Jan. 11, 2020
Beef trade bounces back
By Derrell S. Peel, Oklahoma State University Extension livestock marketing specialist
U.S. beef trade is stabilizing as the ripple effects of the initial COVID-19 disruptions continue to fade. The latest beef trade data for November shows that monthly exports were up 13.2 percent year over year. This brings the year to date total to a cumulative reduction of 3.7% year over year for the first eleven months of the year. Exports were very volatile in 2020, starting higher year over year before dropping sharply in May and June and recovering in the second half of the year.
Japan remains the largest beef export market in 2020 with exports up a modest 3.4% for the year-to-date through November and accounting for 28.5% of total beef exports for the period. South Korea is the number two market down 1.2% year over year through November. South Korea represents 23.2% of total beef exports for the year to date. With a 48.7% monthly increase in November, Mexico reclaimed the number three spot as a beef export destination but is still down 31.2% year over year for the year to date. Canada is the number four market for U.S. beef exports through November, up 6.4% for the January to November period and accounting for 9.7% of total exports through November. Hong Kong is the number five export market, down 5.1% through November and accounting for 7.4% of total beef exports for the year to date. The top five export markets represent 78.9% of total beef exports for the January to November period. Taiwan and China were the number six and seven markets adding another 6.9 and 3.5% to total beef exports, respectively, through November.
Total beef imports were down 3.9% year over year in November as the post-COVID surge in imports retreats to prior levels. For the January to November period, beef imports are up 10.7% year over year. Beef imports increased sharply in July and August before declining and dropping back close to year earlier levels in October and November.
Canada is the largest source of beef imports through November 2020, down 2.7% year-over-year and accounting for 24.5% of total imports. Australia has dropped to number two with U.S. imports of Australian beef down 5.2% year-over-year for the year to date. Australia represented 19.9% of total beef imports through November. Mexico is a close number three with shipments to the U.S. up 15.9% year over year and accounting for 19.7% of beef imports for the year-to-date. Beef imports from New Zealand jumped 25.7% through November, making it the number four source of imports and representing 15.5% of total beef imports. Beef imports from Brazil were up 33.8% through November and accounted for 6.4% of total beef imports. The top five beef import sources accounted for 86% of total beef imports through November. Nicaragua and Uruguay added another 5.7 and 4.4%, respectively, to total beef imports through November.
Much uncertainty continues but assuming no major new global health or economic disruptions, U.S. beef trade is expected to be supportive in 2021. Beef exports are forecast to be modestly higher year over year returning roughly to 2019 levels. Beef imports are currently forecast to decrease from the 2020 spike to pre-COVID levels or perhaps a bit lower. Numerous factors will affect U.S. and global beef trade in 2021 including exchange rates; continuing demand for beef in China; the rebuilding of the Australian beef industry; continuing trade tensions between China and Australia/New Zealand and Mexico’s economic situation.
A long, difficult delivery of a calf can have hidden costs
By Glenn Selk, OSU Emeritus Extension animal scientist
Throughout the beef industry, there exist hidden costs that are difficult to expose and equally difficult to eliminate. One of those hidden costs can be caused by an extended postpartum interval (the number of days from calving until the cow returns to heat cycles.) Several biological influencers can lengthen the days between calving and return to estrus cycles. Most of the causes that delay the return to cycling activity are centered around nutrition. However, one of the lesser known causes of a delay to cycling activity is a prolonged, difficult process of calving.
During parturition (calving), the cow goes through three stages of labor. Stage two is where most of the action occurs. Stage two begins with the appearance of the water bag or baby calf’s feet. Stage two ends when the calf is completely delivered. Recall that stage two is expected to be about one hour for a two-year-old and about half an hour in mature cows that have previously delivered calves. Some producers may wonder if there is anything detrimental about allowing cows or heifers to suffer through a prolonged stage two.
In addition to being the greatest cause of baby calf mortality, calving difficulty markedly reduces reproductive performance during the next breeding season. Cattle suffering from calving difficulty have been reported (Brinks, et al. 1973) to have pregnancy rates decreased by 14% and those that did become pregnant to calve 13 days later at the next calving.
Results from a Montana study (Doornbos, et al., 1984) showed that heifers receiving assistance in early stage two of parturition returned to heat earlier in the post-calving period and had higher pregnancy rates than heifers receiving traditionally accepted obstetric assistance. In this study, heifers were either assisted about one hour after the fetal membranes (water bag) appeared (EARLY) or were assisted only if calving was not completed within two hours of the appearance of the water bag (LATE).
Heifers that were allowed to endure a prolonged labor (LATE) had a 17% lower rate of cycling at the start of the next breeding season. In addition, the rebreeding percentage was 20% lower than the counterparts (EARLY) that were given assistance in the first hour of labor. The calves weaned the following year from cows that endured the long delivery weaned 46 pounds lighter than calves from cows with earlier re-breeding dates due to a shorter stage two of parturition.
Always check to be certain that cervical dilation has been completed, before you start to pull the calf. If you are uncertain about whether cervical dilation has taken place or if the calf is in an undeliverable position, call your large animal veterinarian immediately. Prolonged deliveries of baby calves (in excess of 1.5 or 2 hours) often result in weakened calves and reduced rebreeding performance in young cows!
Minimizing calving difficulty can still best be achieved by properly developed replacement heifers bred to calving ease bulls.