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Beef cattle production expected to increase over next 5 years

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By Jennifer Carrico

As the cow inventory has continually decreased for the past several years, the feeder cattle supply has been depleted as well. Oklahoma State University Livestock Marketing Specialist Derrell Peel expects the trend to reverse and numbers to increase soon.

He told attendees to the Feeding Quality Forum, in Omaha, Neb., recently there are several factors affecting the feeder cattle supplies: a smaller calf crop because of a smaller cow herd inventory, low heifer retention because of prices and weather conditions, and a smaller number of feeder cattle being imported to the United States have affected the feeder cattle inventory.

“When it comes to heifer retention, we may have to forego current consumption in order to provide for future consumption,” he said.

Since the peak of the total cattle inventory in January 1995, there has been a steady decrease. The January 2013 inventory was the lowest since 1952, and Peel expects the inventory to be lower yet in January 2014.

Beef cow inventory numbers are down as well, with the January 2013 total being 29.3 million head, down 2.9 percent from the previous year.

Peel said the beef cattle cycles that have been seen over the past 30 years have been the driving factor for prices.

“Factors such as drought and feed costs have had a tremendous effect on the cattle industry. Beef producers have been ready to expand again, but haven’t been able to,” he said.

Drought has been the limiting factor on the cattle industry for the past two years. At the end of 2012, more than 50 percent of the pastures were in poor condition all across the country. Moisture has improved over part of the country, but others are suffering again this year.

The Livestock and Marketing Information Center says 1.9 percent more heifers will be kept as beef replacements in 2013 and fewer cows will be culled this year. If this is true, this could be the start of a rebuilding period for the U.S. cowherd.

A growth is expected in the next couple years and then a level off the number of heifers held for replacements.

“On average U.S. cattle producers keep 53 percent of the heifer in their herd as replacements. From 2009-2011, that number was above averages, but in 2012 there was a tremendous decrease in the number of heifers entering the herd,” Peel said.

He said the good news is that the current U.S. cowherd is as young and productive as ever, which could key a rapid expansion.

“By 2017, I would expect we could have numbers back close to about the same level as we had in 2011,” he said. “With the 2013 calf crop being the smallest since 1942, we should expect those numbers to start increasing by 2015.”

Feeder cattle imports from Mexico and Canada have been decreasing, too. On average, 4 percent of the U.S. feeder cattle inventory is comprised of cattle from Mexico and Canada. In 2013, imports from Mexico have been down 450,000 head so far from the previous year.

Jennifer Carrico can be reached by phone at 515-833-2120, or by email at jcarrico@hpj.com.

Date: 9/09/2013



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