Cash slaughter cattle prices are likely to climb this fall, once packers work through ample summer supplies, says Jim Mintert, Kansas State University agricultural economist.

Mintert expects slaughter cattle numbers to remain high through July. Supplies should begin to tighten as the rest of the year progresses. In all, it should boost prices into the low $70’s.

Slaughter cattle numbers could fall by as much as 5 percent in the first half of 2002. If beef demand holds steady, Mintert says western Kansas slaughter cattle could average more than $80 during the first quarter of 2002.

Lower cattle supplies should increase beef prices at the retail meat case. That, combined with lower beef supplies, is positive for pork. It will make pork products a more attractive meat alternative to consumers. That in turn will lend support to pork prices and keep product supplies moving. It appears that pork supplies next summer will be only marginally larger than this year’s levels. The key to next year is what producers do with fall and winter production, because slaughter capacity is near its max. But if beef supplies are low and pork remains in strong demand, at least those two factors will keep pork products from backing up to pressure the fourth quarter of 2002.