Despite high beef prices, the number of U.S. dairy cows culled for slaughter under federal inspection fell further behind last year – no matter how you count it.

On a monthly basis, U.S. dairy cows culled for slaughter in July 2014 fell to 231,600 head, 19,100 less than July 2013 and the lowest July total in three years. However, the July 2014 total was up 32,100 from June 2014, and the highest monthly total since March, according to USDA’s monthly Livestock Slaughter report.

January-July 2014 slaughter was estimated at 1.623 million head, down 194,900 from the same period in 2013. For the year to date, 31% of culled cows came from USDA Zone 5 (IL, IN, MI, MN, OH & WI); 25% came from USDA Zone 9 (AZ, CA, HI & NV).

On a weekly basis, dairy cows culled for slaughter under federal inspection were estimated at 53,300 head for the week ending Aug. 9. Year-to-date, the total is about 1.711 million head, 200,700 less than the same period in 2013.

Cow numbers are building in the U.S. milking herd. According to USDA’s monthly Milk Production report, U.S. milk cow numbers were estimated at 9.272 million head in July, 5,000 head more than June 2014; 37,000 more than July 2013; and 50,000 more than July 2012.

Meanwhile, cull cow prices continue to set new record highs. Estimated U.S. July 2014 cull cow prices (beef and dairy combined) averaged $113.00/cwt., up $7.00/cwt. from June’s revised estimate, and $30.30/cwt. more than July 2013. At that price, a 1,300-lb. cull cow is worth $1,469.