A look at the U.S. calf crop numbers and geographic changes, as reported by producer surveys conducted by USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) shows South Dakota has seen significant changes to its calf numbers the past decade.

NASS compiles calf crop by-state, the number of beef-type calves is calculated based on the total calf crop (the total crop includes calved from beef-type and dairy cows). Of course, at the state level, the beef calf crop is directly proportional to where the cows that produced them are.

As shown in the graphic, the 2018 beef calf crop was about 28.0 million head. States with over one million beef calves produced in 2018 were in the center of the country, from Montana to Texas. Texas produced the most calves (4.25 million). The next states were Oklahoma (about 2 million) and Missouri (nearly 1.9 million).

Between 2008 and 2018, the number of beef calves declined by 122,000 head (down 0.4%). Texas had the most significant decline, followed by Tennessee, Kentucky, and Florida. South Dakota posted the largest year-over-year gain (up 202,000 calves), followed by Oklahoma (up 189,000).

Many of the bull calves produced by U.S. dairy farms are part of the fed beef production system (i.e., they are grown in feedlots as steers to slaughter weight). The majority of the heifers produced on dairies are held for future milking. The third graphic shows the total U.S. calf crop from 2008 to 2018 and demonstrates the state-level changes in the geography of the national dairy herd. California, for example, had a beef-type calf crop drop of 12,000 animals, while the total crop fell by 150,000 head due to declining dairy cow numbers. In contrast, the reduction in total calves in Texas was only 50,000 head compared to beef-type animals falling by 200,000, reflecting increasing numbers of dairy cows in that state.

A major strength of the U.S. beef sector is that there are beef cows producing calves in every state, which from a national perspective dissipates negative impacts of drought, flooding, etc. Every state has a vested interest in a healthy U.S. beef industry.

– Daily Livestock Report