(Bloomberg) -- Steaks and hamburgers will likely be more expensive in the next few years with US cattle shrinking to its lowest herd since 2014.

There were almost 89.3 million cattle as of Jan. 1, down 3% from a year ago, according to a US Department of Agriculture cattle-inventory report Tuesday. While the drop wasn’t unexpected — the total nearly matched expectations in a Bloomberg survey — a bigger decline in beef output may still be ahead in 2025 or 2026.

“With fewer cattle supplies becoming available, beef production is expected to undergo a sizable decline over the next few years,” said Courtney Shum, a livestock-market reporter at Urner Barry, an industry publication.

Years-long drought in the US Plains has withered pastures and squeezed supplies of feeds including hay and corn. The result: ranchers have liquidated some animals to cut costs, depressing breeding.

In Texas, a key cattle state, the USDA said in a separate report that pasture and range conditions “are mostly poor due to the lack of moisture and cold temperatures.”

Meanwhile, beef cows — developed to raise calves — fell to the lowest number since 1962.

“We’re still in the contraction phase,” said Don Roose, founder of US Commodities, a grain and livestock investment and management firm. “It takes a long time to build a herd back up again.”

--With assistance from Dominic Carey.

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