers have given birth. 

In addition, there are just under 29 million beef cows (cows bred explicitly for the food market) as of the beginning of this year, which is down over 4% from the previous year and the lowest the agency has documented since 1962. 

According to Beef Magazine, Input costs, such as diesel and fertilizer, had doubled or even tripled, and a hot, dry summer had increased reliance on groundwater in the absence of rainfall. In the case of cattle farmers, the lack of rain meant that pasture sources dwindled, and many farmers had to cull their herds more severely than they would have liked. USDA data shows that increased beef cull prices drove a rise in beef cow slaughter of 11% in 2018. 

Cattle output is expected to continue declining through 2023, as Kenny Burdine of the University of Kentucky recently stated. 

Beef has a “quite large biological lag in the supply chain,” Mitchell said. What shoppers face at the supermarket is the result of the difficulties faced by cattle farmers a year or two ago. A new calf will not be the steak on your dinner plate for another two years.