Two months ahead of USDA’s annual state cattle inventory question, projections slate the January 2024 cowherd between 1.5% and 3.5%, creating a strong run of prices. The data comes from 10 months of beef cow slaughter numbers and a historically strong relationship between past year’s slaughter rates and next year’s herd size.

Through October of this year, 10% of the beginning beef cow herd has been processed, down 11% from 2022, contributing to a 3.6% decline in cow numbers at the start of 2023. However, culling rates have been varying throughout the country. The southeast region saw similar culling rates to last year’s already elevated levels as drought intensified for most of the region. Meanwhile, the Mid-South and Southwest region saw fewer cull numbers compared to last year.

Read more on cow number projections and their impact on prices here.