The triple combination of subdued milk prices, higher feed costs, and higher beef prices caused dairy farmers to send more cows to the stockyards when compared to the same time last year. As this took place, June, July, and August culling activity grew by a remarkable 60,800 head of dairy cattle over the same time last year.

Prior to those three summer months, cull rates had been lagging by 39,700 head. Of course, there was some impact due to the onset of COVID-19 in 2020 when looking through the data.

August definitely stood out in that three-month group as dairy farmers collectively shipped an additional 36,100 head when compared to last August. That’s according to the September Livestock Slaughter publication produced by USDA. July had been up 14,200 head, while June grew by 10,500.

However, the trend is clear. With shrinking milk margins, dairy farmers are culling cows that aren’t paying the bills.

Here’s a recap on the activity for the recent months based on USDA data:

• January to May 2021 was down 39,700 head compared to January to May 2020.

• June 2021 culling climbed 10,500 head compared to June 2020.

• July 2021 culling jumped 14,200 head compared to July 2020.

• August 2021 culling leapt 36,100 head compared to August 2020.

• The gains in culling activity reversed the 39,700 lag in culling activity from January to May 2021 and turned it into a positive 21,300 head just three months later in August 2021.

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(c) Hoard's Dairyman Intel 2021
September 27, 2021
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