Agricultural Economics Department


Date of this Version

January 2004


Published by UNL Extension.


Cattle inventory numbers and cow herd size vary cyclically over time. Historically, cattle cycles have lasted about 10 years. However, the most recent cycle is in its 15th year (1990 to 2004) as a result of an eight-year period of liquidation caused by multi-year drought in many western states. In 2004 and 2005, many cow-calf producers will likely begin to rebuild their cow herd in response to improved profit projections and drought relief. Purchasing bred heifers or young cows will be an option for some producers; others will likely choose to retain additional females from within their own herd. While the economic cost differences to purchasing replacement stock versus retaining females is important to evaluate when making the decision to rebuild herds or replace older stock, it is also necessary to consider the budgetary effects of increasing the replacement rate in a cow herd.