Widespread cattle liquidation amidst exceptional drought conditions in cattle states has led to increasingly slim cattle numbers even in 2023. The current cattle cycle has beef cow inventory sitting at a 60-year low. USDA’s Economic Research Service shows how the current cattle cycle – beginning in 2014 – has followed production and contraction trends in response to severe drought conditions.

The agency reported that as of January 1 of this year, 93% of U.S. beef cows were in states where most pasture and rangeland conditions were rated as “very poor” at worst and “fair” condition at best. In tandem with weather challenges were record-high hay prices hitting producers simultaneously. While drought relief and even flooding have hammered many U.S. states this spring, weather forecasts for the Southern Plains states indicate that drought is likely to persist.

Read more on the current cattle cycle here.