Steer slaughter continues to run below 2017 levels

Heifer, cow slaughter returning to more normal levels after larger year-over-year slaughter.

Krissa Welshans 1, Feedstuffs Editor

November 12, 2018

3 Min Read
Steer slaughter continues to run below 2017 levels

Despite the fact that quarterly feedlot inventories have shown more steers on feed in 2018 compared to last year, steer slaughter continues to run below year ago levels this year, according to Derrell Peel, Oklahoma State University Extension livestock marketing specialist.

Year-to-date steer slaughter is about 1% below last year. However, in the last four weeks slaughter has averaged very close to year-ago levels, Peel noted.

Steer slaughter has averaged 51.6% total cattle slaughter so far this year, down from 52.9% of total cattle slaughter in 2017. 

“As heifer and cow slaughter return to normal levels, steer slaughter will move closer to the long-term average of 50.6% of total slaughter,” he said.

Regarding weights, Peel reported that steer carcasses have averaged about four pounds above year-earlier levels this year. He said steer carcass weights may have peaked seasonally a bit early the first week of October at 903 pounds. 

“Steer carcass weights averaged 895 pounds in the latest weekly data but could jump to a higher seasonal peak yet in November.”

Heifer slaughter so far this year has averaged about 7% above year-ago levels, with smaller year-over-year increases in recent weeks. Peel said this has pulled the year-to-date total down to a smaller increase.  In the last four weeks, he said heifer slaughter has averaged just 1.5% over year-earlier levels.  Heifer slaughter thus far in 2018 has averaged 27.8% of total cattle slaughter, up from 27.2% in 2017. Peel said that as heifer retention continues to slow, heifer slaughter will approach the long-term average, just under 30% of total cattle slaughter.

In regard to heifer carcass weights, Peel said they have averaged about eight pounds heavier year over year for the year to date. 

“Like steers, heifer carcass weights may have peaked seasonally at 835 pounds the first week of October.”

The latest weekly data showed heifer carcass weights were 828 pounds but could increase to a more typical seasonal peak in November. 

“Heifer carcass weights continue to increase relative to steers.  The latest twelve month moving average heifer carcass weight as a percent of steer carcass weight was another record at 92.7%.”

According to Peel, total cow slaughter is up 7.3% year to date with beef cow slaughter up 10.5% year over year as beef cow culling returns to long-term average levels.

He noted that dairy cow slaughter—currently up 4.3% year over year for the year to date—has moved higher as months of poor dairy economics have pushed the dairy sector to reduce cow numbers somewhat.

Cow slaughter is averaging 18.9% of total cattle slaughter so far in 2018 compared to a long-term average of 17.7% of total slaughter. Peel said cow carcass weights are averaging nearly five pounds heavier year over year with more dairy cows adding to cow carcass weights.

Overall, Peel said total cattle slaughter is up 2.7% year over year thus far in 2018. 

“Increased cattle slaughter, combined with an average of 2.3 pounds increase in cattle carcass weights, both contribute to a year-to-date increase in beef production of 2.7% year over year.”

Total 2018 beef production is projected to be 27.0 billion pounds, a new record beef production total for the U.S., Peel said, adding that beef production in 2019 is forecast to grow to even more, to a record level of 27.5 billion pounds.

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