Texas Crop and Weather Report — Feb. 28

Cattle prices on the rise with beef demand

COLLEGE STATION – Cattle market prices have been on the rise as feedlots and meat packers try to keep up with demand, said a Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service expert.

Recent rises in cattle prices have been due to various market conditions from the pasture to the grill, said Dr. David Anderson, AgriLife Extension economist, College Station.

Cattle market prices have reacted in a positive way for producers recently as a result of high retail and consumer demand for beef products. (Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service photo by Kay Ledbetter)

“Fed cattle prices are up some due to good foreign and domestic demand,” he said. “The demand for live fed cattle has increased from feedlots and meat packers that are seeing good profits as supermarkets feature beef products and consumers respond to those lower prices at stores.”

Anderson said fed cattle prices at feedlots have likely affected calf prices at sale barns around the state. Fed cattle prices increased $4 to $5 per hundred weight since last week.

“We’re seeing a spring rally in fed cattle prices,” he said.

The supply and demand chain that likely caused the price increases starts with consumers, Anderson said. Consumers are finding reasonable prices from grocers who are featuring sales on beef products.

Even the weather, including above-average temperatures and below-average rain, may be factoring into better sale prices for producers as consumers kick off grilling season earlier than usual, he said.

Demand from grocers translated into urgent supply needs from meat packers who were willing to pay higher prices at feedlots for ready-fed beef cattle, he said. That demand pressed feedlots to have more fed cattle on hand to meet those demands.

“They’re stepping up and paying higher prices because of demand,” he said.

Some calves are sold to graze on forages where they will add weight until they are sold to feedlots and eventually meat packers, but some calves are being sold directly to feedlots.

Anderson said the rise in prices is an early indication of the spring price rally that typically peaks around April. More beef is being produced than this time last year.

“The rally is tremendous for the market as we head into grilling season,” he said.

AgriLife Extension district reporters compiled the following summaries:

CENTRAL: Counties received good rains the last two reporting periods, and soil moisture was much better. Temperatures were from highs in the 90s down to lows in the 40s. Some spring planting was done. Some pastures greened up. Livestock were in good condition. Supplemental feeding was still necessary for cattle on rangeland. Winter grains were progressing nicely. Winter wheat made good progress. Warm-season grasses started to re-emerge, and plants were budding. Pastures looked good for the most part. Corn planting started. Some wheat rust and septoria leaf spot was observed. Some pasture conditions remained poor, but Bermuda grass was beginning to break dormancy. Many ornamental plants, fruit trees and shrubs were budding or blooming.  Most counties reported good soil moisture. Most crops, rangeland and pastures were in good condition. Overall livestock conditions were good in all counties.

ROLLING PLAINS: Up to 3 inches of rain was reported in some areas. The rain and warmer weather created conditions where wheat was growing faster than cattle could graze. Landowners in areas that did not receive moisture were concerned about the growing threat of wildfires. The abundance of dead forage was present in those areas as grasses began to emerge. Farmers began preparing fields for this year’s crop and were pleased with the subsoil moisture. Some producers sprayed for green bugs. Livestock were in good condition.

COASTAL BEND: Heavy rainfall from the prior reporting period left some fields saturated. Excess moisture delayed corn planting in some areas, while crops were emerging in other areas. Fruit and citrus trees were beginning to bloom. Pastures were in good condition. Livestock were doing well and continued to be fed protein and hay.

EAST: Several counties received storms and rainfall. Stock ponds were full in Cherokee County. Pasture conditions continued to improve with rain and warmer temperatures. Pasture and rangeland conditions ranged from very poor in Anderson County to excellent in Rusk and Marion counties. Most counties reported good conditions. Subsoil and topsoil conditions were mostly adequate. Grasses and weeds were greening up. Ryegrass and clover continued to make good growth in Polk County. Winter pastures were in good shape in Shelby County, but were not looking good in Wood County after some very warm days. About two-thirds of the corn fields in Anderson County were planted. Bottomland was still too wet to plant. Vegetable growers were planting and preparing land. Farmers were preparing sites for spring gardens in Smith County. In Marion County, gardens were already starting to grow. Soil tests were being performed on lawns, gardens and pastures. Insect and disease issues were being seen on ornamental plants. Peach growers were getting equipment ready to begin spray programs. Farmers were still hoping to get enough cold weather for fruit crops as chill hours were low this year. Pecan growers completed dormant oil treatments. Livestock were in fair to good condition. Producers continued to feed hay and supplements. Cows were slowing down on hay intake and were grazing more. Spring calving continued. Light numbers were reported at the Shelby County sale barn, but cattle prices were up slightly. Prices were holding steady in Gregg County. Producers were already seeing a few horn flies in Anderson County. Wild pigs continued to be a problem.

SOUTH PLAINS: The district experienced abovenormal temperatures. On Feb. 23, wind speeds reached 57 mph with blowing dust. Soil temperatures continued to fluctuate near the surface. Temperatures at the 2-inch depth were in the mid-40s but the 10-day average low at 8 inches was 69 degrees. Field activities included shredding of stalks, fertilizer applications and preparation for herbicide applications. Cotton producers were actively booking seed for this year’s crop. Wheat was in fair to good condition and could use some rain. Pasture and range were in fair to good condition. Apricot and pear trees broke dormancy and were blooming.

