Dec. 19, 2017
Beef consumption and beef demand
by Derrell S. Peel, Oklahoma State University Extension livestock marketing specialist
U.S. domestic beef consumption is projected to be 56.6 pounds per capita for 2017, up from 55.4 pounds in 2016 (retail weight). That is a 2.2 percent year over year increase. Beef consumption is higher because beef production is increasing; in fact, it is projected to be up 3.8 percent year over year from 2016.
Domestic consumption is up less, in percentage terms, than beef production for a couple of reasons. First, growth in beef exports in 2017, projected to be up 12-13 percent over 2016, moves some of the additional production off-shore. That, along with minor adjustments in ending stocks, will result in a total domestic supply (disappearance) that is up roughly 2.8 percent year over year. Finally, though U.S. population grows slowly, it does still grow, so per capita consumption will increase even more slowly when the total domestic supply is spread across a larger U.S. population.
Per-capita beef consumption bottomed recently in 2015 at 54.0 pounds, so the 2017 level represents a 2.6 pounds per capita increase in beef consumption the past two years. Beef production and consumption are projected to increase again in 2018, with a forecast increase in beef production of 4.5 percent resulting in per capita consumption of 57.8 pounds, a 2.1 percent additional increase in per capita beef consumption.
Increased beef consumption does not, by itself, indicate anything about beef demand. We are consuming more beef because we are producing more beef. The question of beef demand hinges on the question of “at what price will consumers eat this additional beef?” In general, we expect that increasing supplies will result in lower prices but how much lower is the key.
Demand has been a pleasant surprise in 2017. Retail beef prices are currently higher than last year despite the increase in beef supplies in 2017. Beef demand is all the more impressive given that total meat supplies are higher year over year, not only the result of more beef, but also increased pork and poultry production. November retail Choice beef prices were $5.81/lb., up from 5.76/lb. in October and above that same level of $5.76/lb. one year ago. The all-fresh retail beef price was $5.64/lb. in November, up from $5.62/lb. in October and above the November 2016 price of $5.59/lb. The ratio of retail beef prices relative to pork and poultry remains very strong, holding near to record levels achieved during the record high prices in 2015. The calculated beef demand index, which accounts for pork and poultry impacts as well as increased beef production, showed a slight increase for the third quarter of 2017.
Retail beef prices are expected to decrease in 2018 given additional beef supplies. This will put additional pressure on wholesale beef prices as well as fed and feeder cattle prices. However, if demand continues strong, the retail price pressure may be rather modest with less negative impact on wholesale beef and cattle markets. Strong demand will depend on a continuation of generally strong macroeconomic conditions including decreased unemployment and income growth. Any change in overall macroeconomic conditions is a threat and factors to watch include rising interest rates and inflationary pressures. Shocks external to the beef industry, for example, a sudden jump in gasoline prices, could sharply impact consumer spending and beef demand.
Continued improvement in beef trade will also be a crucial factor to minimizing price pressure in 2018. Continued strong exports to current major beef destinations including Japan, South Korea, Mexico, Canada and Hong Kong will be essential. New export growth to China is likely to remain a small market in 2018 but holds significant potential over time.
Repeatability of calving difficulty
by Glenn Selk, Oklahoma State University Emeritus Extension animal scientist
Recently an Oklahoma cow-calf producer asked about the repeatability of calving difficulty in young cows. He had a two-year-old heifer that endured a very difficult delivery. After the event is over and the cow and calf are doing well, the rancher can’t help but ask the question: If a heifer has calving difficulty this year, what is the likelihood that she will have trouble again next year? That question is followed by the thought of the money invested in this young heifer to grow her to a two-year-old. Should she be culled next fall because of calving difficulty this spring?
A look back through the scientific literature sheds some light on this subject. Research conducted by Colorado State University and published in 1973 looked at parturition records of 2733 Hereford calves sired by 123 bulls and born to 778 cows/heifers. (Source: Brinks, et al. Journal of Animal Science 1973 Vol. 36 pp 11-17). A repeatability estimate was obtained from heifers calving both as 2 year- and 3-year-olds. The estimate was 4.5 percent. Of 195 heifers which had no difficulty in calving at two years of age, 7.2 percent had difficulty as 3-year-olds. Of the 77 two-year-old heifers which experienced calving difficulty, 11.7 percent had difficulty again as 3-year-olds.
