‘Out-of sight’ beef prices pose opportunity for those with grass
Writer: Robert Burns, 903-834-6191, firstname.lastname@example.org
COLLEGE STATION — Record high cattle and beef prices are actually making rebuilding herds a good bet, at least for some beef cattle producers, according to a Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service expert.
“’Out of sight’ is a good term for the prices,” said Dr. David Anderson, AgriLife Extension specialist in livestock and food products marketing. “And it doesn’t really matter whether we’re talking about retail prices to consumers, the wholesale beef market or at sale barns for calves and feeder steers.”
Both choice and select wholesale prices continue to set new record highs, with choice taking more than $248 per hundredweight, according to Anderson.
“We sold fed cattle last week in the Panhandle at $158 per hundredweight,” he said. “Lightweight calves were selling roughly at $2.75 per pound, and 750-pound feeder steers at $2.15 to $2.20.”
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But contrary to what might be thought—that the high prices for calves and replacement heifers would discourage herd rebuilding—the out-of-sight, across-the-board record prices are encouraging rebuilding herds in some areas, Anderson said.
This is because while there has been relief from the drought in some beef-producing areas, there hasn’t been in others, Anderson explained. The fickleness of the drought, coupled with historically low beef cattle inventories, is making rebuilding herds a good investment – even with record-high prices.
The high prices for wholesale beef, and the prospect that they aren’t going to go down anytime soon, creates a good opportunity for those who have been getting rain, he said.
“We still have significant areas both in the state and the U.S. that are still drought affected, who still aren’t able to really start that rebuilding process,” Anderson said. “But in areas where there’s been enough rainfall and there is enough grass, then I think we’ve got some attempts at rebuilding herds underway already.”
To help producers work out the economics of rebuilding beef cattle herds, Anderson has PDF and spreadsheet files available online at:
http://agecoext.tamu.edu/ . Click on “Resources,” then “Software.”
More information on the current Texas drought and wildfire alerts can be found on the AgriLife Extension Agricultural Drought Task Force website at http://agrilife.tamu.edu/drought/ .
AgriLife Extension district reporters compiled the following summaries:
Central: Soil moisture was rated good, as were overall rangeland and pasture conditions. Crops were mostly rated in good condition, as were livestock. Producers were harvesting large amounts of hay, both from dryland and irrigated fields. There was a lot of grass on the ground, curing, with many producers getting a second cutting. Hot, dry weather was forecast for the next week, which should enable the hay harvest to proceed. Some armyworm damage was reported; grasshopper damage was higher. Crops were responding well to warmer temperatures and recent rains. Stock pond water was still limited in some areas. Some areas reported cotton received more moisture than was optimal.
Coastal Bend: The sorghum harvest began with good yields reported. Recent rains benefited cotton. Early planted corn was expected to be ready for harvest in the next few weeks. Crops and rangeland were in fair condition. However, some areas were drying out and there were no forecasts of rain soon.
East: Growing conditions remained good around the region, except for Wood County, which has been passed over by the rains much of the rest of the district received in the last month. The rest of the region has had substantial rains — too much in some instances. Houston County reported standing water in fields, and producers there were unable to get hay cut or spray for pests. Most other counties reported better-than-average forage growth, with fields producing enormous amounts of hay. Many producers were already taking third or fourth cuttings. The wet, cloudy weather resulted in some disease problems in some vegetable crops. Otherwise, fruit and vegetable yields were high with excellent quality. Local farmers markets were doing great business. Where there was standing water, mosquito and fly activity was extremely high. Armyworm and grasshopper infestations were also reported. Cattle markets remained strong with cattle prices at record highs. Cattle were in good to excellent condition. Feral hogs were active.
Far West: The weather continued to be hot, windy and dry, with the exceptions of Presidio County, which got 0.5 inch to 1.5 inches of rain, and El Paso County, which received 1.5 inches. Subsoil and topsoil moisture ranged from adequate to very short. Pastures and rangeland were in very poor condition, cotton in fair to good condition, and sorghum, poor to good.
North: Topsoil moisture throughout the region was mostly adequate with only a few counties reporting shortages. All but Rains and Van Zandt counties reported scattered showers. Daytime highs ranged in the mid-90s, with nighttime temperatures in the low 70s. Crops were faring well, and the wheat harvest was complete. Hay harvesting was ongoing in Kaufman County. Mild weather helped keep livestock in good condition. Ponds and lakes were filling up. Grasshopper populations were increasing in many counties. Feral hog damage reports continued in Camp County, while Kaufman reported a decrease in hog sightings.
Panhandle: Temperatures were below average for most of the week but warmed to near normal by the weekend. Soil moisture continued to be rated short to adequate, with reports of adequate being more common. The wheat harvest resumed after interruptions due to rain. Cotton needed more heat units; in some areas it was at least two weeks behind schedule. Hail and high winds took out many acres of the cotton in some areas. Deaf Smith County producers were trying to finish planting grain sorghum, sorghum-Sudan hybrids and some late sunflowers. Corn was somewhat behind in development, with very little tasseling as yet. The wheat harvest was completed or almost completed, with producers going into fields to control weeds as soon as it was finished. Rangeland and pastures continued to improve. Cattle were in good condition. Horn fly numbers rose due to wetter conditions.
