Beef cow culling has been an important story this year and SAT has discussed it a couple of times, but last week beef cow slaughter topped 80 thousand head for the first time since 2012, making it worth looking at again. So far in 2022, beef cow slaughter is 15 percent higher than the same period in 2021. This is equal to approximately 200 thousand more head of beef cows processed this year. Beef cow slaughter averaged about 65 thousand head per week in 2021, but is averaging about 75 thousand head per week in 2022.
Drought, higher feed and other input costs, and stronger cull cow prices continue to be the likely reasons behind the increase. Looking at the regional slaughter data, it appears that beef cow slaughter has increased more in areas with drought. Beef cow slaughter in Region 6 (AR, LA, NM, OK, and TX) is up 30 percent over 2021 and region 7 (IA, KS, MO, & NE) is up 29 percent. However, beef slaughter is also about 20 percent higher in Region 4 (AL, FL, GA, KY, MS, NC, SC & TN) where drought has not been an issue. Beef cow slaughter continues to indicate contraction of the U.S. beef cow herd in 2022.
Lightweight calf prices have dropped dramatically in recent weeks, responding to high feed costs and lower fed cattle futures prices. In the Southern Plains, calf prices have fallen by more than the normal early summer seasonal decline and may reflect some more drought forced sales. Heavy weight steers in the South have declined more than those in the Southern Plains, likely impacted by increased hauling costs as diesel fuel prices hit record highs.