Derrell Peel Believes Lower Cow Herd Numbers in 2024 Are Inevitable

Listen to Ron Hays talk with Derrell Peel about the cow herd numbers.

Senior Farm and Ranch Broadcaster, Ron Hays, is talking with Oklahoma State University Livestock Market Economist, Derrell Peel, about beef cow herd numbers.

The USDA will release the next set of beef cow inventory numbers in a little over a month. The expectation is that those numbers may be less than they were in January of 2023.

Peel says there is simply no way to avoid a lower beef cow herd number at the end of January 2024.

“The indications, even coming into 2023, was that we would likely see some additional herd liquidation,” Peel said. “As we have gone through the year and monitored heifer slaughter and cow slaughter through the year, I have actually sort of raised my forecast of how much we will drop on January 1.”

Peel said he expects to see at least a two percent decrease in the cowherd going into 2024. In fact, Peel added, that decrease could easily be 2.5 percent.

“This year’s number was the smallest since the early 60s, and this will take it down even a little bit lower than that,” Peel said.

Peel said that heifer numbers should be as tight or tighter going into 2024 as this past year.

“We are starting with a very low base, which means it is going to take a long time to rebuild this thing once we decide to try to rebuild it, and we are not doing that yet,” Peel said.

Peel believes many producers aim to “heal up” a little bit financially, so they are selling their females along with their steers as a result.

“A lot of producers are just financially challenged right now,” Peel said. “We have been in a lot of droughts. We had high input costs; high feed costs the last couple of years…”

Peel said the market will be strong for the next two to four years, so producers have a lot of time to benefit from those conditions.

“I think a lot of producers are kind of preoccupied with short-run considerations and kind of still in defensive mode,” Peel said. “They are excited about the markets we have had.”

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