PANHANDLE: Conditions were dry, windy and warm with above-normal temperatures. There was high fire danger. Soil moisture was mostly adequate, but a good general rain was needed throughout the district. Conditions caused concern of wildfire dangers, with a few wildfires reported. Conditions gave producers opportunities to start field work for planting summer crops. Irrigated wheat looked good. Stocker cattle on wheat were doing well. Spring calving was underway. Supplemental feeding was very active. Producers were applying pre-emergence chemicals, fertilizers and some compost. Producers were concerned as many wheat fields were already breaking dormancy even though there were several weeks left for potential freezing temperatures. Producers placed cattle to graze wheat fields in the hopes of slowing growth. Cattle on wheat looked good, but those on grass or corn stalks were being feed hay or cake. Some weed control and top-dress fertilization of some wheat fields started. Field work on corn, cotton and soybeans started. Stocker cattle gains were good with warmer temperatures.

NORTH: Rainfall ranging from 0.5-1.5 inches was received. Temperatures fluctuated between the low 30s and the middle 80s. Topsoil and subsoil moisture levels ranged from mostly adequate to short. The warm temperatures and adequate moisture have winter pastures looking good. Bermuda grass began to green up, and some peach trees started to bloom. Fertilizer was applied to corn, cotton and grain sorghum. Wheat looked better. Livestock were in good condition, and spring-born calves looked nice. The cattle market was on an upturn. Wild hogs were still causing a lot of damage to fields.

FAR WEST: Temperature highs were in the 80s with lows in the 30s. Precipitation averaged less than 0.5 of an inch. Windy conditions continued. Wheat made some progress. Many early planted fields started to joint. Producers continued to prepare fields for spring crops. No insect activity was reported. All perennial plants remained dormant. Dry, windy and warm weather did not improve range conditions. A few areas were considered fire hazards. Pecan trees were in need of water. Producers continued to feed livestock and wildlife.

WEST CENTRAL: Unseasonably warm weather conditions continued. Rainfall was reported in many areas. Rangeland fires remained a hazard throughout the district due to high winds and warm conditions. Field work was delayed due to wet conditions in some areas. Preparation for spring planting will resume when fields dry, which should be quickly due to warm, windy conditions. The cotton harvest was complete. Most gins were still running but should wrap up in the next few weeks. Wheat and oats looked good, and fields were starting to grow. Rangeland and pastures were in good condition and greening up. Cool-season forages were growing fast and provided good grazing for livestock. Some warm-season grasses were trying to break dormancy. The warmer-than-usual weather also jump started weeds in pastures and will require earlier-than-normal control. Livestock remained in fair to good condition and were grazing on small grains. Supplemental feeding was decreasing. Markets remained steady.

SOUTHEAST: In Chambers County, rice farmers were doing what they could to get rice planted early to have a better ratoon crop. Some counties received rainfall needed to maintain conditions. Recent rainfall and warm temperatures resulted in good winter annual growth. Forages, including ryegrass, clover and legumes, looked very good. Home gardeners were working cool-season plantings and were ready to plant early warm-season varieties. Pastures in some areas were wet and holding water due to recent rainfall. Livestock appeared healthy coming out of winter. Soil moisture levels throughout the district ranged from adequate to surplus with most ratings in the adequate range. Rangeland and pasture ratings varied widely, from excellent to poor, with good ratings most common.

SOUTHWEST: Rain helped pastures and small grains, and temperatures were unseasonably warm, which hurt peach and fruit crops. Rain provided much needed moisture for planting of row crops overall. Spring grasses and weeds emerged. Rangelands were green, and livestock were in good condition.

SOUTH: Unusually hot, dry and windy conditions continued throughout the district. Temperatures fluctuated from lows in the 50s to 100 degrees. Some spotty showers were reported in parts of the region. Some areas received up to 2 inches of rain. Potato planting was completed in some areas, and the majority of those fields had emerged. Corn, grain sorghum and cotton planting was very active in Hidalgo County. Sugarcane, citrus and vegetable harvests were ongoing. Wheat and oat fields were in the heading stage and under irrigation. Rangeland and pasture conditions continued to improve as a result of the rainfall and warmer temperatures. Temperatures brought summer perennial grasses out of dormancy in some areas. Supplemental feeding of livestock continued, and cattle body condition scores remained fair. The cattle market remained constant, but some local markets reported lower volumes on all classes of cattle with a slight upward trend in feeder calves. Winter seemed to be over as mesquite trees were already leafing out. Farmers were in fields preparing to plant, with a few of them already planting. Most indications were that a late freeze was not expected. In Zavala County, spinach and cabbage harvesting continued. Onions made good progress, and some producers reported planting corn and sorghum in some parts of the county. Cotton planting was still about two weeks away. Soil moisture conditions remained short in most areas.

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