US cow slaughter continues to run ahead of a year ago, led by beef cows, said David Anderson, Extension economist at Texas A&M University in a letter to Extension agents through the Livestock Marketing Information Center, called In The Cattle Markets.
Yet, even with larger slaughter rates, cow prices are ahead of last year, Anderson said. Over the last three months, beef cow slaughter totaled 818,000 head, the most since the 837,000 during the same period in 2010. Total cow slaughter over the same period is the largest since 2013.
At that time, the industry was reducing the number of beef cows, mostly because of low prices followed by drought in Texas and the Southwest.
WESTERN BEEF COW SLAUGHTER UP
Weekly beef and dairy cow slaughter from western states was up, Anderson said.
–Region 6 includes Texas, New Mexico, and Oklahoma. Beef cow slaughter in this region over the last three months totaled 204,000 head, the most since 2011.
–Slaughter in Region 9, which includes Arizona, California and Nevada, was the most since 2013.
–Region 10, the Pacific Northwest (Washington, Oregon, and Idaho), had their largest beef cow culling in more than a decade. While drought is likely driving more culling, expanded cow packing capacity in the region likely skewed the data.
–Region 8 includes the rest of the mountain West and the Dakotas. Beef cow culling in these states totaled 73,600 head, the most since 2019.
DAIRY COW CULLING DOWN
On the dairy side of the ledger, cow culling totaled 667,000 over the last 3 months, the smallest since 2015, Anderson said. Excluding comparisons to 2020, dairy cow culling in the Midwest and California were the smallest since 2015.
Culling in Texas, New Mexico and the Pacific Northwest were larger than prior years.
CULL COW PRICES UNUSUALLY RESILIANT
Cull cow prices usually increase from the beginning of the year until mid-year, he said. Yet, despite the slaughter increase, Southern Plains 85% to 90% lean cows have increased at a normal seasonal rate to about $65 per cwt at the end of June, about $8 higher than last year.
National cutter cows hit $67 last week, also about $8 above a year ago, Anderson said. The cow beef cutout and wholesale 90% lean boneless beef also were above a year ago.
Cow culling tends to increase seasonally from mid-year through Fall as pastures decline and calves are weaned, and prices tend to decline.
Also, drought development in the West and the course of milk prices will affect culling, he said. Large early beef cow culling might affect later culling.
CATTLE, BEEF RECAP
Fed cattle traded this week at $119 to $125 per cwt on a live basis, steady to down $1 from last week. Dressed-basis trade was at $196, steady to down $6.
The USDA choice cutout Tuesday was down $1.66 per cwt at $273.34, while select was off $2.03 at $256.74. The choice/select spread widened to $16.60 from $16.23 with 134 loads of fabricated product and 44 loads of trimmings and grinds sold into the spot market.
The USDA reported Tuesday that basis bids for corn from livestock feeding operations in the Southern Plains were unchanged at $1.07 to $1.15 a bushel over the Sep futures and for southwest Kansas were unchanged at $0.70 over Sep, which settled at $5.51 1/4 a bushel, up $0.06.
The CME Feeder Cattle Index for the seven days ended Monday was $152.99 per cwt down $0.83. This compares with Tuesday’s Aug contract settlement of $158.82 per cwt, up $0.67.