Commercial heifer and beef cow slaughter continues to track well below year-prior levels, primarily driven by cattle producers’ strong incentive to hold back beef cows and heifers in an effort to expand domestic cow inventory levels.

Through the week ending August 29th, federally inspected weekly heifer slaughter is about 14 percent below year- prior levels while cow slaughter is approximately 18 percent lower than last year. Solid year-over-year reductions in cow and heifer slaughter suggests that expansion efforts are well underway. This being the case, heifers will likely continue to represent an even smaller percentage of total steer and heifer slaughter, and low cow slaughter will remain the norm through the end of the year.

In the short term, expansion of the breeding herd should continue to limit the growth in beef production through the remainder of 2015. USDA’s current forecast for 2015 beef production is 23.5 billion pounds, down about 3 percent relative to a year earlier.