As the year works through its final month, beef production looks to be about on par with last year, despite all the challenges and disruptions of 2020.
In his “In the Cattle Markets” column for the Livestock Marketing Information Center, David Anderson, professor and Extension economist for Texas A&M AgriLife Extension, says beef production is finishing the year strong.
“After all 2020’s curve balls, here we are with four weeks left in the year and total beef production is almost the same amount as last year at this time,” he said. “Through the week ending Dec. 5, 25.08 billion pounds of beef have been produced compared to 25.2 billion pounds last year.”
Anderson says he expects the small difference to be made up over the closing weeks of the year.
Slaughter has been running a little behind last year’s pace, but the overall picture has some nuance.
“Steer and heifer slaughter is a little over 3% behind 2019 at this point,” Anderson said. “Total cow slaughter is 1.5% below 2019, but the source of the cows is interesting. Beef cow slaughter is up 2.5% while dairy cow slaughter is down 5.5% from a year ago. Low calf prices and drought conditions are acting to increase cow slaughter while higher milk prices have reduced dairy cow culling.”
Even with total slaughter running behind 2019’s pace, cattle weights have made up for it.
“As has been the story all year, fed steer and heifer weights continue to make up the difference to increase beef production,” Anderson said. “Steer dressed weights have averaged 906 pounds this year compared to 876 pounds last year. Heifer weights have averaged 833 pounds this year, up 22 pounds from 2019. Cow and bull dressed weights are within a pound of last year’s average.”
Anderson is watching seasonal meat price trends.
“One of the interesting seasonal meat prices is the wholesale price of ribeyes leading into the holidays,” he said. “Ribeye prices tend to increase, seasonally, at the end of the year. Over the last month wholesale ribeye prices have increased from $9.23 per pound to $12.56 per pound. … It may be more consumers are going to try to celebrate with something special if they can.”