Are we on pace for fewer cows next year?

Nevil Speer

September 19, 2013

2 Min Read
Industry At A Glance: Estimating Next Year’s Cow Inventory

Last week’s Industry-At-A-Glance chart focused primarily on the annual beef cow slaughter rate, measured as a percentage of the beginning inventory. That rate obviously plays an important role in determining the size of next year’s beef cow inventory.

That influence is two-fold. First, the direct influence is straight-forward: more cows slaughtered means fewer cows retained. But, secondly, the rate also serves as an indirect indicator of the aggregate intention to rebuild the cowherd. Higher slaughter rates also mean fewer cows being kept back that might otherwise be retained if producers intend to collective grow the cowherd.

As noted in last week’s discussion, beef cow slaughter through the first half of 2013 has equaled approximately 1.6 million head. That’s equivalent to 5.45% of 2013’s starting head count. Meanwhile, during the past 10 years, the average slaughter rate during the second half of the year increases by nearly a half percentage point compared to the first half of the year. If that relationship holds in 2013, it’s likely that beef cow slaughter rate will be nearly 6% between July and December.

year-over-year cowherd changes


Given these trends, it appears that 2013 is on pace to see the slaughter of about 11.4% of its starting cow inventory – a pace that would be equivalent to 3.33 million cows. Based on annual data since 1996, that rate would translate to a decline in beef cow inventory of approximately 667,000 cows. That pace would place next year’s starting inventory around 28.63 million beef cows.

Amidst discussions with producers, where do you see this trend headed? Are we on pace for fewer cows next year? Is there any desire out in the country to begin rebuilding in the near future? And if not, how low might we go with cow numbers in the U.S.? No matter the answer, the implications are huge! Leave your thoughts below.


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About the Author(s)

Nevil Speer

Nevil Speer serves as an industry consultant and is based in Bowling Green, KY.

Nevil Speer has extensive experience and involvement with the livestock and food industry including various service and consultation projects spanning such issues as market competition, business and economic implications of agroterrorism, animal identification, assessment of price risk and market volatility on the producer segment, and usage of antibiotics in animal agriculture.
Dr. Speer writes about many aspects regarding agriculture and the food industry with regular contribution to BEEF and Feedstuffs.  He’s also written several influential industry white papers dealing with issues such as changing business dynamics in the beef complex, producer decision-making, and country-of-origin labeling.
He serves as a member of the Board of Directors for the National Institute for Animal Agriculture.
Dr. Speer holds both a PhD in Animal Science and a Master’s degree in Business Administration.

Contact him at [email protected].

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