Total cattle numbers declined slightly from last year, according to USDA's midyear cattle inventory report. The total cattle herd is pegged at 104.3 million head as of July 1, 2008, down 500,000 head from July 1, 2007.

At 43.4 million, beef cow numbers were down 100,000 head from 2007, and beef heifers kept for replacements, at 4.6 million, were also down a similar number.

Meanwhile, dairy cow numbers were up 1% to 9.3 million head, and dairy replacement heifers stayed steady at 3.9 million head.

The 2008 calf crop, which includes both beef and dairy calves, was estimated down slightly at 37.3 million head, from 37.4 million in 2007. But feeder calves outside of feedlots was up by 300,000 head, presumably due to longer forage feeding in the face of higher grain costs.

See Associated Figure