Fewer cattle numbers and increased heifer retention show beef production will continue to fall before it gets better.

The December Livestock Slaughter report by the USDA shows a reduction in cattle slaughter, resulting in a decrease in beef production compared to last month and a year earlier. November beef production numbers according to this month’s report were also hampered by fewer weekdays and an increase in live weights.

Beef production totaled 2.06 billion pounds in November, down seven percent compared to a year ago and 11 percent lower than the previous month. The decrease in production is a result of fewer cattle headed to slaughter. Last month’s slaughter totaled 2.57 million head, an eight percent fall from the same month a year earlier and 11 percent below totals from the previous month.

Although cattle slaughter numbers receded, losses were limited by higher live weights during the month. November live weight was an average of 1,338 pounds. The total is about one percent higher than the average from a year ago and the previous month.

Year-to-date red meat production is also lower than the previous year. The drop in beef production helped pull overall red meat down one percent from January to November totals in 2012.

Veal production totaled 9.1 million pounds, 10 percent below November a year ago. Calf slaughter totaled 60,600 head, down 14 percent from November 2012. The average live weight was up 12 pounds from last year, at 256 pounds.

November 2012 contained 22 weekdays (including 2 holidays) and 4 Saturdays.

November 2013 contained 21 weekdays (including 2 holidays) and 5 Saturdays.

Read the full report.