It comes as no surprise: Dairy cull cow slaughter was up considerably in 2012.

In the wake of high feed cost and low profitability, 3.101 million dairy cows went to slaughter last year, according to the “Livestock Slaughter” report issued Thursday by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. That was 187,000 more than went to slaughter in 2011.

According to reports, the 2012 total is the highest in 26 years. The last time it was higher was 1986, which was influenced by the federal whole herd buy-out program.

1986 was the first year that dairy cattle slaughter was reported separate from total cattle slaughter. In 1986, 3.595 million dairy cows went to slaughter. See January 1987 report.

2012 was almost 500,000 below 1986, but still high by historical standards. See “9.4% more cows slaughtered in May-September.”