Total commercial cow slaughter for January through October 2015 was 5 percent below 2014 slaughter for the same period. Dairy cow slaughter through October averaged almost 4 percent higher year over year and accounted for 57 percent of the total cow slaughter, largely reflecting lower milk prices, which are not expected to improve into 2016. Beef cow slaughter through October 2015 was down 18 percent from same-period 2014, reflecting low but expanding beef cow inventories.

While the monthly over-800-pound category of placements in 1,000-plus-head feedlots in October was again higher year over year, that heaviest category accounted for only 30 percent of total placements, down from the 40-plus percent of recent months. As the proportion of over-800-pound cattle placements declines over the next few months, so should the proportion of marketings of extremely heavy fed cattle beginning next spring. However, inexpensive corn and depressed fed cattle prices could still motivate cattle feeders to hold cattle on feed well beyond optimal finish in hope of higher prices farther down the road.