March cow culling second-highest monthly total since January 1997Print
Editor's note: Adding historical data
High cull cow prices and declining milk prices are having an impact.
USDA estimated 278,000 culled dairy cows were slaughtered under federal inspection in March 2012, up 16,900 from February 2012 and 9,900 more than March 2011. Through the first three months of 2012, cull cow slaughter totaled 803,000, up 22,200 from the same period in 2011.
The March 2012 total is the second-highest monthly total since January 1997, surpassed only by the 281,000 culled dairy cows slaughtered under federal inspection in January 2009. Cooperatives Working Together (CWT) conducted three herd retirement programs in 2009. The March 2012 total surpassed the 276,000 head slaughtered under federal inspection in October 2003, the year the first CWT herd retirement program was conducted.
For those of you with really long memories, USDA started differentiating between beef and dairy cull cows in monthly slaughter reports in 1986, the year the whole-herd buyout program was initiated. Cows were removed from U.S. herds under the program from April 1986 through October 1987. Monthly average cull cows slaughtered under federal inspection averaged 299,500 in 1986. The peak month for dairy cow slaughter was April 1986, at 401,000 head.
In the decade of the 1990s, many years saw monthly dairy cow slaughter totals hit 280,000 or higher at least once a year, quite often in January.