A large number of dairy cows were culled in January.

According to the USDA “Livestock Slaughter” report on Thursday, 297,000 dairy cows were slaughtered under federal inspection ― the highest monthly figure since 1986.

In 1986, there were six months when dairy cow slaughter exceeded 300,000. In April that year, 401,000 dairy cows were slaughtered under federal inspection. 

The reason 1986 was so high was that the federal whole herd buy-out program was occurring during that time.

On an annual basis, it looks like 2013 could continue the trend set in 2012, which had the highest annual dairy cow slaughter since 1986.

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High slaughter rates come as no surprise as dairy farmers cope with high feed cost and low profitability.