In the October issue of the Daily livestock Report, the Steiner Consulting group did a great job of highlighting the impact of dairy beef. They drilled down on the fact that about half of the US cow slaughter is made up of dairy cows.
The reason for this is that there are far fewer dairy cows than beef cows. On January 1, USDA estimated the size of the beef cow herd at 28.9 million head while the dairy cow inventory was 9.4 million. The reason why there is such a large share of dairy cows in the annual slaughter is that producers tend to replace dairy cows much more often than beef cows.
Again, looking at the data in the January survey, heifers held back for dairy cow herd replacement made up about 46% of the overall dairy herd inventory compared to 18% for heifers held back for beef cow herd replacement.
As the chart above shows, dairy cow slaughter in the last +15 years has accounted from between 40‐ 60% of overall cow slaughter in the US.
The reason why dairy cow slaughter was a larger share of slaughter in 2013‐14 is because that’s when the combination of low beef cow supplies/herd rebuilding resulted in fewer beef cows coming to market. It appears that we are now on a similar trajectory.
What’s unknown, however, is the trajectory of dairy prices in US and world markets in the next 18‐24 months as well as the impact that lower feed costs will have on dairy producer margins.