Despite a steady population of dairy cows in the state during the year, Wisconsin's inventory of cattle on Jan. 1, 2014 was down by 100,000 head from what it was a year earlier, according to a report early this week by the Wisconsin field office of the National Agricultural Statistics Service.
Dairy cow numbers in Wisconsin remained at 1.27 million head, second to California's also steady total of 1.78 million during 2013, the report indicated. But the state's total inventory of cattle fell by 100,000 to 3.35 million during the year, keeping it in ninth place among the states.
Those decreases included 20,000 to 680,000 for the number of dairy replacement heifers (some large dairy operations have their heifers raised out of state), 20,000 to 240,000 for the beef cows which have calved, 10,000 to 1.36 million in the total of dairy and beef calves born during 2013, and 5,000 to 70,000 for beef replacement heifers weighing at least 500 pounds. Cattle on feed for the beef market remained at 240,000 head during the year.
Of Wisconsin's cattle inventory on Jan. 1, milk cows accounted for 38 percent of the total, dairy heifers for another 20 percent, and dairy and beef calves for 19 percent. Other categories were steers and beef heifers with 15 percent, beef cows with 7 percent, and bulls with 1 percent.
Across the United States, the total number of cattle and calves on Jan. 1 was down by two percent to 87.73 million head compared to a year earlier. This was the lowest start of a year inventory since the 82.1 million head in 1951.
Texas continued to have the highest number of cattle and calves but its latest total of 10.9 million head was down by 1 million from two years earlier. Nebraska's total of 6.15 million was down by 150,000 from a year earlier while Kansas and California were both down by 50,000 head to 5.8 and 5.25 million, respectively.
Oklahoma, however, increased its cattle inventory by 100,000 head to 4.3 million during 2013. Increases of one-seven percent each were posted for a contiguous group of states to the northeast of Oklahoma — Arkansas, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New York.
Except for Arizona and Utah, 15 states in the western half of the country had cattle inventory cutbacks of one-eight percent during 2013. For the country as a whole, milk cows and dairy heifers made up only 11 and five percent of the cattle inventory respectively while beef cows accounted for 33 percent of the total. Other category totals included 28 percent for steers, 15 percent for calves, 6 percent for beef heifers, and two percent for bulls.
The latest report also tracked a significant decline in alfalfa hay prices during 2013. From a high of $275 per ton for June in Wisconsin, they had dropped to $200 per ton from September through November before moving up to $205 in December.
A similar trend prevailed across the United States during 2013. The average price fell from $221 per ton in May to $187 in December. Among the states listed in the report, Iowa had the highest price of $280 per ton in June but it dropped to the mid-$190s per ton in the last quarter of 2013.
The report this week also verified Wisconsin's milk production for 2013. It was 27.572 billion pounds — an increase of 1.3 percent from 2012. It represented an increase of nearly 5.5 billion pounds from as recently as 2004.