A combination of heavier carcase weights and continued drought this year, forcing more cattle to market, has propped-up US beef production in 2012 better than many analysts expected.
The US Department of Agriculture on Thursday released its estimates of US beef production for 2012, as well as an update of forecast for 2013.
The biggest revisions in this latest update concerned estimates of beef output for the current year.
USDA now estimates total US commercial beef production for 2012 at 11.8 million tonnes, about 129,000 tonnes more than the estimate this time last month.
Current estimated US beef production for 2012 is just 1.2 percent lower than what beef output was in 2011, the Chicago Mercantile Exchange’s Daily Livestock Report suggests.
The report suggests there is an ongoing debate among US market participants about the impact that a smaller domestic beef herd and fewer feeders coming to market will have on beef supplies.
“After all, we have seen the herd continue to shrink while at the same time the supply of beef coming to market has been sustained,” it said.
Was the big jump in US cattle carcase weights seen this year something that will be sustained going into 2013?
The Daily Livestock Report suggests it is possible that carcase weights next year might be impacted by calls to limit the inclusion of ever more effective beta agonists which have so far underpinned the increase in weights (see earlier Beef Central story on Russia’s ban on beta agonists, here).
One way to look at the impact of higher carcase weights this year is to compare the USDA estimates for beef production earlier in the year versus the latest December estimate, which includes ten months of actual data in it.
Back in January 2012, USDA was projecting US beef production for 2012 at 11.4 million tonnes, about 4.6pc less than 2011 production levels. The latest estimate, however, pegged 2012 beef output at 11.8mt, just 147,000t lower than in 2011.
Heavier weights explain part of the upward revision in output forecasts. US steer carcase weights in the first 10 months of the year have averaged almost 390kg. During the same period last year, steer carcase weights averaged 381kg, a 2pc year-on-year increase in weights.
Overall slaughter cattle carcase weights for the first 10 months of this year averaged 7.3kg heavier than last year. Federally inspected carcase weights are running about 2.1pc higher than a year ago compare to the trend of the past 10 years of about 0.5pc annual increases. That 1.5pc increase versus trend translates to about 5.5kg per carcase more this year versus the previous year, the Daily Livestock Report says, or 152,000t.
Also, more US cattle have come to market this year than what USDA and market analysts expected, because of ongoing drought.
The expectation was that with normal moisture, the US would see a notable reduction in the number of cattle coming to market in 2012, however the second consecutive US drought last summer significantly impacted such forecasts.
Going forward, however, USDA expects a decline in beef output for 2013. This is predicated on a pullback in total cattle slaughter of almost 5pc and carcase weightgains at longer trend levels of about 0.5pc annual growth. Current forecasts for domestic production next year are about 11.2 million tonnes.
Just as was the case this year, moisture conditions, feed availability and the use of feed additives to improve performance will be critical drivers that could impact the forecast.