April 16, 2018
Beef demand holding strong thus far
by Derrell S. Peel, Oklahoma State University Extension Livestock marketing specialist
In the face of growing beef production, all eyes are on beef demand in 2018. Beef production is up about 1.5 percent so far this year but total production is projected to increase roughly five percent year over year by the end of the year.
Choice retail beef prices in March were $5.871/lb., up from $5.828/lb. in February but down 0.6 percent from one year ago. The All Fresh beef retail price for March was $5.598/lb., up from $5.53/lb. in February and up 0.9 percent from one year ago. Choice boxed beef cutout has declined from a February high of $224.46/cwt. to $213.34/cwt. in mid-April but remains 1.6 percent higher year over year for the latest weekly data.
In the last four weeks, higher primal values for the rib, chuck, brisket, short plate and flank have been partially offset by lower loin and round values. Brisket values are especially strong, with wholesale value up over 30 percent year over year, while Ribeye values are down some from earlier highs, but still up six percent from last year in the last four weeks. Higher chuck values are led by strong Flat Iron steak and Chuck Roll prices, up roughly 28 percent from one year ago. Short Ribs are also up about 27 percent, likely supported by strong export demand.
Lower loin values are a short-term concern and a continuation of a longer-term trend of weaker relative loin values. Loin values have declined relative to other parts of the carcass over the last decade. Currently, wholesale values for Tenderloin are down about 11 percent year over year while Loin Strip prices are roughly 7 percent lower than one year ago.
Retail beef prices continue to hold up well relative to pork and poultry prices. March retail pork price was $1.502/lb., up from $1.478/lb. in February and down 0.7 percent from one year ago. Composite broiler retail price in March was $1.867/lb., up slightly from the February level of $1.861/lb. and down 0.6 percent from last year. The ratio of retail beef price to both pork and broiler continues to hold strong despite growing supplies of beef, pork, and poultry. Production of beef, pork and broilers are all expected to be record large in 2018 leading to record large total meat supplies of nearly 103 billion pounds, up 3.3 percent year over year. This includes other chicken, turkey, lamb and mutton and veal production.
Net meat exports are projected to move just over 12 percent of total meat production offshore this year and hold per capita domestic meat consumption to 219.4 pounds, retail weight. This level is 1.3 higher than last year and the highest total meat consumption since 2007 but below the record level of 221.9 pounds in 2004. Strong domestic and international meat demand will be critical to minimize the supply pressure on meat prices in 2018.
Spring is the time for selection for udder soundness
by Glenn Selk, Oklahoma State University Extension Animal Scientist Professor Emeritus
Every year at “preg” checking time, ranchers evaluate cows and make decisions about which animals to remove from the herd. One criterion that should be examined to cull cows is udder quality. Beef cattle producers are not as likely to think about udder health and shape as dairy producers are, but this attribute affects cow productivity and should be considered.
It may be easier to be accurate in your culling decisions if you examine the udder soundness of the cows shortly after calving when they are at the peak of lactation and the udder is as large as at any time. Take time now during the peak of lactation to write down which spring-calving cows have unsound udders. Record the cow numbers of those to be culled next fall due to unsound udders. Their heifer calves would be undesirable prospects to become replacement heifers for your herd.
The heritability estimates of udder characteristics are variable. A study done in Brahman cattle for the heritability of udder soundness indicated that progress could be made by selecting for udder soundness. They reported that 25 percent of the differences in udder soundness was due to genetics. Beef Improvement Federation Guidelines have suggested that the heritability of udder soundness in beef cattle is estimated at .16 to .22 which means that some progress can be made by selecting against unsound udders.
Recent research at Kansas State University (Bradford, 2014 KSU Cattlemen’s Day) with large numbers of Hereford data has given even greater hope that improvement in udder quality can be made. They found heritabilities of .32 for overall udder score, .31 for suspension, and .28 for teat size. Plus, genetic correlations between traits were strong (.83). This means that selection for one trait (teat size or suspension) will result in improvement in the other trait.
An experiment conducted at the OSU Range Cow Research Center near Stillwater gives some indication as to the impact of mastitis on beef cow performance. They found that cows with one or two dry quarters had calves with severely reduced weaning weights (50 – 60 pounds) compared to cows with no dry quarters. This represents a sizeable economic loss at weaning time.
An evaluation system for udder soundness has been developed and used by some breeds. Teat shape and udder suspension are the two primary characteristics evaluated. Below are drawings representing unsound udders on the left and sound udders on the right.
The first two drawings are teat shape. The very “funnel” shaped teat may have been mastitic in the past. Newborn calves will find it difficult to nurse such a teat.
Teat Shape (above): Note the large “funnel-shaped” teats on the cow on the left. A sound udder for teat shape is on the right.
Udder Suspension (above): Weak udder suspension leads to “pendulous” broken-down udders that also are very difficult for young calves to nurse. A sound udder with a strong udder suspension is on the right.
Both cows on the left would be excellent candidates for culling at the next weaning of their calves. In addition, daughters of cows with poor udders should be expected to have less than desirable udders as well.
Cow-Calf Corner is a newsletter by the Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Agency.