WASHINGTON – Although last year’s increase in cow slaughter was the result of both more beef and dairy cows being slaughtered, the largest annual increases were in beef cow slaughter, relays the Livestock Marketing Information Center. Larger imports from Canada also contributed to the year-to-year increase in cow slaughter.

In 2009, total cow slaughter is expected to be rather large again; however, that increase will largely be the result of dairy cowherd liquidations as the industry struggles with drastically lower milk prices.

Federally-inspected beef cow slaughter in 2008 totaled 3,569,000 head, averaging about 12% more than 2007’s total with most of the increase taking place during the second half of the year. F.I. beef cow slaughter numbers started to decline by December with weekly slaughter levels dipping significantly below a year ago during mid-January.

Based on weekly data for January, F.I. beef cow slaughter averaged just a little more than 1% above 2008’s beef cow slaughter. Compared to 2008, U.S. beef cow slaughter numbers could even decline some as this year progresses.

Meanwhile, F.I. dairy cow slaughter for 2008 totaled 2,592,000 head, averaging nearly 4% higher than 2007’s total -- and only accounting for 42% of the total cow slaughter mix. Since late last year, weekly dairy cow slaughter numbers have increased in response to declining milk prices. Year to date, F.I. dairy cow slaughter on a weekly basis has averaged about 30% higher that last January.

Dairy cow slaughter is up about 32% compared to the prior five-year average. Dairy cows accounted for about 49% of total cow slaughter in January mix versus 43% in 2008, according to the weekly data. Given large financial losses, dairy producers are expected to continue aggressively trimming cow numbers throughout 2009, the L.M.I.C. stated.

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