Signs are pointing toward stabilization and expansion in the coming years.
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From California to Virginia, ask someone involved in the cattle business for one word or phrase to describe the industry in 2013. My guess is that a popular response would have something to do with record prices as both cattle and beef prices set records over the past 12 months. While that is definitely an adequate description of the year, I would tend more to use the word “momentum” to describe 2013 because as we prepare to ring in the New Year next week, potential for more record setting in the cattle business is great.

When you combine tight beef supplies with growing global beef demand, more favorable input costs and improved forage conditions and hay supplies, you have the recipe for an optimistic outlook for 2014’s cattle industry.

After multiple years of herd downsizing, 2014 also holds potential to be the year when that trend changes. CattleFax CEO Randy Blach recently said U.S. cow and bull slaughter are down more than 3 percent year-to-date. He predicts further slaughter rate declines of about 8 percent in 2014 and 9 percent in 2015. In addition to reducing slaughter rates, Blach also said he expects producers to begin holding back more heifers, forecasting heifer retention of about 140,000 head in 2014. Herd expansion will be a slow, gradual process, but signs are pointing toward stabilization and expansion in the coming years.