WASHINGTON, Nov. 19, 2012- USDA’s Livestock, Dairy and Poultry Outlook released last week indicated that beef packers reduced slaughter in 2012, but beef production is down by less than slaughter would indicate.

Despite considerable discussion about shortages of cattle and calves looming for the remainder of 2012, 2013, and beyond, the total number of steers and heifers on feed in feedlots of 1,000 head or more on October 1, 2012 was 2.7 percent below October 2011 (second highest in the last 10 years), but 1.8 percent above October 2010, according to USDA. It was the third highest October 1 inventory of steers and heifers on feed in 1000-plus-head lots (behind 2006 and 2011) and the second highest steer inventory (behind 2006) in the last 10 years.

Beef packers reduced kills for several weeks in an attempt to pressure fed cattle prices lower and improve their currently negative profit margins. Weekly federally inspected cattle slaughter through November was 4 percent below both 2011 and 2010 and 2 percent below 2009. However, heavier dressed weights resulted in beef production through November that was not quite 2 percent below same-period in 2011 and 2010.