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Oklahoma's cattle industry exceeds $3.7 billion annually to the state economy. (Photo by Todd Johnson, OSU Agricultural Communications Services)

Below-average steer slaughter numbers for year rising late in 2018

Monday, November 12, 2018

Steer slaughter continues to run below year-ago levels so far in 2018, despite the fact that the quarterly feedlot inventories have shown more steers on feed in 2018 compared to last year.

“For the year to date, steer slaughter is about 1 percent below last year,” said Derrell Peel, Oklahoma State University Cooperative Extension livestock marketing specialist. “However, steer slaughter has picked up in the last four weeks, and has averaged close to year-ago levels.”

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

U.S. Department of Agriculture data show steer carcass weights have averaged about 4 pounds more than year-earlier levels so far in 2018.

“Weekly steer carcass weights may have peaked seasonally a bit early the first week of October at 903 pounds,” Peel said. “Steer carcass weights averaged 895 pounds in the most recent weekly data but could still jump to a higher seasonal peak in November.”

Heifer slaughter so far this year is averaging about 7 percent above year-ago levels, with smaller year-over-year increases in recent weeks pulling the year-to-date total down to a smaller increase.  In the most recent four-week period prior to this writing, heifer slaughter has averaged 1.5 percent over year-earlier levels. Heifer slaughter thus far in 2018 has averaged 27.8 percent of total cattle slaughter, up from 27.2 percent in 2017.

“As heifer retention continues to slow, heifer slaughter will approach the long-term average of just under 30 percent of total cattle slaughter,” Peel said. “Heifer carcass weights have averaged heavier by about 8 pounds, compared to this time last year.  Like steers, heifer carcass weights may have peaked seasonally at 835 pounds the first week of October.”

According to the most recent weekly data, 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 12-month moving average for heifer carcass weight as a percent of steer carcass weight was a record 92.7 percent. 

Total cow slaughter is up 7.3 percent year to date with beef cow slaughter up 10.5 percent year over year as beef cow culling returns to long-term average levels.

“Dairy cow slaughter has moved higher as months of poor dairy economics have pushed the dairy sector to reduce cow numbers somewhat,” Peel said. “Dairy cow slaughter is currently up 4.3 percent year over year for 2018. Cow slaughter is averaging 18.9 percent of total cattle slaughter so far in 2018, compared to a long-term average of 17.7 percent of total slaughter.”

Additionally, cow carcass weights are heavier by a year-over-year average of nearly 5 pounds, with more dairy cows adding to cow carcass weights.

Total cattle slaughter is up 2.7 percent year-over-year thus far in 2018. Increased cattle slaughter, combined with an average increase of 2.3 pounds in cattle carcass weights, has contributed to a year-to-date increase in beef production of 2.7 percent year over year. Total 2018 beef production is projected to be 27 billion pounds, a new record for U.S. total beef production.

Most industry analysts expect U.S. beef production to expand to another record level of 27.5 billion pounds in 2019.

Oklahoma is the nation’s fifth-leading producer of cattle and calves, according to USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service data. Oklahoma’s cattle industry is a $3.7 billion annual industry to the state.

The Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service is one of two state agencies administered by OSU’s Division of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, and is a key part of the university’s state and federally mandated teaching, research and Extension land-grant mission.

By Donald Stotts

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