Heifers that experienced calving difficulty as 2 year-olds weaned 59 percent of calves born, whereas, those having no difficulty weaned 70 percent of calves born. Calving difficulty as 2 year-olds affected the number of calves weaned when 3 years of age and also the weaning weight of those calves. Heifers having calving difficulty as 2-year-olds weaned a 63 percent calf crop as 3-year-olds. Heifers having no difficulty as 2 years-olds weaned a 77 percent calf crop as three-year-olds.
From this research we learned that calving difficulty as a two-year-old had a profound effect on productivity. The likelihood that calving difficulty will happen again next year is only slightly greater than in heifer counterparts that calved unassisted this year. Proper heifer development to a body condition score of 5.5 or 6 at calving, along with breeding heifers to low birth weight EPD bulls should help reduce calving difficulty in two-year-olds.
Just how do Santa’s reindeer get the job done?
by Glenn Selk, Oklahoma State University Emeritus Extension Animal Scientist
Have you ever wondered how Santa’s reindeer can make that monumental journey on Christmas Eve? Let’s look into some key facts about reindeer that may help us understand how they get Ole St. Nick on his appointed rounds over the world.
First of all, historians report that reindeer have been domesticated by humans for more than 5000 years. Since Santa himself is no spring chicken, we can assume that they have worked together for quite a while. They should not have any trouble finding their way around. There is no need to worry about them getting lost.
We do know that reindeer are ruminants. They are like cattle in this regard. They have four compartments in their stomach. Of course, Santa gets them filled up with hay and moss before he leaves the North Pole, so they should have plenty of feed stored in the four compartments to make it all around the globe. Also, cattle nutritionists have known for years that hay digests more slowly than grain, therefore the big meal that the reindeer eat before the journey should last even longer. Or just like your mom says “It’ll stick to their ribs!”
As for drinking water, that should be no problem whatsoever. In their homeland, the water is all frozen so they are used to getting the moisture they need by eating snow. So as the sleigh is parked on snowy rooftops in cold weather cities, the reindeer can take on the moisture they need if they get thirsty.
How do they keep warm while flying around on Christmas Eve? The reindeer coat is made of two layers; an outer layer of bristles and an inner layer of dense fur. The fur that they have is very thick and can hold a lot of air. The “blanket” of insulation combining fur and air helps keep them warm in even the coldest of climates. Plus flying around Christmas night in many areas of the world that are warmer than they have at home should not be a problem.
How do they fly? Well that’s a tougher question, but let’s look at what we do know about them. Reindeer are amazingly fast runners on the ground. University of Alaska researchers report that a newborn baby reindeer at one day of age can outrun the fastest graduate student. By the time they are fully grown, it is hard to tell what speeds that they could reach.
Next remember those huge antlers. Antlers of adult male reindeer can be as much as 4 feet long! Just think about it: Each reindeer has 2 sets; that;s 8 feet of antlers and with eight reindeer, or nine, if we count Rudolph on foggy nights. That is 64 to 72 feet of total antler span! A typical small Cessna airplane only has about 36 feet of wingspan. Certainly, it seems feasible those eight reindeer running that fast with all that antler span could get off the ground.
There are a couple of myths about reindeer that we should clear up. You have probably heard the poem that says that they have tiny reindeer feet. Actually, they have a very wide large hoof that they use at home to dig through the snow to find grass and moss to eat. You’ve got to think that those wide hooves would come in handy for sliding to rather sudden stops on the small landing sites that Santa has to work with on Christmas Eve.
And you’ve probably heard the song about “up on the housetop click, click, click.” Well, it is true that reindeer do make a clicking sound as they walk. They have a tendon that snaps over a bone joint and makes a clicking sound on every step.
These are just a few facts about Santa’s Reindeer. Maybe this will help us understand that age-old mystery that occurs every Christmas Eve.
Cow-Calf Corner is a weekly newsletter from the Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Agency.