Fewer cattle were slaughtered in October, leading to a decline in monthly beef and total red meat production.

The lower slaughter number could be another clue that producers are holding onto animals in an effort to rebuild herd sizes as overall drought conditions improve.

The monthly livestock slaughter report released by the USDA Thursday afternoon showed beef production was one percent lower than the previous year’s data, contributing to the 2 percent decline in commercial red meat production during the month.

October beef production totaled 2.32 billion pounds, down 20 million pounds from the previous year, but 250 million higher than the previous month. The year-to-year decline was primarily due to a lower slaughter total, which amounted to 2.9 million head in October. The monthly total was 50,000 head lower than a year earlier, but 290,000 head more than a month earlier.

The decline in monthly beef production was limited as the average live weight for the month was above both last month and the previous year. October live weights averaged 1,327 pounds, a 9-pound increase from the previous year and 14 pounds more than September.

Veal production totaled 10.0 million pounds, 4 percent below October a year ago. Calf slaughter totaled 69,500 head, down 5 percent from October 2012. The average live weight was up 3 pounds from last year, at 245 pounds.

Commercial red meat production for the United States totaled 4.51 billion pounds in October, down two percent from the 4.58 billion pounds produced in October 2012. The year-to-date total for 2013 is one percent lower than a year earlier as beef production is slightly lower and pork declining by one percent. Red meat production in the first 10 months of the year equals 40.9 billion pounds.

October 2012 and 2013 both had 23 weekdays, counting the holiday, and four Saturdays.