USDA reported this morning that 281,000 dairy cows were processed through USDA-inspected slaughter plants in January, 45,000 more than last January and 52,000 more than December.
That represents a 19% increase over year-earlier levels, and nearly a 23% jump over December. Note, however, that some of these cows likely were carrying ear tags from the latest Cooperatives Working Together (CWT) herd buyout, which was initiated in December. Some 51,000 cows were culled through that effort.
Nevertheless, anecdotal reports from California and Wisconsin indicate cow culling was much heavier in January and continues this month, due to depressed milk prices. And the full brunt of those lower milk prices are just now starting to show up in dairy checkbooks across the country.