Drought is Sending More Cows to Market

The July Cattle Inventory report confirmed another year of herd liquidation. July beef cow inventory totaled 30.4 million, down 2 percent from the previous year. It also appears that very few are looking to expand their herds with replacement heifers down 3.5 percent. With the July numbers in hand, everyone’s attention will turn to the second half of 2022 and the January Cattle inventory report.

This summer, drought conditions have intensified in the Southeastern U.S., impacting forage production. According to the most recent USDA Crop Progress Report, 21% of pasture is in poor or very poor condition in the Southeast. In Arkansas, conditions are much worse, with 75% of pastures in poor or very poor condition. The Southern Plains are also in extreme drought. The USDA Crop Progress report shows that 68 percent of pasture is in poor or very poor condition.

Many producers are deciding between feeding hay now or culling cows. The auction data confirms high volumes of cull cows and bulls coming to market. The table provides July cull cow and bull auction volumes for Arkansas, Missouri, and Oklahoma. July cull cow and bull volume in Arkansas totaled 4,455 head, up 37.2 percent year over year. Volumes were 83.8 percent and 105.3 percent higher in Missouri and Oklahoma, respectively.

July Slaughter Cattle (Cows and Bulls) Auction Receipts

StateJul-22Jul-21% Chg. Y/Y
Arkansas4,4553,24637.2%
Missouri15,7948,59383.8%
Oklahoma12,3966,038105.3%

Large volumes of cull cows have pushed beef cow slaughter even higher. The graph shows cumulative beef cow slaughter for the first 29 weeks of the year. Currently, beef cow slaughter is at its highest in the last 30 years, totaling 2.21 million head. Based on the January 2022 beef cow inventory estimate, we slaughtered 7.3 percent of the herd. Based on current slaughter totals, we could see the January 2023 beef cow inventory decline at least 3 percent, the largest decline since the mid-1980s.   

Mitchell, James. “Drought is Sending More Cows to Market“. Southern Ag Today 2(33.2). August 9, 2022. Permalink

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Assistant Professor
University of Arkansas

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