The Cattle report issued by USDA-NASS in late January included several interesting changes in major beef cow states. Drought impacted the northern plains much of 2017 and continues to negatively impact producers in parts of Montana and North and South Dakota. However, regional drought which affected parts of those states did not result in net herd liquidation year over year. The beef cow inventory in Montana grew 0.7 percent to 1.497 million head in 2017. In North Dakota, the beef cow herd grew 3.2 percent, twice the national herd growth rate, to 984.5 thousand head, in 2017. This is the largest North Dakota beef herd level since 2002. Beef replacement heifers in both states were down sharply, 8.2 percent smaller in Montana and 7.3 percent smaller in North Dakota, and may indicate less growth potential in 2018, which could be due in part to the ongoing impacts of drought.
Most surprising is the strong herd growth in South Dakota, which added the largest number of cows of any state in 2017. The beef cow herd in South Dakota increased 8.2 percent, to 1.801 million head, also the highest state herd inventory since 2002. Beef replacement heifers in South Dakota were up 10.1 percent, suggesting that aggressive beef herd growth will continue in 2018.
The beef cow herd in Texas grew faster than the national average last year and was up 2.8 percent to a January 1, 2018 level of 4.585 million head. Nevertheless, Texas has generally recovered more slowly from the 2011-2013 drought than other states and the 2018 herd inventory is still less than the 2011 total. Beef replacement heifers were down a scant 1.2 percent in Texas, perhaps suggesting potential for additional herd growth in the coming year. Oklahoma, which had previously recovered to pre-drought levels, added another 1.7 percent to the beef cow herd inventory year over year, and at 2.131 million head was at the largest state herd level since 1983. Beef replacement heifers were down 5.7 percent in Oklahoma.
Missouri added the third largest number of beef cows to the herd (behind South Dakota and Texas) pushing the 2018 beef cow inventory up 5.4 percent to 2.166 million head. This moved Missouri slightly ahead of Oklahoma to once again rank as the second largest beef cow state in the country. Beef replacement heifers in Missouri were down a modest 1.4 percent year over year. Kansas, after jumping five percent in 2016, decreased the beef cow herd by 4.0 percent in 2017 to a January, 2018 total of 1.507 million head. Beef replacement heifers in Kansas were down 9.7 percent and may suggest additional herd decrease in 2018. Nebraska and Iowa were little changed with the Nebraska beef cow herd down 0.5 percent to 1.91 million head and Iowa up 0.5 percent to 970 thousand head. Kentucky, also a top ten beef cow state, saw a 1.0 percent herd growth in 2017 to 1.033 million head.
It is noteworthy that Florida, long a top ten beef cow state, dropped to thirteenth place with 886 thousand head on January 1, 2018; behind Arkansas with 924 thousand head and Tennessee with 910 thousand head. This is the first time Florida has had less than 900 thousand head of beef cows since 1964.