By TIM HEARDEN
SACRAMENTO -- The slaughter of cattle from California dairies that have gone out of business hasn't impacted the state's beef cattle markets, an industry insider says.
Producers contend an average of one dairy a day is going out of business in the Golden State because milk prices aren't keeping up with input costs. Many have sold their herds or sent them to slaughter.
However, the demand for ground beef is strong enough that a nominal influx of dairy cows is unlikely to dilute prices, said Justin Oldfield, the California Cattlemen's Association's vice president of government relations.
"Since we do have a strong market right now ... I would say the cull prices have remained relatively strong, even in the current situation," Oldfield said. "I wouldn't say that for every dairyman that goes out of business, cows are getting killed.
"What you have had when a lot of dairies have gone out of business is another dairyman has bought the dairy and continued to milk those cows," he said. "I'm not so sure that as many cows as people think are actually getting killed. It's just relatively recently that we've heard of cull cows being liquidated."
Indeed, the 1.4 million head of cattle slaughtered in California in September was down slightly from the 1.47 million slaughtered in the same month in 2011, according to the USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service.
At the Shasta Livestock Auction Yard in Cottonwood, Calif., slaughter cows were $3 to $4 more per hundredweight on Oct. 12 than on Oct. 4. High-dress slaughter cows were selling for as much as $82.50 per hundredweight compared to as much as $170 per hundredweight for feeder steers.
"It's steady," Oldfield said. "I would say the drought had more of an impact on the cull prices than the dairy industry's problems in California, and that seems to have been absorbed."
California Cattlemen's Association: http://www.calcattlemen.org/