Earlier this month, USDA announced the cancellation of several surveys and reports, including the July Cattle Inventory report. This report provides inventory data on the U.S. cattle herd and is only released one other time per year in January.

In a press release, USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) said, “The decision to discontinue these surveys and reports was not made lightly but was necessary given appropriated budget levels.” Also discontinued were the Cotton Objective Yield Survey and county estimates for crop and livestock production, among others.

Specific to dairy, the number of states published for the quarterly Milk Production report will go from 50 to 33. The 17 nonpublished states will be accounted for as “other states.”

The loss of the July Cattle Inventory report is a big one, especially now when the national herd is at a 73-year low. Data provided in the report helps farmers, researchers, and others in the industry assess the current market situation. Without this mid-year checkup on a large scale from a reputable source, decisions will need to be made based on private estimates or without updated information. This just adds volatility in feed prices and more to the already unpredictable cattle market.

Many agricultural groups have spoken out following this announcement. In a letter to Under Secretary Chavonda Jacobs-Young, the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) expressed their disappointment in the decision, fearing this move “would reverse recent gains toward market transparency.” AFBF President Zippy Duvall wrote, “Removing transparency and increasing market volatility may put current farmers out of business and prevent new farmers from entering.”

What’s more, less frequent surveys and data collection could impede accuracy. Earlier this year, when the January Cattle Inventory report was released, USDA updated the January 1, 2023, dairy heifer inventory (over 500 pounds) to 4,073,600 head — down a substantial 263,600 head from the annual estimate released in the January 2023 report early last year. Confidence in the data could wane if the estimates become less reliable.

The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) also reacted to the decision to cut reports that provide critical data and asked USDA to reconsider.

“NCBA calls on USDA-NASS to immediately reverse this decision and continue delivering on its stated mission of providing timely, accurate, and useful statistics in service to U.S. agriculture,” wrote NCBA Vice President of Government Affairs Ethan Lane.

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(c) Hoard's Dairyman Intel 2024
April 22, 2024
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