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Industry At A Glance: Declining Beef & Dairy Cow Slaughter

declining cow slaughter
Declining beef cow slaughter provides clues to herd expansion.

An earlier Industry At A Glance chart highlighted the sharp decline in beef cow slaughter that followed the peak in 2011. The primary question around those data was whether beef producers were beginning to possess more risk appetite and had initiated herd expansion.

Meanwhile, however, dairy cow slaughter has also declined over the same time period. The combined monthly slaughter of beef and dairy cows peaked in November 2011 at 613,000 head – beef cows represented 360,000 head (or about 59% of the total). Fast-forward to June 2014, and the combined beef and dairy cow slaughter equaled only 411,000 head, with beef cows representing 211,000 head or about 51% of the total. Thus, combined monthly cow slaughter has declined by about a third since the November 2011 monthly peak.

Clearly, beef cow slaughter is waning – not only in absolute terms but also in the total cow slaughter mix. Simultaneously, though, dairy cow slaughter is also declining, as higher milk prices and declining feed costs have introduced new culling strategies within the dairy sector.

monthly beef and dairy cow slaughter

In combination, this possesses some large implications for both sectors. Most notably, the trend explains a substantial portion in the overall decline in beef production. Those dynamics are especially important to businesses specializing in bull and cow slaughter and possess a significant influence on the lean trimmings market.

Weather and/or any significant shift in market prices could disrupt these trends. However, they appear to be fairly well entrenched. Where do you see cow slaughter stabilizing in both the beef and dairy sectors? How much higher do cull prices need to be to entice producers to reverse the trend? Leave your thoughts below.

Nevil Speer serves as a private industry consultant. He is based in Bowling Green, KY, and can be reached at [email protected] 


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