Cattle marketers look ahead at 2024-2025 beef population

Where will high culling rates leave the 2023 calf crop and beef production in 2024 and 2025?


Elliot Dennis, University of Nebraska-Lincoln

via Beef Magazine - Jul 28, 2022


It is no secret that slaughter cow numbers this year have been elevated but itís the rate they have occurred that has been puzzling. Higher input costs in the form of hay, pasture rent, fuel, etc. partially caused by general economic inflation, low stock-to-use ratios in corn and soybeans, and high crude oil prices have raised the cost of production. Add to that a worsening drought, several years of low feeder cattle prices, and cull cow prices not seen since 2014/15 pulled up by a high cull cutout value and there have certainly been plenty of incentives to sell off cows. The long-term question is where this leaves the calf crop in 2023 and beef production in 2024 and 2025.


The broader economy is getting a feel for what the cattle industry goes through every 10 years or so. As inflation creeps up, the federal reserve can impact it by changing the amount of money in circulation and through interest rates. The federal reserve has already raised interest rates this year by more than 1.5% and more rate hikes are likely coming. But the general effect of these rate hikes this year takes time to work themselves through the general economy to curb inflation. In other words, it takes time for the effects to work. Thatís the science/theory.


The art is knowing how much to raise rates so as to not cause the economy to completely grind to a halt but raise them enough to curb inflation growth. The cattle cycle works similarly although in a less centralized fashion. Each industry participant individually decides on a culling decision and then collectively we get a reduction in cows and thus future beef production. Thatís the science/theory. The art is trying to determine an optimal number of cows to cull to hopefully time market reversals and benefit from price movements seen in 2014/15. That is certainly a tall task.


Looking at the relationship between cow slaughter and prices can tell us something about both the current position and the temporal dynamics. Several academic studies have attempted to model this and currently, there are several working papers to build on these models. I offer here a more descriptive approach to what these magnitudes and movements could be over the next several years. In that, as in all outlooks, there are lots of assumptions...


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