Domestic demand for U.S. beef products could lead to record beef imports during the next herd rebuilding phase. Import levels in 2015 were 50% larger than in 2010-2013 and are slated to trend higher.

Consumers will likely feel the effect of a rebuilding phase as farmers hold on to more cows and heifers. Less market supply amidst strong demand trends was also the case in portions of 2014 when beef production declined by more than 15%.

Whether or not a similar situation plays out over the next year or two depends on pasture conditions and economics. Drought, or lack thereof, will continue to influence primary beef-producing states and determine the extent of herd rebuilding in those areas. Economically, beef demand remaining resilient enough to keep prices marching upward as supplies are tightening will influence how large and long it takes to rebuild the nation’s cattle herd.

Read more on cattle supplies and beef demand here.