Cattle weights will continue to be an important factor to watch in the months ahead. Cattle are remaining on feed longer and are currently being marketed at record weights. This is being heightened by the increase in the proportion of heavier weight steers versus heifers and cows, resulting in near-term year-over-year increases in beef production despite the continuing constraint of cattle supplies.

As of the week ending October 3rd, federally inspected cattle carcass weights were reported at 850 pounds, and weights are expected to remain at relatively high levels in the fourth quarter. In light of the factors mentioned above, the pace of marketings and heavy carcass weights, USDA revised third- and fourth-quarter beef production forecasts higher by 95 and 150 million pounds, respectively. USDA projects 2015 beef production will reach about 23.8 billion pounds.

Higher cattle slaughter levels, in conjunction with heavy carcass weights, are expected to increase beef production in 2016. USDA’s current forecast for total beef prooduction next year is nearly 25.0 billion pounds, up 5 percent relative to 2015.