Weekly cattle slaughter is following seasonal trends but doing so at a lower level than last year or the previous five-year average, highlighting the decline in fed cattle numbers as the herd tries to recover from a 63-year low.
USDA data show the estimated total slaughter last week was 582,000 head, up 10,000, or 1.75%, from 572,000 the previous week. Last week’s kill also was 57,100 head, or 8.93%, below last year’s 639,000 and 62,880, or 9.75%, below the five-year average of 644,880.
Slaughter data compiled by the Livestock Marketing Information Center shows the trend now into early November is for weekly slaughter to hold within a narrow sideways range. The kill naturally drops for the Thanksgiving week holiday, rises again and then falls away into the Christmas and New Year’s holidays.
STEER SLAUGHTER HOLDING TO PATTERNS
Steer slaughter is holding to trendline patterns as well, although at a much closer level to the norm than is heifer slaughter, which is well below last year and the average.
Federally inspected steer slaughter the third week of September fell away from the post-labor-day recovery week, a move that is only about one week ahead of normal. The trend in steer slaughter from here on is a gradual descent into November followed by an early December rise and then the inevitable drop-off into the Christmas and New Year’s holidays.
The latest week’s steer slaughter was 296,492 head, down 23,208 head, or 7.26%, from 319,700 head in the same week a year earlier and down 30,368, or 9.29%, from 326,860 head in the previous five-year average.
HEIFER SLAUGHTER WELL BELOW AVERAGE
Heifer slaughter, however, is running much more aggressively below last year and the average. Mid-September data shows the heifer kill making an annual weekly low during the Labor Day holiday week, bouncing back to just above the week before the holiday and then falling away.
In pattern, this is exactly what the previous five-year average is doing. Last year, the post-holiday bound kept going into early October, actually getting above the average at its peak before falling away again.
The latest weekly federally inspected heifer kill of 163,093 head, was 17,310, or 9.60%, below the 180,400 of a year ago. It also was 24,207, or 12.9%, below the five-year average of 187,300.
If heifer slaughter follows the average path, it will remain within a narrow range into late October or early November before falling away into the year-end holidays.
COW SLAUGHTER ALSO BELOW YEAR AGO, AVERAGE
Total weekly 2014 cow slaughter, while following seasonal trends since late May, has tended to widen the gap between the two ever since. In the latest week in mid-September, the cow kill was reported at 102,784 head, 15,316, or 12.97%, below 118,100 in the same week a year ago and 26,436, or 20.46%, below the average of 129,220.
The average trend for total cow slaughter is for it to run about steady into mid- to late-October and then rise to the annual high in the second week of November. From there, it falls away into the week of Thanksgiving, makes a valiant rally effort before dropping into Christmas and New Years.
All of the decline in cow slaughter this year has come from beef cows. Dairy cow slaughter is holding very close to seasonal and year-ago trends. This trend likely will continue as producers keep the old biddies another year for another calf rather than market her for slaughter.