The on-going drought in the southern plains and surrounding regions is having immediate cattle market impacts and, with each passing day is increasingly likely to have multi-year impacts in the future.

It is difficult to determine the exact impacts of the drought, but some indications are emerging. The contrast between beef cow slaughter nationally and in the drought region clearly indicates that the impacts are significant. For the year to date, beef cow slaughter is down 4.4 percent nationally, while beef cow slaughter in Region 6, which closely corresponds to the drought area, is up 11.7 percent.

Measuring the drought impacts is difficult since it is impossible to know for sure what would have happened without the drought. However, analysis of typical slaughter patterns and tendencies suggests a range of impacts that probably captures the drought impact.

At a minimum, Region 6 beef cow slaughter at the same rate (relative to the cow herd) as last year (which implies additional herd liquidation) would suggest about 49,000 head less slaughter than last year. This would result in a national slaughter rate that would be down 7.7 percent, compared to the observed rate of 4.4 percent for the year to date. 

Moreover, a Region 6 slaughter rate that is closer to the long-term average regional rate would suggest that an additional 100,000 head of cows are added to total beef cow slaughter so far this year due to the drought.