Report: U.S. cowherd to grow by more than 3 million head

By Whitney Forman-Cook

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.



WASHINGTON, Aug. 3, 2015 - The U.S. cow-calf industry will grow by over 3 million head in the next four to six years, according to a report released Monday by Rabobank, an agribusiness research firm that monitors and evaluates global agricultural markets.

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The report, titled Beef Cow Repopulation: The Case for Diversification, suggests the future geographic distribution of the U.S. cow-calf herd will be concentrated in areas traditionally focused on row crops. According to Rabobank, this shift in production geographically will “create opportunity for new winners to emerge” and “challenge historical models of calf production, feeder acquisition and crop-producing businesses.”

Don Close, the paper's co-author and senior analyst from Rabobank Food and Agribusiness Research and Advisory (FAR) group, said in a press release that “the initial growth phase will be relatively quick, and will flatten out.”

This repopulation process will be different from what ranchers experienced in years past, Close continued, with excess capacity filling out in the Southwest and the High Plains first, followed by rebuilding in the Dakotas and the Corn Belt.

“The combination of the repopulation in areas of the Southwest and High Plains to conventional levels, plus the addition of confined and semi-confined cow-calf units in the row crop producing regions of the central U.S. will lead to unified, central states cowherd,” Close said.

Sterling Liddell, also a co-author and FAR group senior analyst, said once the repopulation is complete in four to six years, the beef cow heard will have returned to a pre-drought level, that is, near 2011 numbers.

“Although it will depend on factors such as exports and weather, I expect a total of 3.5 to 4 million head more than the 2014 low of 29 million beef cows,” Liddell said. “Of that total, 1.7 million head will come from newly developed capacity in the central U.S. - areas typically focused on row crop production.”

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