Cow, Heifer Slaughter Still Above Year Ago, Average

Female cattle slaughter continues at a pace above last year and the 2012-2016 average, and it has many analysts thinking US cattle herd growth has just about reached its zenith.

Few analysts think the US cow herd will be much larger than this year’s, but there are some minor variations.

With the total herd up from a few years ago, it would be natural for the female slaughter to be up, but beef cow slaughter is up, as is dairy cow slaughter.  But dairy cow slaughter rates tend to run in a narrow range from year to year, and can almost be discounted when it comes to changes that make a difference in the total US herd size.

The data give little hint about what beef cow slaughter will be over the rest of this quarter.  Cow slaughter typically goes up in the fall as the results of pregnancy checks give producers some kind of gauge by which to cull or keep cows through the winter.

The CME Group’s Daily Livestock Report Monday said, “using the relationship between heifer and beef cow slaughter, we estimate that annual slaughter levels would need to be 15% above a year ago in order for the beef cow inventory number on Jan. 1 to be 1% below the 31.7 million estimated on Jan. 1, 2018.  Similarly, in order for 2019’s Jan. 1 beef cow inventory to be up a full 1%, beef cow and heifer slaughter would need to moderate in the fourth quarter to reach an annual percentage increase of 3.3% above last year.

“By our estimates, female beef slaughter is likely to moderate in the fourth quarter, but is unlikely to be pulled down as far as to cause a 1% gain in the January figure,” the Daily Livestock Report said.

Nevil Speer, industry consultant based in Bowling Green, KY., said in an article for Beef Magazine, said that drought definitely was affecting decisions at the farm or ranch about whether to keep or cull certain cows.

However, Speer said he estimated that the final total will show a Jan. 1 beef cow herd that is smaller than this year’s.




Through August, beef cow slaughter has totaled about 2.02 million head, and over the past 30 years, beef cow slaughter between September and December represents about 56% of the January-to-August total, Speer said.

Therefore, total beef cow liquidation through the end of the year could be somewhere around 3.15 million, or about 9.9% of the Jan. 1 inventory, Speer said.

To Speer, that means the 2019 starting inventory could be smaller, but he allows for some changes based on drought conditions and forage availability.




No fed cattle sold Wednesday on the Livestock Exchange Video Auction, compared with 280 that traded six weeks previous at $109.50 per cwt.

Cattle sold last week in the five-area range at $110 to $112 per cwt on a live basis, steady to up $1 from the previous week, and at $174 to $175 dressed, up $1.

The USDA choice cutout Monday was down $0.04 per cwt at $203.21, while select was up $0.07 at $191.81.  The choice/select spread narrowed to $11.40 from $11.51 with 85 loads of fabricated product sold into the spot market.

The CME Feeder Cattle index for the seven days ended Friday, was $158.15 per cwt, down $0.03.  This compares with Monday’s Oct settlement of $157.67, down $0.10.