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Missouri Regains No. 2 in Cow Numbers as National Herd Size Continues Decline

February 21, 2014
FJM 5758
Missouri ranks second in the nation behind Texas in cow numbers.  

Missouri returned as No. 2 beef cow state in the nation, with a 63,000-cow increase in 2013. The USDA cow count shows Missouri rose from No. 3 back to the position it held from 1983 to 2008.

The state has 1.82 million cows, down from more than 2 million in 2008. The annual U.S. Department of Agriculture inventory shows Missouri to be one of only three states to grow herd size by more than 50,000 cows.

In 2013, Kansas went up 86,000 cows. Oklahoma grew by 51,000. Arkansas rose 31,000, making it fourth-fastest-growing cow state in the nation.

Texas remains No. 1, with 3.91 million head. In a long-term drought, Texas cow numbers dropped 1.1 million head from the 2011 USDA report.

Nebraska, which had been No. 2 for two years, dropped to No. 4, with Oklahoma No. 3 in beef cow numbers.

In contrast, 37 states declined or held steady at 2013 levels, says Daniel Madison, research economist at the University of Missouri Division of Applied Social Sciences.

Nationally, the cow herd continued declining, losing 255,000 head in 2013. The U.S. herd now has 29 million cows, the lowest level since 1962.

Observers anticipate an upturn in cow numbers. Declining beef supply brought sharp increases in cattle prices. Meanwhile, sharp drops in feed prices give economic signals for higher profits.

That should lead to rebuilding the cow herd.

However, droughts and doubts about grass and hay supplies cause caution for herd owners nationally. Dry weather continues in parts of the United States.

"The economics seem to be in place for future growth in the beef cow numbers," says Scott Brown, MU beef economist.

"Missouri producers see those signals," he says. "Heifers retained in the herd are an indicator of optimism."

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