November 5, 2012 Cow Slaughter Running Behind Year Ago
Total US cow slaughter has been running below year ago levels since July, in large part due to a sharp decline in the number of beef cows coming to market. For the period Sep. 2 – Oct 20 (latest official data), US producers sent 895 thousand head of beef and dairy cows to market, 8% less than a year ago. Of this total, however, there were 437 thousand dairy cows, about 10% more than a year ago. Beef cow slaughter, on the other hand, was down 21% from last year.
As we have noted before, the impact of high corn and hay prices on dairy producers is much more immediate. They also have the ability to affect milk production, and hence prices, almost immediately.
Beef cow producers this past summer and fall have seen some improvement in feed conditions. As long as they have grass, high corn prices are not an immediate concern. Also, the devastating drought of 2011 in the Southern Plains already had forced producers to liquidate significantly and the available stock this year is the smallest in decades.
As beef cow producers transition from grass to hay, however, there is a fear we could see more cows come to market in January and February. Hay inventories are the smallest in many years and good quality hay
remains a precious commodity.