Ag News

Georgia cattle inventory declines slightly

Posted on Mar 28, 2024 at 0:18 AM

Georgia’s overall cattle and calf herd declined by about 20,000 head from 2023 to 2024, according to the 2024 Cattle Inventory Report from the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS), part of a nationwide trend that resulted in the lowest national cattle inventory since 1951, according to published reports.

The NASS report was also released on Jan. 31.

Georgia’s 2024 herd was reported at 1.01 million, down from 1.03 million in 2023, marking the third straight year of diminishing cattle herds in the state.

Cows that have calved numbered 550,000 in 2024, down from 570,000 in 2023. Most of this decline occurred in the beef herd, where the number of cows that calved was 459,000 in 2024, down from 478,000 in 2023 and 487,000 in 2022.

Beef replacement heifers numbered 85,000 in 2024, down from 90,000 in 2023, while dairy replacement heifers were counted at 25,000 in 2024, up from 20,000 in 2023.

Though the overall herd shrank, the number of steers and bulls weighing 500 lbs. or more in Georgia increased slightly, from a combined 67,000 head in 2023 to 70,000 head in 2024.

Nationwide, all cattle and calves were counted at 87.2 million head in 2024, down from 88.8 million head in 2023, a drop of 2%.

Meanwhile, fewer cattle are being sold and fewer are being slaughtered. In the Beef Tips ‘n Advice newsletter, UGA Assistant Professor of Agricultural & Applied Economics Will Secor noted that 5% fewer cattle were slaughtered in January and February 2024 than for the same two months in 2023, though the lower slaughter numbers are partially offset by a 1% increase in average dressed weights.

“This is important because beef prices have started the year higher compared to year-ago levels (again),” Secor wrote. “Higher beef production per carcass may soften the price increases that consumers may face this year. These tight beef supplies will test the resilience of U.S. beef consumers in the year-ahead.”

Feeder cattle prices in Georgia are hovering around very high price levels, Secore said, noting as an example that 500-600 lb. steers are in the lower $290/cwt range. He wrote that prices may follow a more seasonal pattern in 2024 with prices setting highs in the spring, stabilizing through the summer, and dipping slightly in the fall. However, prices should remain elevated throughout 2024 compared to last year.

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