Where are the beef cattle? : an economic analysis of the changes in the cattle cycle

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Montana State University - Bozeman, College of Agriculture


The cattle cycle was characterized by remarkable regularity throughout much of the twentieth century. More recently, inventory appears to lack its typical periodicity, and herd numbers decline despite above-average cattle prices. Historically, producers responded to high prices by expanding herds and to low prices by contracting them. These expansions and contractions resulted in the cattle cycle. Yet, currently, the price of beef continues to increase and inventory numbers continue to decline. This thesis seeks to identify the factors responsible for the apparent change in producer response, and to determine whether or not inventory is still cyclical. Spectral analysis is used to examine the cycle and identifies the early 1980s as the point of change. Next, Granger causality tests and autoregressive distributed lag models are used to estimate national and state-level inventory responses to various factors. A change in producer response to feeder cattle prices, above-average hay prices, and expanded crop insurance use appear to be the primary factors that are causing changes in the cattle cycle.




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