Despite rain, Upper Gulf Coast Ranch Expo draws large crowd

Debt to finance herd expansion, pasture management tips covered

Writer: Blair Fannin, 979-845-2259, b-fannin@tamu.edu

SIMONTON – It was déjà vu all over again as it rained and rained some more – so much, in fact, that it canceled bus tours of Twinwood Cattle Co. for the second year in a row at the recent Upper Gulf Coast Ranch Expo.

Despite the weather, it didn’t stop expo presentations from being held underneath cover.

“Y’all are an important part of what we do here (in Fort Bend County),” said Fort Bend County Judge Dr. Robert Hebert. “I hope it rains all day and quits before you go home so you have a nice, dry drive home.”

The rain ended near the completion of the day’s program that drew 150 cattle producers who gathered to hear the latest about cow herd expansion and use of debt finance, livestock lease agreements, alternative horticulture ideas and other topics addressed by Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service experts.

Dr. Levi Russell, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service economist, Corpus Christi, discusses trends in the cattle market and using debt to finance herd expansion. (Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service photo by Blair Fannin)

Dr. Levi Russell, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service economist, Corpus Christi, discusses trends in the cattle market and using debt to finance herd expansion. (Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service photo by Blair Fannin)

Demand for beef has increased over the last couple of years, said Dr. Levi Russell, AgriLife Extension economist, Corpus Christi.

“This is a good thing,” Russell said. “The last time we saw a significant increase was when the Atkins diet was popular.”

The audience was noticeably attentive to a couple of charts Russell posted, revealing a continued upward climb in feeder cattle prices through 2015, eclipsing historic prices already set in 2014.

“We’ve already seen a substantial increase in price over 2013 and it appears we will continue this trend into 2015 before it starts to fall off a bit,” he said. “What this is showing us is that it takes quite a bit of time to rebuild herds.”

Nationwide average feeder cattle prices are projected to top $185 per hundredweight in 2015, according to Food and Agricultural Policy Research Institute data, Russell said.

“Retail beef is at an all-time high and people are continuing to pay a lot of money for beef,” he said.

Russell said the Federal Reserve is expected to keep interest rates low, keeping borrowing costs at historic lows. This gives beef cattle producers looking to expand herds a financing alternative.

To help producers with decisions, Russell demonstrated the Cow Bid Price Estimator.

The spreadsheet tool allows a cattle producer to evaluate returns after expenses on the price paid for a cow. It also allows a variety of data to be entered  and return results up to six years. The tool can be found at http://agecoext.tamu.edu/resources/software-tools/ .

Meanwhile, Dr. Joe Paschal, AgriLife Extension livestock specialist, Corpus Christi, discussed a variety of beef cattle management tips for producers to consider. Pasture management and grazing systems were at the top of the list, advising producers to promote forage growth and reduce supplementation using appropriate stocking rates and resting pastures.

He said stockpiling hay is an option to consider, helping to minimize feed expense and make hay purchases stretch further during the winter months.

Paschal also advised cattle producers to use the long-term weather outlook to their  advantage.

Dr. Joe Paschal, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service beef cattle specialist, Corpus Christi, provided cattle producers with several management strategies to incorporate into their operations. (Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service photo by Blair Fannin)

Dr. Joe Paschal, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service beef cattle specialist, Corpus Christi, provided cattle producers with several management strategies to incorporate into their operations. (Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service photo by Blair Fannin)

“Look ahead,” he said. “Know what your average rainfall is for your area or region. Have some type of plan so you will know what to expect when it comes to stocking rates and the amount of feed resources you will need.”

Calf management was another aspect he discussed, stressing the importance of castration, dehorning and keeping good records. He added that maintaining  a good client relationship with a local veterinarian is a plus, especially when those services are needed in emergency situations, such as when a cow is having trouble calving.

Paschal advised when selling calves to transport them on a cool day and in a clean trailer with a smooth road.

“The best time is the day of the sale or the night before,” he said.

Financial management was another area of discussion. Paschal said cattle producers need to know their cost of production per cow, per calf and per pound of calf sold.

“There are a lot of opportunities to make money in the cattle business right now,” Paschal said. “Exports of beef continue to climb and help support this market.”

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