Further evidence that lingering and expanding drought has stalled national cowherd expansion once again comes with the latest cow and heifer slaughter numbers.

According to weekly data assembled by the Livestock Marketing Info Center (LMIC), federally inspected (FI) cow slaughter increased 11% from January to mid-November this year compared to 2005, tallying 4.9 million head. Compared to the prior five-year average though, cow slaughter was down about 5% for the same period.

Incidentally, dairy-cow slaughter for the same period this year is 4% larger than in 2005.

Moreover, LMIC analysts report, "Since late October, FI heifer slaughter has noticeably increased, with weekly slaughter levels surpassing the corresponding weekly totals last year. As of mid-November, weekly heifer slaughter was slightly larger (about 15,000 head) than 2005's. However, for the first three weeks of November, heifer slaughter was up nearly 9% from last year. As drought conditions persisted in several major cow-calf areas of the U.S. in 2006, cow-calf operations culled cows aggressively but attempted to hold back heifers. Tight forage supplies caused many producers to abandon those heifer hold-back plans during the summer and early fall."

Overall, the folks at LMIC say slaughter data indicate cowherd growth for the year will likely be less than 0.5% as of Jan. 1, 2007.
-- Wes Ishmael, BEEF Stocker Trends