Total cattle slaughter for the week was 641,000 head, almost 12 per cent higher than the previous week (holiday week) but still about 4.7 per cent lower than a year ago, write Steve Meyer and Len Steiner.
Lower fed cattle slaughter has offset an increase in cow numbers.
As pastures across much of the central US continue to dry up, more cows are starting to show up.
The official USDA data on cow slaughter is reported with a two week lag and it continues to show cow slaughter below year ago levels (see chart).
However, estimated cow slaughter for the week ending 14 July is about 3 per cent higher than a year ago. USDA last week reported that half of all US pastures are in poor or very poor condition.
While the situation in Texas and Oklahoma is a bit better than it was last year, it is still far from ideal.
Missouri ratings show 86 per cent of pastures there in poor or very poor condition.
Generally pasture conditions deteriorate throughout the summer and the outlook so far is for current drought conditions to persist.
This will continue to pressure cow-calf operators and push more cows to market.
Even more important for cow-calf operators, however, is the outlook for calf prices next year.
Data shows that feeder cattle prices have a more pronounced impact on cow slaughter than pasture conditions.
Feeder cattle futures have dropped almost $20/cwt in the last four weeks as corn, DDG and soybean meal values have skyrocketed.
Current corn cash price (Omaha Basis) is near $7.5 per bushel, soybean meal is up 36 per cent from last year at 474 per ton and DDGs are also up 35 per cent (see table on page 2).
Hay prices continue to also hit new highs with national alfalfa price in June up 12 per cent over last year.
Wide range of prices for hay, with high quality alfalfa fetching over 300 per ton in some areas.
Some areas, like Missouri, are seeing farmers feeding hay to remaining livestock while feedlots are struggling with least cost formulations given the simultaneous rise in just about all feedstock.
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