June 8, 2020
Protein trade themes
By Derrell S. Peel, Oklahoma State University Extension livestock marketing specialist
The latest trade data reveals several trade themes and impacts of recent events. April beef exports were 3.4% lower year over year but are up 6.9% for the January to April total. Beef imports were fractionally lower in April and are up 3.3% for the year to date. Total cattle imports were down 9.5% in April and are down 7.3% so far this year. Pork exports were up 22.3% in April and are up 35.2% for the year to date. Broiler exports were up 7.6% in April and are 7.8% higher year over year for the January to April period.
China continues to struggle with the impacts of African Swine Fever (ASF) and the resulting protein shortages. This is supporting U.S. protein exports. With pork as the preferred meat, pork exports to China continue very strong. April pork exports to China were up 365.2% with year-to-date exports to China up 458.2% year over year. China has replaced Mexico as the leading pork export market, accounting for 30.4% of total pork exports so far this year.
China is importing other proteins as well. Broiler exports to China jumped sharply in April and accounted for 12.9% of total broiler exports.
U.S. beef exports to China remain small, but are growing. Beef exports to China were up 95.1% year-over-year in April and are up 38.7% thus far this year. China accounts for 1.0% of total beef exports for the year to date.
Mexico is struggling with harsh recessionary economic conditions and COVID-19 impacts. Mexico is the largest export destination for U.S. broiler exports. April broiler exports to Mexico were even with one year ago and are up 12.5% for the year to date. As noted above, Mexico has dropped to second as destination for U.S. pork exports. April pork exports to Mexico were down 16.8% year over year but are still 5.3% higher for the year to date. Beef exports to Mexico dropped dramatically by 61.7% in April contributing to a 22.0% decrease so far in 2020.
April beef imports were up from New Zealand (+28.2% year over year) and Mexico (+8.9%) but down from Australia (-15.6%) and Canada (-26.5%) compared to one year ago. Beef exports to Japan continue to improve, reflecting the restoration of a competitive tariff situation this year. April beef exports to Japan were up 43.2% with year-to-date exports up 23.6%.
Considerable uncertainty remains in the U.S. and global markets going forward. While domestic protein markets continue to sort out the COVID-19 and recessionary impacts, meat trade is generally offering a much needed bright spot across all protein industries.
One calving season versus two calving seasons
By Glenn Selk, Oklahoma State University Emeritus Extension animal scientist
Southern Plains producers have many alternatives for calving seasons. Spring and fall are the seasons of choice. Traditionally, many herds have been bred to calve in February and March. Some fall calving seasons have arisen from elongated spring seasons or were initiated by “rolling over” females that failed to become pregnant in the spring breeding season. Most fall calving herds were created by design to take advantage of improved cow condition at calving, improved market conditions when calves and cull cows are sold, and less weather (heat) stress on cows and bulls during the breeding season.
Deciding on the use of one calving season or two calving seasons is a big first decision when commercial producers are choosing calving seasons. Two calving seasons fits best for herds with more than 80 cows. To take full advantage of the economies of scale, a ranch needs to produce at least 20 steer calves in the same season to realize the price advantage associated with increased lot size. Therefore, having forty cows in each season as a minimum seems to make some sense.
Using two seasons instead of just one can reduce bull costs a great deal. Properly developed and cared-for bulls can be used in both the fall and the spring, therefore reducing the bull battery by about half. If bulls are used twice per year, they must be given adequate nutrition to maintain body condition and should be required to pass a breeding soundness exam at least yearly.
Another small advantage to having two calving seasons is the capability of taking fall-born heifers and holding them another few months to go in to the spring season and vice versa. Because of this, replacement heifers are always 2 1/2 years at first calving instead of two years old. These heifers should be more likely to breed early in the breeding season and have slightly less calving difficulty. Research (Goodrich, et al., 1985 OSU Research Report) has shown that these differences are very small, therefore the cost of the other six months feed must be minimal to make this a paying proposition.
A disadvantage to breeding heifers to calve at 30 months is found when “open” heifers are culled. They are too old to go the feedlot and produce high grading carcasses. Therefore, the older heifers will be discounted (price per pound) when marketed after an unsuccessful attempt to get them bred.
Some producers like the dual calving seasons because of the spread of the marketing risk. Having half of the calf crop sold at two different times allows for some smoothing of the cattle market roller coaster ride. It is important that an adequate number of calves be born together to a make a marketable package that will not be discounted because of small lot size.
Labor requirements and increased pastures must also be considered. More days of the calendar year are involved with checking cows and heifers during the calving season if split seasons are utilized. Fall calving often conflicts with wheat planting during September or October. More pastures are required to keep cows in the same stage of production together when there are two calving seasons. Non-lactating cows need less energy and protein than do lactating cows to maintain body condition. Feeding both together would be very inefficient.
There are advantages and disadvantages to a split calving season. Having a split calving season is NOT for everybody, but may be an alternative for some Southern Plains producers.
Cow-Calf Corner is a newsletter by the Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Agency