Dairy cow numbers were basically unchanged from a year ago at 9.2 million head. Beef cow replacements were up 99,000 head from a year ago at 5.4 million head (1.9 percent). Dairy cow replacements at 4.6 million head were down 71,000 head (-1.5 percent) from a year ago.

A net decrease in total cows (-872,000 head of beef and dairy cows) and a net increase in total replacements of 28,000 head (+99,000 head of beef replacements and -71,000 head of dairy replacements) at the beginning of 2013 suggests that herd liquidation will continue during 2013, says Prevatt.

“The Jan. 1, 2014 inventory of total cows will likely be smaller also. Too few replacements heifers are being retained to expand the cow inventories.”

A smaller inventory of cattle and calves and smaller calf crop during 2012 will limit beef production during 2013 to a level of about 25.6 billion pounds (-1.2 percent from a year ago).

“USDA projects U.S. beef production during 2014 to be about 24.2 billion pounds (-5.7 percent from a year ago). This level of beef production will be influenced by any adjustments in average carcass weights and the level of feeder and live cattle imports (from Canada and Mexico).”

There were decreases in inventory estimates compared with one-year-ago for all categories except beef replacement heifers (1.9 percent) and FCOF-feeder cattle outside of feedlots (0.7 percent).

The 1.9 percent increase in beef replacement heifers represents an increase of 99,000 head as of Jan. 1, 2013, compared to a year earlier, while the -2.9 percent in beef cow inventory represents a decrease of approximately 863,000 beef cows.

Thus, the increase in beef replacement heifers is not sufficient to cause an increase in the beef cow inventory on Jan. 1, 2014.

The increase of 0.7 percent in feeder cattle outside of feedlots (FCOF) was an increase of approximately 185,000 head and may be largely attributed to extremely high feeding costs in feedlots.

The 2013 growing season for the major corn growing regions started with a late planting schedule due to wet weather, says Prevatt. Acreage planted was estimated at 97.4 million acres.

“Industry expectations were for a 14-plus billion bushel corn crop. However, wet and dry weather impacted growing conditions and caused yield levels to be variable in most of the major grain growing areas.