July 20, 2020
Boxed beef prices sag under growing supply and summer doldrums
By Derrell S. Peel, Oklahoma State University Extension livestock marketing specialist
The Choice boxed beef price dropped to $200.47/cwt. last Friday, July 17, 2020; the lowest Choice boxed beef price since December 2017. Both supply and demand factors are at work pushing wholesale beef prices lower.
Estimated beef production last week was 538.4 million pounds, 2.1% larger than the same week last year. Estimated cattle slaughter last week was 650,000 head, down slightly from 655,400 last year. The latest carcass weights have steer carcasses averaging 896 pounds, up 35 pounds year over year and heifer carcasses at 826 pounds, 34 pounds above the same time last year.
Heavy fed cattle backed up in feedlots prevented the normal seasonal decline in carcass weights in April, May and June. In 2019, steer carcass weights declined from 896 pounds at the beginning of the year to a seasonal low of 842 pounds by the first week of June; a drop of 50 pounds. This year steer carcass weights were 896 pounds in June, down 16 pounds from 912 pounds at the beginning of the year. The lowest weekly steer carcass weight this year was 886 pounds in April before weights moved counterseasonally higher in May and June.
Though summer is grilling season, the period between July 4 and Labor Day is a relatively weak beef demand period — the dog days of summer. This period is normally a slow beef demand period for restaurants, aggravated this year by a still recovering food service sector. For example, wholesale beef tenderloin (189A) price is currently nearly 17% lower year over year. Wholesale ribeye (112A) is down nearly 3% from last year. These items are more popular on restaurant menus.
The wholesale beef strip loin (180), perhaps the most popular grilling steak, was priced nearly 11% higher last week compared to last year. Beef buying should pick up in August in preparation for Labor Day. After all the disruption in food markets in the first half of the year, it is difficult to know if markets are following normal seasonal patterns all this summer.
Longer term, beef demand may be affected by the economic recession. Impacts have not been obvious thus far but unemployment is still high and some unemployment benefits will end this month. With COVID-19 far from controlled, considerable uncertainty remains regarding how school schedules, sporting activities and business travel could affect beef demand this fall.
Beef production will be higher year over year for the remainder of the year. This may combine with limited demand to keep wholesale beef prices under pressure going forward.
Forage testing — A key decision aide
By Glenn Selk, Oklahoma State University Emeritus Extension animal scientist
Hay fields in most areas of Oklahoma are producing an average to above average number of big round bales this summer. The quality of the hay will be quite variable. Some will supply a great deal of the nutrients needed to maintain body condition on beef cows this winter. Other hay will be lacking in protein and energy and will require a substantial amount of supplement to be fed or the cattle will lose weight and body condition during the winter months.
Forage analysis can be a useful tool to remove some of the mystery concerning the hay that producers will feed this winter. The out-of-pocket costs of protein and energy supplements are further fuel to this advice. Testing the grass hays this year for protein and energy content will help the producer design winter supplementation programs most appropriate for the forage supply that is available. To learn more about matching supplements with available forages, download and read Oklahoma State University Fact Sheet ANSI-3010 Supplementing Beef Cows.
There are several good methods of sampling hay for forage analysis. Most nutritionists would prefer to use a mechanical coring probe made specifically for this purpose. The coring probe is usually a stainless steel tube with a serrated cutting edge. It is one inch in diameter and is designed to fit on a 1/2 inch drill or brace. Cordless drills make these tools quite mobile so that the hay bales to be tested do not have to be hauled to be near an electrical outlet.
The hay samples are placed in paper or plastic bags for transfer to a forage testing laboratory. Cores are taken from several bales at random to obtain a representative sample to be analyzed. More selections for forage sampling tools can be found on the National Forage Testing Association Website.
Grab samples can also be obtained and tested. To receive the best information, grab several samples by hand from about six inches into the open side of the bale or the middle third of a round bale.
Place all of the sample in the bag. Do not discard weeds or stems, just because they look undesirable. They are still part of the hay that you are offering to the livestock.
Be certain to label the forage samples accurately and immediately, in order for the laboratory analysis to be correctly assigned to the proper hay piles or bales. Obviously, the more samples that are sent to the laboratory for analysis, the more information can be gained. Note that as the number of samples increase, the cost of forage testing increases. Any of the potential nitrate-accumulating hays should be tested for nitrate concentration. Detailed information about collecting hay samples can be found in OSU Fact Sheet PSS-2589 Collecting Forage Samples for Analysis.
Samples can be taken to the OSU County Extension office near you and then sent to the OSU Soil, Water, and Forage Testing laboratory in Agricultural Hall on the campus at Stillwater. The price list below gives some of the options from which producers may choose to best fit their situation. There are other commercial laboratories available that also do an excellent job of forage analysis.
Forage Analysis Price list from OSU Soil, Water, and Forage Testing Laboratory
|Protein only||Protein and Moisture Only||$8.00|
|Basic Analysis||Protein and Moisture, ADF, TDN, Net Energy for: Gain, Lactation, Maintenance||$14.00|
|Basic Plus Energy Plus Relative Feed Value (RFV)||Protein, Moisture, ADF, TDN, Energy, NDF –(Neutral Detergent Fiber), RFV – Relative Feed Value (Alfalfa Only)||$20.00|
|Nitrate Toxicity||Nitrate and Moisture||$6.00|
Cow-Calf Corner is a weekly newsletter by the Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Agency.