Sort & Cull

Actual Slaughter Versus Estimated Slaughter Actual Slaughter Versus Estimated Slaughter

ShayLe Stewart
By  ShayLe Stewart , DTN Livestock Analyst
USDA offers insightful reports that indicate estimated weekly slaughter numbers and also ones that share actual slaughter data. (DTN/Progressive Farmer file photo)

There are two extremely helpful USDA reports that producers need to know about. First, is the USDA Estimated Weekly Meat Production Under Federal Inspection (712), and second is the USDA Actual Slaughter Under Federal Inspection (711). Both reports have great merit; however, they do contradict each other at times.

The estimated weekly report comes out every Friday, recapping what is expected to be the slaughter data for the current week. It's very useful because it's an immediate tool that gives producers an idea of what the week's slaughter could amount to.

The actual slaughter report comes out every Thursday and indicates the actual slaughter and carcass weights that occurred two weeks ago. USDA officials need this time to collect the data and solidify the facts. The actual slaughter report is what truly happened in the market whereas the estimated report is nothing but that -- an estimate.

It's important to use both reports as tools, but it's equally important to know their meanings and definitions. For example, last week's actual slaughter report came out for the week ending June 27. Based on the USDA estimated weekly slaughter, cattle slaughter was estimated to be upwards of 680,000 head for the week ending June 27 -- a level not seen since March of 2020. But Thursday's actual data confirmed that levels were not that exuberant. Actual slaughter totaled 664,812 head (which was still up 2.97% from the previous week), but a 15,188-head difference affects the market greatly.

This last week's estimated slaughter report shared some exciting news for the cattle market. For the first time since a novel coronavirus and COVID-19 stormed into our lives, last week's slaughter (according to the estimated report) surpassed year-ago levels. Totaling 664,000 head, this puts last week's numbers 0.9% great than year-ago levels. Aggressive and relentless slaughter speeds are what the cattle industry needs in order to work through the backlog of cattle. Hopefully in two weeks the actual slaughter report will confirm the anticipated numbers.

I would highly encourage producers to watch the weekly estimated report, but to also prioritize the actual slaughter report just as much. The nuisance is that the actual report comes out two weeks later, but hard factual data is prime information in today's wavering market.


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ShayLe Stewart can be reached at


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