The U.S. cow herd has continued its growth trend.


The U.S. cow herd continues to grow at an aggressive rate. According to an article, the cow herd expansion from 2014 through 2016 was the largest since the 1970s. The USDA–National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) Cattle Inventory report, estimating the number of cattle and calves, was released January 1st. See what the report said about the cow herd, and what it means for 2017.

Cow Herd Totals


The USDA–NASS Cattle Inventory report estimated the U.S. numbered 93.6 million cattle, which was a 2% increase over last year’s cattle inventory totals. The beef cow herd totaled 31.2 million head, a 3.5% increase from 2016, the largest since 2010. The Southeast has 16.2% of the cow herd with 5,046,000 head of cattle.

John Nalivka, president of Sterling Marketing Inc. was quoted in the article as saying, “Expansion is the result of profits and ample forage supplies. While the profits of two years ago have diminished significantly, range and pasture conditions throughout cattle country have continued to support herd expansion.”

Reasons for the expansion of the cow herd, in addition to ideal range and pasture conditions, include:

  • A lower beef cow slaughter rate. According to the article, the 2016 beef cow slaughter rate was 2.58 million, the “fourth smallest percentage of cows slaughtered since at least 1965.”
  • Slow cow culling.
  • An increase in beef replacement heifers. According to the article, 6.42 million beef replacement heifers were added, which was a 1.2% increase from 2016 and a 5% increase from 2015.

What the Cow Herd Size Means for 2017


According to the article, 2017’s average profits are expected to drop to $45 per cow. Lee Schulz, Iowa State University Extension economist, was quoted as identifying a silver lining: “We currently have one of the youngest herds in history. A young herd should be very productive, a plus in terms of cost of production and efficiency.”

Analysts believe the growth of the cow herd will continue into 2018, and USDA–NASS estimated the 2016 calf crop at 35.1 million head, an increase of 3% over 2015.

Griffin Fertilizer is committed to helping both growers and ranchers make sound agronomic and economic decisions in order to maximize the health of their grove and pasture. As a full-service custom dry & liquid fertilizer blender and crop protection product distributor, we will continue our mission to further advance Florida agriculture. For questions or concerns about your farm or pasture, contact us and one of our team will be in touch.


Image courtesy of the USDA.