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US cattle shortage continues despite better grazing conditions

US cattle shortage continues despite better grazing conditions

By Jamie Martin

In the United States, the outlook for the cattle industry remains challenging despite some recent improvements in the environment for raising livestock. Over the past few years, ranchers faced tough decisions due to drought and high feed prices, leading many to reduce their herds. Even with recent beneficial weather and decreasing feed costs, high interest rates and other expenses are discouraging herd expansion.

As of now, the number of calves is the lowest it has been since 1948, marking a significant reduction in potential future cattle availability. The American Farm Bureau Federation highlighted a 2% drop in calf numbers from the previous year. Additionally, many ranchers are opting to send female calves, or heifers, to slaughter rather than retaining them for breeding, with heifers making up 40% of the current slaughter mix—a clear indicator that herd rebuilding is not in immediate plans.

The financial aspect is a major barrier. The Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City noted that interest rates on farm loans have significantly increased, tripling since early 2022, which adds to the hesitancy among ranchers to invest in new livestock. This financial pressure is evident in large meat companies as well, such as Tyson Foods, which reported a $35 million loss in its beef segment due to rising costs affecting demand.

There are some signs of potential change. Recent improvements in pasture quality due to more rainfall could encourage some ranchers to reconsider their plans. However, industry experts remain cautious about predicting a significant shift soon.

Photo Credit: gettyimages-diane-kuhl

Categories: National

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