Rolling Plains: Rains during the past few days really greened up parts of the district. There were reports of as much as 4 inches in some areas. More rain was needed to recharge aquifers and the Wichita Falls watershed, and fill tanks and lakes. Rangeland and pastures were in good condition, the best seen at this time of year since 2010. The ongoing hay harvest was resulting in fair to good yields. Livestock remained in good to excellent condition. Cotton planting neared completion. Earlier planted cotton looked good. Some grain sorghum was planted. In Parker County, the peach harvest was underway. Grasshoppers were thick in some areas.
South: High temperatures coupled with high winds continued throughout the region. Light scattered showers were reported in the northern and southern parts of the region. The rest of the region hat hot to extremely hot temperatures which were rapidly drying out rangeland and pastures, as well as depleting subsoil and topsoil moisture. In the northern part of the region, soil moisture was 50 to 100 percent short. Corn was 100 percent silked and doughing, with 90 percent of the crop dented and 45 percent mature. Cotton was in fair condition with 95 percent of the crop setting bolls. Peanuts were also in fair condition with 95 percent planted. In Frio County, watermelons were being harvested, and farmers had to irrigate all crops due to the lack of rain. Sorghum was progressing well with 80 percent. Supplemental feeding of livestock continued at a steady pace. Rangeland and pastures remained in fair to poor shape. In the eastern part of the district, soil moisture was mostly short with the exception of parts of Jim Wells County, which received good rains in the last few weeks. Soil moisture in those areas was 50 percent adequate, and rangeland, pastures and crops were in fair condition. Cotton and sorghum in the Kleberg/Kenedy County area were both in good condition. In the western part of the district, good rains maintained soil moisture in some areas, while the hot, windy weather resulted in short levels elsewhere. The watermelon and onion harvests were ongoing, pecans were progressing well and corn was mostly at the dent or later maturing stages. Cotton was setting bolls and sorghum was turning color. In Webb County, ranchers were lightly restocking herds and providing moderate supplemental feeding to cattle. In Zavala County, supplemental feed was not needed due to good forage on grazing. In the southern part of the region, some areas received as much as 2 to 3 inches of rain. Cotton was in good condition with 25 percent setting bolls and 95 percent squaring. In Starr County, the grain sorghum harvest began, and row crops were progressing well. Rangeland and pastures remained mostly in good to fair condition.
South Plains: Several counties reported more rain, from 0.5 inch to 4 inches. Cochran County peanuts were doing very well, with most fields in bloom and beginning to set pegs. Cotton there was averaging 10 total nodes, with the average first fruiting branch at node seven. Corn was in various stages of development. Limited whorl feeding by larvae was reported. All other crops were in good condition including pasture and rangeland. Livestock were mostly in good condition with no supplemental feeding reported. Cotton was generally doing very well. Hale County producers began harvesting wheat; some were replanting failed or hail- damaged cotton to small grains. Some producers were having a hard time controlling weeds. Insect pressure was light.
Southeast: Soil-moisture levels throughout the region were mostly in the adequate range, though one county reported 100 percent very short and another 100 percent adequate. Rangeland and pasture ratings varied widely too, from excellent to poor, with good ratings being the most common. Hay production was delayed due to wet weather. Brazoria County received periodic rains, and pastures were in good condition with many hay fields needing to be cut. Livestock were in good condition. The rice crop was progressing rapidly in Chambers County. The warm and sunny days allowed rice to catch up from a late, slow start. As rice moved from the boot stage into heading, there were reports of disease. Farmers will likely be treating with fungicides in the coming weeks. In Montgomery County, rains hampered hay harvest and were excessive for optimal vegetable production. Pastures were in good shape. Orange County received scattered showers.
Southwest: Hot and windy weather continued, with generally dry conditions interrupted by scattered showers. Current conditions remained favorable for row crops, fruits and vegetables, livestock forages and pastures. Peaches and vegetables production was in full swing, with good tourist and local market sales. Grasshopper populations increased to levels economically justifying treatment. White-winged doves were causing some damage to grain sorghum in some areas. Conditions for livestock and wildlife improved.
West Central: Generally, hot, dry and windy conditions persisted all week throughout the region. A few areas had scattered showers. Soil moisture remained good, but more rain was needed soon to get through the hot July days. Farmers continued with field activities. Cotton planting was mostly completed, with good emergence on already planted fields. There were few insect-related problems reported. Row crop farmers were busy spraying weeds. Hay and forages were in good to excellent condition. Hay producers were busy cutting and baling, with average to just-above-average yields reported. Some producers were cutting early planted sorghum for hay. Grain sorghum was maturing and starting to color with only few significant insect issues, such as headworms and stink bugs. Rangeland and pastures continued to rebound. Conditions for grass growth remained good in most areas, but growth was starting to slow down due to the hot and windy conditions drying out soil moisture. Livestock remained in good condition, but numbers were still low. A few producers were restocking. Stock water tanks needed more runoff. Horn flies continued to be a problem on livestock.