One thing that stands out looking at the slaughter data is the shift toward bringing more female stock to market. In March, U.S. steer slaughter was 1.222 million head, 8% lower than a year ago. Even after adjusting for the difference in marketing days, steer slaughter was down 3.6% in March and down 2.5% for the first quarter, according to the Daily Livestock Report.
On the other hand, heifer slaughter in March was 797,300 head 5.7% higher than a year ago. Adjusted on a daily basis, heifer slaughter in March was up 10.7% and up 9.5% for Q1.
Cow slaughter has also been running well ahead of year-ago levels. In March, daily cow slaughter was 26,210 head per week, 8.2% higher than a year ago. For the entire quarter, cow slaughter has averaged around 25,600 head per week, 5.1% higher than a year ago.
The ratio of female slaughter to total slaughter since the start of the year has been around 50%, above the 47% level we consider as the long run maintenance level. We may not be at herd liquidation levels yet since there is a significant seasonality in the ratio of female slaughter but, if current trends persist, we could start talking about liquidation in the second half of the year and a lower beef cow herd by Jan. 1, 2020.
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