March 20, 2017
Seasonal strength and more in cattle and beef markets
by Derrell S. Peel, Oklahoma State University Extension livestock marketing specialist
Fed cattle and boxed beef markets have rallied nicely the past month. After a strong January, fed cattle prices dropped below $120/cwt. in February before the recent rally. Mid-March live fed cattle prices pushed up to $128/cwt. with some trades over $130/cwt. reported. Choice boxed beef has increased from a February low below $188/cwt. to a recent high over $223/cwt. There is no clear indication that the rally is over but a top or at least a plateau in these markets is likely soon before markets move seasonally lower in the second quarter.
The rally has been all the more impressive given that we are in a growing supply situation. Cattle slaughter is up over 4.5 percent year over year with beef production up 3.7 percent for the year to date. The latest carcass weights for steers are down 12 pounds from the same date last year with heifer carcasses down 13 pounds from one year ago. Despite growing feedlot placements in recent months, aggressive feedlot marketings have kept feedlots current with beef moving crisply through market pipelines.
It is possible that the current market strength is more than just a seasonal first quarter price rally. Domestic beef demand appears to be continuing stronger though March data are not yet available. However, February retail beef prices were stronger with both retail Choice and all fresh beef prices higher. The ratio of retail all fresh beef price to poultry price increased in February despite a slight increase in poultry prices, as well. Retail pork prices were also higher in February. The latest trade data from January showed that beef exports were up 20.9 percent and beef imports were down 24.7 percent. It appears that both domestic demand and international trade has continued to support beef wholesale markets through the first quarter.
Feeder cattle markets have held mostly steady since January though stocker margins have adjusted down with slight increases in calf prices combined with slight decreases in heavy feeder prices. Continued stocker demand for wheat grazeout will soon be replaced with summer grazing demand. However, emerging drought conditions in the middle of the country and reemerging drought in the southeast are a potential concern that must be monitored closely in the next 30-60 days. Cull cow prices have increased seasonally this winter. March cull cow prices in Oklahoma are up nearly 20 percent from November prices, consistent with typical seasonal increases from the fall lows.
I’ve had a number of questions about the impact of the fires in the Southern Plains. Though animal losses are still being determined, the numbers of cows, calves and other animals lost in the fires will not likely have any noticeable impact on market prices. That said, I drove through part of the burned area last week and the impact to the families and operations directly involved is tremendous. The loss of animals, fence, pasture and hay is a devastating burden on ranches; all of which pales in comparison to the loss of human life. As long as drought conditions do not persist or expand, the country should recover rather quickly this spring. Having lived close to this area in the past I know that the people are hardy and resilient folks that will recover as well but the emotional and economic healing will take more time.
Comparing weaning dates for fall calving cows
by Glenn Selk, Oklahoma State University Emeritus Extension animal scientist
Producers with fall-calving herds have traditionally weaned the calves at 9 to 10 months of age. When forage growth is limited due to drought, questions arise about the feasibility of weaning the calves at an earlier date. The effect on the cow as well as weaning weight of the calf must be considered when the impact of the weaning date is considered.
Oklahoma State University animal scientists evaluated weaning dates of 158 Angus fall-calving cows over a 4-year period. Cows were allowed to nurse their calves for about 210 days (April Weaning) or 300 days (July Weaning). All cows calved in September or October and were weaned in mid-April (April Wean) or mid-July (July Wean). April-weaned young cows had greater re-breeding percentages (98.4 percent versus 89.3 percent) than July weaned young cows. However, there was no advantage in the re-breeding performance of April-weaned mature cows compared to July-weaned mature cows (90.2 percent versus 96.7 percent). April-weaned cows were heavier and fleshier at calving than July weaned cows.
Calves weaned in July were 90 days older and 204 pounds heavier (642 lb versus 438 lb) when weaned than were the April-weaned calves. The April-weaned calves were allowed to graze native pasture after weaning and weighed 607 pounds in mid July. For most years, it appears more advantageous to delay weaning of calves born to cows 4 years or older to July while maintaining April weaning for cows 3 years of age or younger. Ongoing drought conditions (or burned pastures) in some areas of the Southern Plains very well may suggest the earlier weaning date could be considered for all ages of cows. Source: Hudson and co-workers. Journal of Anim. Sci. 2010 vol. 88:1577.
Cow-Calf Corner is a newsletter by the Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Agency.
March 20, 2017