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Oklahoma's overall cattle numbers increase as national population dips to 1950s levels

Chelsea Stanfield
Oklahoma makes up 5% of the U.S. cattle inventory, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The number of cattle and calves in Oklahoma is up in the new year, according to the latest U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Cattle Survey, but shoppers still might see differences at the grocery store.

The survey is conducted twice a year, but the January report is larger because it includes information from nearly 50,000 cattle operations of different sizes and estimates for all states.

Derrell Peel, an OSU extension livestock marketing specialist, said on a national level the all-cattle inventory is the lowest it's been in 73 years.

“This industry does not want to be this small and certainly there’s market incentives to not be this small,” Peel said. “But we really just haven’t had any choice.”

The latest report shows there were 4.7 million cattle and calves on Oklahoma’s farms. Compared to the same date this past year, this is a 2% increase. In the previous January survey, the state had a 12% decline of overall cattle numbers.

Although the report shows an increase in the state’s overall herd, beef cow numbers had a 3% decrease.

Peel said the numbers reported are as expected. Drought has put Oklahoma – and the nation – into a three-year slump.

So we are continuing to be very small and again, smaller than we intended to be,” Peel said. “And that's gonna lead to growing incentives, I think, for the industry to try to rebuild and when we can, if Mother Nature lets us.”

At the grocery store, Peel said consumers could see tighter supplies and higher prices because beef production will be down this year.

“In short, in a total market sense, some people are not going to eat as much beef because there’s just not going to be as much beef to eat this year,” Peel said.

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Anna Pope is a reporter covering agriculture and rural issues at KOSU as a corps member with Report for America.
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