USA, Washington. Cattle numbers are falling in categories critical to meat production. What's uncertain is the impact of the drought.
Cattle numbers in the United States continued their decline this summer, which began in 2019. According to data from the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), there were a total of 100.9 million head of cattle in the country as of July 1, 2021, down 1.3 million head, or 1.3%, from a year earlier. Lower herd sizes were noted in all livestock categories. The only exception was the dairy cow herd, which grew by about 150,000 head, or 1.6%, to 9.50 million cows within the year.
According to USDA, US farmers each had just over 1% fewer calves, heifers and steers on their farms as of the July 2020 cutoff date compared to July 2020. Only lesser bulls remained stable at 2.1 million head. The total number of cows and calved heifers decreased 1.2% from a year earlier to 40.9 million head. This was entirely due to the two percent decline in beef cows to 31.4 million head, while the dairy herd increased for the second year in a row.
Even before the release of the latest livestock census data, USDA's latest forecast projected that in 2021, U beef production would increase by about 330,000 t, or 2.7%, from the previous year to 12.66 mill. It is possible that the estimate will now be revised downward somewhat following the moderate inventory decline and continued drought conditions in some parts of the country. From January through June 2021, US beef production had increased significantly by 6.6% from the same period last year, but this was due to capacity constraints at slaughter plants that occurred in 2020.
The greater US beef supply has been used primarily to boost exports so far this year. According to the US Meat Export Organization (USMEF), 587,840 t were sold abroad from January through May, up 14.7% from the same period last year. Export revenues even increased by 22.3% to € 3.26 bn. Deliveries to China, South Korea and Mexico in particular increased significantly year-on-year, with beef exports to the People's Republic rising more than tenfold to 64,760 t.