“So far, this year’s drought has been different than 2011’s. Weekly cow slaughter has been down year to date 6% this year, largely due to a 13% reduction in beef cow slaughter,” say analysts with the Livestock Marketing Information Center (LMIC) in Denver. “…On a weekly basis, beef cow slaughter has been down as much at 25% in a single week, the biggest weeks occurring in April and May. In contrast, dairy cow slaughter was up minimally most of the year but in the last five weeks has posted double digit increases, as high as 22% year-over-year.” 

The LMIC folks point out cow slaughter numbers include cows—mostly dairy—imported from Canada (about 200,000 head each year).

“Cow slaughter generally increases in the fourth quarter; building strength in late September and with the exception of holidays is usually up 10,000-20,000 head weekly from earlier parts of the year,” LMIC analysts say. “This usually includes increases in both beef and dairy cow culling, although seasonally beef cow slaughter tends to ramp up more. Watch for continued dairy cow liquidation. Canadian cattle will likely continue to play a role, particularly in U.S. dairy cow slaughter, but in total only represent about 2% of total cow slaughter volume.”