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National decline in cattle inventory may be good news for Virginia producers

Crystal Graham
cows farm
(© Savo Ilic – stock.adobe.com)

While the U.S. cattle inventory declined for the fifth consecutive year, a report shows Virginia’s inventory increased – up 30,000 from last year.

Virginia’s total cattle inventory as of Jan. 1 was 1.32 million head.

On the flipside, the U.S. cattle inventory has reached its lowest level since 1951.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture reported that as of Jan. 1, U.S. cattle and calves totaled 87.2 million head, down 2 percent from last year.

The U.S. decline is largely due to cattle producers having to sell their herds as they contend with dry weather and higher feed and input costs.

The Virginia numbers could be a sign that Virginia farmers are keeping more heifers for breeding to rebuild herds.

Virginia’s cattle producers may benefit from the lower national numbers, as the Commonwealth is primarily a cow-calf state. Cow-calf operations are those on which farmers keep a permanent herd of beef cattle that will produce calves for later sale, said Brandon Reeves, executive director of the Virginia Cattlemen’s Association.

Lower national inventories “should help our producers by driving up the demand and price for Virginia feeder cattle. Producers will have difficult decisions to make on whether they sell or retain replacement heifers,” said Reeves.

Crystal Graham

Crystal Graham

Crystal Abbe Graham is the regional editor of Augusta Free Press. A 1999 graduate of Virginia Tech, she has worked for nearly 25 years as a reporter and editor for several Virginia publications, written a book, and garnered more than a dozen Virginia Press Association awards for writing and graphic design. She was the co-host of "Viewpoints," a weekly TV news show, and co-host of Virginia Tonight, a nightly TV news show. Her work on "Virginia Tonight" earned her a national Telly award for excellence in television.