Growth and change in the Mexican cattle and beef industry
By Derrell S. Peel, Oklahoma State University Extension livestock marketing specialist
The Mexican cattle and beef industry has evolved rapidly in the past decade. Most notable is the expansion of beef exports from Mexico after 2009. Mexican beef exports ranked tenth in the world by 2015 although recent growth in Argentinian beef exports in 2018 may push Mexico slightly out of the top ten list of exporting countries. Growth in Mexican beef exports has been the result of expanded feedlot production, increased federally-inspected slaughter and, most importantly, adoption of boxed beef fabricating technology. Beef carcass weights in Mexico have increased steadily over the past decade.
The U.S. is the biggest market for Mexican beef exports, accounting for 89 percent of total exports in 2017. Mexico is attempting to develop a more diverse set of exports markets, partly the result of natural market growth and partly the result of uncertainty surrounding U.S. trade policy and NAFTA. Mexico is attempting to regain access to Russia and to expand beef exports to China as well as expanded exports to Muslim markets with Halal certification. Mexico was the third largest source of U.S. beef imports in 2017, accounting for 19.2 percent of imports behind Australia (23.2 percent) and Canada (24.7 percent) and just ahead of New Zealand (18.6 percent).
Mexico is a significant importer of beef as well and is projected to be the eleventh largest beef importing country in 2018, just behind Canada. Mexico is a major market for U.S. beef exports, representing 14.7 percent of total beef exports in 2017, behind Japan (28.9 percent) and South Korea (16.5 percent) and ahead of Canada (10.9 percent). Mexico, in recent years, much like the U.S. and Canada have for many years, has significant bilateral flows of beef exports and imports. These represent flows of different mixes of beef products all moving to higher values in various markets. This is markets doing what they do best with the result of maximizing the value of beef production in each market simultaneously.
Mexico has exported about 1.1 million head of feeder cattle annually to the U.S. for the past 30 years. In 2017, total U.S. imports of Mexican cattle were 1.2 million, close to the long term average but up 23.3 percent from 2016. Current USDA-FAS projections for 2018 include a slight increase in Mexican cattle exports but the preliminary weekly data through early March shows a 13 percent year over year decrease for the year to date. Mexican cattle exports are determined by overall cattle numbers in Mexico, U.S. and Mexican market conditions and drought conditions. Continued growth in beef production in Mexico may ultimately lead to fewer live cattle exports from the country.
I am writing this from Chihuahua, Mexico, and have been traveling the past few days in parts of the northern region of the country. It is typically dry here this time of year, but the drought monitor map shows that drought conditions currently seen in the southwest U.S. extend down western Mexico across the states of Sonora and Sinaloa, as well as the western parts of Chihuahua and Durango. This includes areas of moderate to extreme drought that go beyond normal conditions of the dry season. Additional dryness is found in central Mexico.
In Chihuahua, the rainy season runs from late June into October. Cattle producers typically have to manage through five months of rainy season and seven months of dry season each year.
Bull management prior to the breeding season
By Glenn Selk, Oklahoma State University Emeritus Extension animal scientist
Before the breeding season begins, a few simple management procedures involving the bulls can increase the likelihood of a high pregnancy percentage among the cows.
Any rancher that purchases a young, highly fitted or conditioned bull should plan to gradually reduce the fleshiness of the bull before the breeding season. To let these bulls down, it is a good practice to start them on a ration that is not too dissimilar to the one to which they have been accustomed, but that the concentrate portion is 60 to 70 percent of their previous intake. The amount of grain can be reduced at the rate of about 10 percent per week until the desired level is achieved.
At the same time, substitutions should be made in the form of quality forages–such as high quality grass hay or alfalfa hay. Ideally, this letdown should be completed prior to the time bulls are turned out. Dramatic nutritional changes can have an adverse effect on semen production, so it is important that these ration modifications be done gradually. Producers need to try to keep the total diet of these young bulls at, or near, 12 percent crude protein. Therefore, the forage needs to be excellent quality. Allow the change of diets to take place gradually, instead of allowing a rapid condition and weight loss during the first of the breeding season, which could be reflected in a reduced calf crop next year.
Other bull management strategies include the following:
- Check the feet and have hoof trimming completed at least 30 days prior to the start of the breeding season to avoid lame or sore-footed bulls at the important beginning of the breeding season.
- In multi-sire pastures, make certain that the bulls that will be pastured together have been in a common trap or pasture prior to the breeding season. Bulls WILL establish a social hierarchy. It is better to get this done before the breeding season begins rather than wait until they are first placed with the cows.
- Put young bulls with young bulls and mature bulls with mature bulls. Mixing the ages will result in the mature bull dominating the younger bull completely, and in some instances causing a serious injury. If the plan is to rotate bulls during the breeding season, then use the mature bulls first, and follow with the yearling bulls in the last third of the breeding season. In this way, the young bulls will have fewer cows to settle, and will be 1 – 2 months older when they start breeding.