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Speer: The Starting Gun Hasn’t Fired Yet

January-thru-April:   USDA’s April slaughter data is now official (the data print lags by two weeks).   Much of the industry’s focus during the past several months has been on carcass weights; they’re historically heavy and trending in a contra-seasonal manner. 


As a result, during the past six weeks or so, beef production has surprised to the upside.   But for the purpose of this column, let’s stay focused on beef cow slaughter.  

Review:   I previously reviewed the topic last November (Beef Producers Have The Whip Hand).   The column detailed beef cow slaughter rate as a predictor of next year’s starting inventory.  And at minimum, it’s a reliable indicator as to which way the scale might tip in terms of producer decision making.  As noted in the column, a slaughter rate of 9.5% (of Jan 1 starting inventory) is the rough breakpoint; anything less and we’re likely to see rebuilding – while a higher rate indicates herd reduction.      


           May-thru-December:   Clearly, we have a long way to go yet in 2024.  However, the early data is more telling than you might think.   Through April, beef producers have marketed just slightly more than one million cows for slaughter, representing ~3.55% of the Jan 1 starting inventory (28.223 M head).   




May 16, 2024

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