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Too early to know if beef herd is expanding

Beef cow slaughter has slowed, but a livestock economist says its still too early for indications that the herd is expanding.

University of Missouri’s Scott Brown says, “It’s a sign that we’ll have to continue to watch as we go forward. When you look at now, first quarter of this year, slaughter is down 12% relative to the first quarter of 2023.”

He tells Brownfield the beef cow slaughter data from March, combined with the heifers placed on feed in the latest Cattle on Feed report could indicate there’s a slight shift. “If we continue to see these signs of lower beef cow slaughter and lower percentage of heifers on feed, it’s the beginning of the signals that we’re at least stopping the decline and maybe growing.”

Brown says those two data sets will become increasingly more important as the cattle industry continues to digest the loss of the USDA’s July Cattle Inventory report.

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