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Slaughter Numbers Distorted?

April 29, 2013
By: Jim Dickrell, Dairy Today Editor

"The closure of a major cow slaughter plant in Quebec, Canada last year has impacted U.S. cow slaughter and cattle and beef trade flows between the U.S. and Canada," says Derrell S. Peel, Oklahoma State University Extension Livestock Marketing Specialist.

"A significant part of the 4.4% increase in dairy cow slaughter this year is likely due to increased imports of Canadian dairy cows," he say. "Previously these cows were slaughtered in Canada and much of the processing beef shipped to theUnited States.

"The incomplete nature of trade and domestic slaughter data make it difficult to assess what is happening to the U.S. dairy cow herd but it is clear that this structural change must be considered. Otherwise it would be easy to draw incorrect conclusions about changes in the U.S. dairy cow herd."

Sorting out the data, however, is not easy. There are approximately 360,000 dairy cows in Quebec. If a third are culled annually, that means 120,000 cows are entering the food supply and could make up a huge portion of the 187,000 head increase in U.S. culling. 

However, n its annual slaughter summary released last week, the United States Department of Agriculture reports that dairy cow slaughter was up just 7,600 cows in New England in 2012 compared to 2011. However, cow slaughter was down 12,700 head in New York and New Jersey. Mid-Atlantic states such as Pennsylvania and Maryland reported just a 2,100 cow jump in slaughter.

You can read more on the annual slaughter report here.

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