The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) releases two reports a year, one each at the end of January and July, discussing the inventory and numbers for a variety of cattle statistics across the United States. The January 2024 report has been released, and it shows that cattle inventory is down nationwide. We’ll be discussing the details of the recent report in this blog, and illuminating what these findings mean for ranchers and consumers. For more information on the beef industry, we invite you to visit our Dark Hammock Legacy Ranch blog


Diving Deeper

The January 2024 USDA report illustrates that the cattle and calf inventory in the United States on January 1, 2024, totaled 87.2 million head. This is the lowest January 1 inventory since 1951, and the smallest calf crop since 1948. The report also indicates this is a bullish market, meaning the USDA expects prices to rise in the future.


Impact on Market: What This Means for the Rancher and Consumer

Short term, this will likely not have an effect on consumer prices. Here’s why: though the cattle inventory is at a low, while the number of cattle on feed remains high. Cattle on feed, when conventionally-raised, are the ones being prepped for slaughter by finishing with a grain diet. These cattle, at a high inventory right now, are the ones being provided to processors to supply the consumer market. With no depletion here yet, consumer prices should remain steady.


Economic and Environmental Factors Impacting Inventory

Many factors contribute to beef prices. Much-needed rain helped dispel drought in several areas of the U.S., which contributed to good beef ranching and cut down on farm input costs. Higher corn supply also contributed to lower feed prices for conventional beef. However, once the high cattle on feed supply is used up, there will be fewer cattle inventory to supply processors. 


Ranchers and consumers will likely see prices hold steady, for now. Rising prices might be on the horizon as inventory is depleted. However, one way to be a price-conscious consumer is to shop local and directly from a ranch, cutting down on middleman markups and transportation costs. To get your grass-fed beef directly from Dark Hammock Legacy Ranch, visit our website