U.S. dairy farmers sent 278,000 cows through Federally inspected slaughter plants in March, up 10,000 head over March 2011 and up 17,000 head over February, the United States Department of Agriculture reported this morning.
The year-over-year increase was 3.7%. The March over February daily slaughter rate was up 1.7%, taking into account one more business day in March compared to February.
One big reason that cull prices remain so high, despite more dairy cows going to slaughter, is that total U.S. red meat production was down 4% in March. Cattle slaughter numbers were down 7%, and total beef production was down 5%. The difference is that slaughter weights are slightly higher, up 23 lb. per head to 1,299 lb. Veal production was down 18%, with many of those bull calves presumably moving into feedlots for fattening and future slaughter.
First quarter red meat production, January through March, is slightly up, however. Although first quarter beef production is down 2%, pork, lamb and mutton production increased.