According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Agricultural Statistics Service, the number of all cattle and calves in the U.S. on Jan. 1 was 90.8 million head, the lowest since 1952. The 2011 calf crop was the smallest calf crop since 1950--down 1 percent from 2010, to 35.3 million head. And the total number of calves under 500 pounds and other heifers and steers over 500 pounds outside of feedlots was 25.7 million, down 4 percent.
Tighter supplies mean higher prices. There have been reports of some lightweight cattle selling for more than $1,000 per head for April delivery to the middle of the High Plains in just the past few weeks.
For typical stocker cattlemen, running lightweight stocker cattle on wheat pasture this spring poses an interesting situation if they haven't already made their plans for cattle and pasture ground. This year it could be that those who planned ahead will have the greatest opportunity for profits.