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Beef production numbers could be tricky in 2024

Total cow slaughter is down 14.1 percent year over year through the first 21 weeks of the year.

Derrell Peel, Livestock marketing specialist

June 10, 2024

2 Min Read
Fed beef will likely decline in the second half of the year.
Getty images

Total beef production thus far in 2024 is 10.6 billion pounds, down 2.0 percent year over year. This follows a 4.7 percent year over year reduction in beef production in 2023 from record levels in 2022. Cattle slaughter in the first 21 weeks of 2024 is down 4.5 percent year over year but cattle carcass weights have averaged 21.8 pounds higher than last year thus far.  Beef production will be down year over year in 2024 but by less than previously forecast. There are also some interesting dynamics across types of beef production.

Total beef production

Steer slaughter is down 2.1 percent in the first 21 weeks of the year compared to one year ago.  Heifer slaughter is down 1.6 percent year over year thus far in 2024. Total fed (steer plus heifer) slaughter is down 1.9 percent from last year. However, steer carcass weights have averaged 920 pounds, up 20.4 pounds this year and heifer carcasses are averaging 843 pounds, 15.9 pounds heavier year over year.

Carcass weights have not shown the typical seasonal decline in the first half of the year resulting in even greater year over year discrepancies in recent weeks. Weekly data from late May shows steer carcass weights 37 pounds (heifers, 29 pounds) heavier than last year. Total fed beef production for the year to date is 8.92 billion pounds, up 0.2 percent from one year ago.  Increased steer and heifer carcass weights are offsetting decreased slaughter to result in a fractional increase in fed beef production for the year to date with significant increases in recent weeks (Figure 1).


By contrast, nonfed beef production is down sharply in 2024. Nonfed beef makes up 20 percent of total beef production on average. Total cow slaughter is down 14.1 percent year over year through the first 21 weeks of the year, with dairy cow slaughter down 13.4 percent and beef cow slaughter down 14.8 percent from last year.  Cow carcass weights are averaging 646.8 pounds, up 10 pounds over one year ago. Bull slaughter is down 7.0 percent year over year, with bull carcass weights up 28.7 pounds over year over year and averaging 892 pounds. Total nonfed slaughter through May is down 13.6 percent and total nonfed beef production is 1.69 billion pounds, down 12.0 percent compared to last year (Figure 2).


Declines in second half of year

Fed beef will likely decline in the second half of the year. Fed slaughter is expected to decrease more in late 2024, though carcass weights will likely remain elevated. Heifer retention may be starting which would lead to a larger decline in heifer slaughter by the end of the year.  Beef cow slaughter may also drop more sharply in the last part of the year. Herd rebuilding typically results in decreased heifer and beef cow slaughter. Moisture conditions through the summer and into the fall will be critical to determine if, and how much, herd rebuilding gets started and the impact on 2024 beef production.

About the Author(s)

Derrell Peel

Livestock marketing specialist, Oklahoma State University

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