Aug. 21, 2018
2017 retail and wholesale beef prices
by Derrell S. Peel, Oklahoma State University Extension livestock marketing specialist
All-fresh retail beef prices were $5.833/lb. in July, up 1.0 percent year over year. All-fresh beef prices have increased each month this year since January. July Choice beef prices were $6.10/lb., down from the June level of $6.207/lb. but fractionally higher than July of 2016. The all-fresh retail beef price increased relative to the broiler composite retail price in July. The current ratio of retail beef to broiler prices is equal to the record level set in July, 2015. The retail beef to pork price ratio is also holding steady at levels near the record during the high prices of 2014 into 2016 and, like the beef to broiler retail price ratio, are at levels well above historical ratios prior to 2014.
Wholesale cutout values have dropped sharply in the past two months, with Choice cutout values down to a weekly average of $197.66/cwt. in mid-August after climbing to a stronger than expected seasonal peak of $250.86/cwt. in mid-June. Choice beef prices have struggled to find a summer bottom with ample supplies and summer heat weighing on beef markets. Weekly Choice cutout values averaged higher year over year from late April until last week.
Select cutout values also increased from January to a weekly seasonal peak of $224.54/cwt. in mid-May before dropping to last week’s $194.81/cwt. The Choice-Select spread has displayed an exaggerated seasonal pattern this year increasing from a seasonal low of $1.25/cwt. in mid-February to an impressive $30.38/cwt. in the second week of June. This was the highest weekly Choice-Select spread since the BSE-induced market turbulence in October, 2003. The Choice-Select spread has decreased back to a narrow $2.25/cwt. in mid-August.
The dramatic seasonal Choice-Select spread pattern seems to mostly be a reflection of dynamic Choice beef demand; unexpectedly strong in the spring and struggling recently. Wholesale beef product values indicate that middle meats have weakened the most recently with rib and loin values dropping relatively more compared to chuck and round values. Choice Ribeye values increased to a pronounced seasonal peak in June, well above year ago levels, but have dropped back to last year’s values recently. Choice Tenderloin and Strip Loin wholesale values have been plus or minus year ago levels all year but lower year over year recently. Chuck and round values have mostly been higher year over year in recent weeks.
The ground beef market has been quite volatile this year with 50 percent lean fed trimmings exhibiting an unusual and pronounced spike in May before returning to year ago levels recently. Lean (90 percent) trimmings followed year earlier levels through late April before rising sharply higher year over year for the past several weeks.
Longer term, wholesale beef product markets continue to adjust following unusual price relationships that emerged during the record high prices from late 2014 through early 2016. Many lower value products increased relative to middle meats during this period but are returning to more typical price relationships in 2017. Products from the chuck, round and sirloin increased relative to loin and rib prices during this period. The Choice-Select spread narrowed during the record price period and, as noted above, has widened back out to near record levels at times in 2017. Looking back, the past five years provides a good case study to help understand the complexities of beef demand and substitution between beef products as well as the interaction between beef and other meats in dynamic meat market conditions.
Helping fall-calving cows and heifers during the calving process
by Dr. Glenn Selk, Oklahoma State University Emeritus Extension animal scientist
Fall calving season is (or soon will be) upon the Oklahoma ranches that have fall and winter calving. An issue facing the rancher at calving-time, is the amount of time heifers or cows are allowed to be in labor before assistance is given. Traditional text books, fact sheets and magazine articles stated that “Stage II” of labor lasted from 2 to 4 hours. “Stage II” is defined as that portion of the birthing process from the first appearance of the water bag until the baby calf is delivered. Research data from Oklahoma State University and the USDA experiment station at Miles City, Montana clearly show that Stage II is much shorter, lasting approximately an hour in first calf heifers, and a half hour in mature cows.
Table 1. Research Results of Length of Stage II of Parturition
|Location of Study
|No. of Animals
|Length of Stage II
|USDA (Montana) *
|24 mature cows
|USDA (Montana) *
|32 first calf heifers
|Oklahoma State Univ. **
|32 first calf heifers
*Doornbos, et al. 1984. Journ. of Anim. Science: 59:1
**Putnam, et al. 1985. Therio: 24:385
In these studies, heifers that were in stage II of labor much more than one hour or cows that were in stage II much more than 30 minutes definitely needed assistance. Research information also shows that calves from prolonged deliveries are weaker and more disease prone, even if born alive. In addition, cows or heifers with prolonged deliveries return to heat later and are less likely to be bred for the next calf crop. Consequently a good rule of thumb: If the heifer is NOT making significant progress 1 hour after the water bag or feet appear, examine the heifer to see if you can provide assistance. Mature cows should be watched for only 30 minutes. IF she is NOT making progress with each strain, then a rectal examine is conducted. If you cannot safely deliver the calf yourself at this time, call your local veterinarian immediately. Before applying chains and beginning to pull, make CERTAIN that the cervix is fully dilated.
Most ranches develop heifers fully, and use calving ease bulls to prevent calving difficulties. However, a few difficult births are going to occur each calving season. Using the concept of evening feeding to get more heifers calving in daylight, and giving assistance early will save a few more calves, and result in healthier more productive two-year-old cows to rebreed for next year. For more information on topics concerning assisting cows and heifers at calving time, download and read an Oklahoma State University circular E-1006 “Calving Time Management For Beef Cows and Heifers”. This free publication can be downloaded from this website: http://pods.dasnr.okstate.edu/docushare/dsweb/Get/Document-9389/E-1006web2014.pdf
Cow-Calf Corner is a weekly newsletter from the Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Agency.