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PURDUE ECONOMIST: EXPANSION OF BEEF CATTLE HERDS POSSIBLY ON THE HORIZON
Source: Purdue University news release

Recent record-high cattle prices and lower feed costs could offer producers the profit incentives they need to start expanding their herds after U.S. beef cattle numbers at the start of this year reached their lowest point since 1951, Purdue Extension agricultural economist Chris Hurt says.

The nation's beef cattle herd has been declining for many years, with the most recent phase beginning in 2007 when high feed prices led to large financial losses for producers. Since that time, major beef-production areas also have been dealing with drought. But if lower feed costs and high cattle prices hold steady, producers could start to slowly grow their operations.

"While the incentives have turned positive, they have not been in place long enough for the industry to begin registering signs of expansion according to U.S. Department of Agriculture numbers," Hurt said. "The rebuilding of the beef herd is expected to take multiple years."

Hurt said two main factors are driving increased beef profit potential. The first is that small herd numbers have kept beef supplies low. The second is that U.S. corn, soybean and forage crops returned to more normal yield levels, bringing with them more abundant feed and lower feed prices. The combination has resulted in record-high prices for fed cattle and calves this winter.


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