March 1, 2021
U.S. Beef Export Situation and Update
By Derrell S. Peel, Oklahoma State University Extension livestock marketing specialist
U.S. beef exports totaled 2,566.7 million pounds in 2020, down 2.3 percent from the previous year but still the third largest annual beef export total. The COVID-19 pandemic caused sharp disruptions in beef exports at times during the year with monthly exports down over 30 percent year over year in May and June. However, exports recovered by year-end with combined November and December beef exports up 12.6 percent year over year. Figure 1 shows the shares of U.S. beef exports in 2020.
Japan is the largest market for U.S. beef, increasing by 3.7 percent in 2020, to the second highest level ever, after declining in 2019 from the 2018 all-time peak. South Korea has been the fastest growing beef market in recent years in terms of total volume and has been the second largest beef export market since 2016. Beef exports to South Korea decreased by 2.1 percent in 2020 from the 2019 peak. Japan and South Korea combined to account for 51 percent of total beef exports in 2020.
Mexico was the third largest U.S. beef export market from 2014-2019 but dropped sharply in 2020 due pandemic impacts and macroeconomic weakness. Total exports to Mexico were down 24.7 percent year over year in 2020. Beef exports to Mexico were down an average of more than 56 percent year over year for each of the months from April-September but finished the year strong with November and December exports up by 50.7 percent year over year.
Combined beef exports to China and Hong Kong increased 28.8 percent to become the third largest destination for U.S. Though the data for China and Hong Kong are reported separately, it is important to look at the total for the two since they are effectively one market now. Individually, beef exports to China increased by 271.0 percent year over year in 2020, more than offsetting a 4.7 percent year over year decrease in beef exports to Hong Kong.
Beef exports to Canada increased 6.8 percent in 2020 from the previous year and is the fifth largest beef export market. Taiwan is the number six market for U.S. beef and was unchanged from year earlier levels in 2020. Beef exports to Taiwan jumped sharply in 2018, adding to an increasingly diverse portfolio of export markets for U.S. beef. The remaining 10 percent of beef exports includes small amounts to 120 different countries. Most of this remaining total includes exports to a broad set of countries such as the Philippines, Indonesia, the Netherlands, Chile, Guatemala, Singapore, Columbia and the Bahamas.
U.S. beef exports are expected to increase modestly in 2021 to reach the second highest level behind the 2018 export record. Keys to export growth include continued growth in exports to the China/Hong Kong market and recovery of beef exports to Mexico.
2020 Total Beef Exports: 2,955.7 Million Pounds
Do You Have Ample Bull Power for Breeding Season?
By Mark Z. Johnson, Oklahoma State University Extension beef cattle breeding specialist
After the brutal cold weather of mid-February, it’s hard to believe that breeding season is just around the corner. For herds that plan to begin calving next January, breeding season begins in April. With that in mind, it’s time to plan and manage bulls for breeding season. This week we address bull to female ratios for breeding season.
The three major goals of any breeding season should be:
- Get cows settled as early in the breeding season as possible.
- Get cows bred to bulls with highest possible genetic value.
- Achieve both as economically as possible by getting cows bred to fewest possible bulls
A defined breeding season is important to permit meaningful record keeping, timely management and profit potential. Maintaining a 60-to 75-day breeding and calving season can be one of the most important management tools for cow calf producers. A uniform, heavier calf crop is an important reason to keep the breeding season short. Getting cows bred earlier results in calves born earlier. Missing an estrus cycle of a single cow is a significant financial loss in calf weight gain the following year. The extra 21 days until the next heat cycle translates into a younger calf at weaning that is 40 to 50 pounds lighter. Spread over several cows the losses can grow quickly. In addition, more efficient cow supplementation and effective herd health programs are a product of a short breeding season. How do we get more cows settled earlier in the breeding season? By having adequate bull power on hand to get cows pregnant.
How Many Bulls Do I Need?
Can be answered with another question: How many cows should I expect my bull to cover? Depending on the age of your bull or bulls, and assuming bulls have passed a breeding soundness examination (BSE), the general rule of thumb is to place about as many cows/heifers with a young bull as his age in months. For example, a bull that is 12 months old should be able to cover about 12 cows in his first breeding season. An 18-month-old bull should be able to settle 18 or 19 cows. While a two-year-old bull could be expected to cover up to 25 cows. Mature bulls normally should be expected to cover 25 to 35 cows per season. Remember there is normal “prime of life “ for breeding bull. They need be sound, fit, and athletic to cover terrain and settle cows. Bulls past the age of six are more likely to break down.
It is beneficial that bulls to be combined in multi-sire pastures are penned together for at least a few weeks prior to turnout to allow time for a pecking order to be established. This also leaves enough time to secure replacements if injury occurs prior to turnout. Injuries occurring during breeding season can spell economic disaster if bulls aren’t getting cows bred.
Breeding Soundness Exams
It is suggested to have all bulls undergo a Breeding Soundness Exam (BSE) prior to turnout. With the prolonged period of frozen ground in Oklahoma this winter increasing the likelihood of frost bite, BSEs are particularly important to eliminate problems going into the spring 2021 breeding season. A BSE includes a semen test as well as a physical exam of the entire reproductive tract, eyes, feet and legs, and teeth (if an older bull).
In Appreciation of Dr. Glenn Selk: The Cowboy Rides Away
By Paul Beck, Oklahoma State University Extension Beef Cattle nutrition specialist
Dr. Selk and the Cow-Calf Corner franchise have been a cornerstone of the Oklahoma State University Department of Animal and Food Sciences and Oklahoma agriculture for decades. When we were approached with the prospect that Glenn was hanging up his spurs and had to come up with a way to keep Cow-Calf Corner going, there was a collective silence as we realized it would be very difficult to replace a legend in Oklahoma Cooperative Extension and no single person felt adequate to the task of the Cow-Calf Corner segment on the Sunup television program and the Cow-Calf Corner newsletter. I believe we came up with the perfect solution, since no one person could accomplish this we decided the talents of the rest of the group could be combined to fill this need and possibly expand the types of information offered.
Dr. Mark Johnson, renown animal breeder and livestock judge of the Department of Animal and Food Science, will take over as the ‘Face’ of the Cow-Calf Corner on the Sunup TV segment. I decided to help Dr. Peel with the Cow-Calf Corner newsletter, but there will be several changes. We will still offer Dr. Peel’s market commentary as the lead article for each newsletter, along with an article that will also be covered on the Sunup Cow-Calf Corner segment authored by Dr. Johnson or a guest host, a third article will be included on another topic of interest from myself or a guest writer.
I think the ultimate expression of Dr. Selk’s value as an educator is the continuation of the programs he initiated and the difficulty in replacing him. I know we will still see him at OSU Cowboy sporting events, but will miss his presence at the office each week!