Share Facebook Twitter Google + LinkedIn Pinterest The beef industry stands alone in 2015 in its continued reduction in supplies available to consumers. The year of 2014 was a special year for the animal production industries with record high farm level prices for cattle, hogs, broilers, turkeys, milk and eggs. For 2015, a surprisingly fast expansion of poultry, pork and milk production will cause lower prices for those commodities. Beef stands alone in the continuation toward lower production, but prices remain uncertain.In the first four months of this year, beef production was down by 5%, with slaughter numbers down 7% but market weights up 2%. The reduction is the result of a beef cow herd that had been in decline from 2006, reaching its low point in 2014. Expansion of the beef cow herd began in the last-half of 2014 and current indications are that the expansion continues.Producers can increase cow numbers both by retaining heifers and by keeping older cows for another cycle when they normally would have gone to market. Slaughter of females so far this year indicate producers are doing both. Heifer slaughter last year was down 8% and so far this year heifer slaughter remains down 7%. Beef cow slaughter in 2014 was down 18% and remains down 17% so far this year. While these producer behaviors will build the beef cow herd and eventually increase beef production, the impact for this year is to pull down beef production.Meat availability per person had fallen by about 20 pounds from 2007 to 2014, but is making a sharp comeback in 2015. Current USDA estimates are that per capita meat availability could surge by nearly nine pounds this year. Chicken and turkey lead the way with over five pounds of increase and pork adds an impressive increase of near four pounds per person. This means that the meat industry in one year has restored about 45% of the lost meat availability from 2007 to 2014. The impacts of avian influenza will likely reduce poultry meat production in 2015, but are not included here.The recent Cattle on Feed report from USDA also shows some of the adjustments the beef industry is making. The number of heifers in feedlots as of April 1 was down 10% from previous year levels, most likely confirming a high rate of heifer retention for herd expansion. Secondly, as a result of record high calf prices and weak live cattle futures prices, fewer lightweight calves are moving to feedlots as producers keep those calves on forage diets and background them for longer. The number of calves under 700 pounds entering feedlots in March was down 11%, but the number over 800 pounds was up 16%. In fact, 40% of all placements in March were older calves that were 800 pounds and higher. Improved pasture conditions in the Central and Southern Plains provides some of the explanation, but there were also reports of calves staying on winter wheat pasture further into the spring this year.What are the implications for cattle prices this year? First, a review of the unusual year of 2014 when finished steers averaged a record high $155 per hundredweight. The normal seasonal price pattern for finished cattle is to peak in late March or early April, then move lower into mid-to-late summer, with a rally into the end of the year. In 2014 finished steer prices began the year at $140 and pretty much moved higher throughout the year peaking above $170 in late-November. So far this year, finished steers have averaged $161.50 compared with $146 for the same period in 2014.Live cattle futures are suggesting a return to a more normal seasonal price pattern this year. Peak finished steer prices in 2015 to-date came in early April in the mid-$160s and have declined since. The futures tone stays weak through summer with prices falling to the middle $140s by the end of summer and then rallying to the low $150s toward the end of the year. With prices so far this year and futures estimates for the remainder of the year, finished steers would average $153, a couple of dollars lower than 2014.USDA forecasters in the April 9 WASDE report have taken a much more bullish path with $163.50 at the mid-point of their annual estimated range. Also of note is that USDA analysts increased the potential range of prices as the year progresses. One reason to increase a price forecast range is because of greater uncertainty. Ultimately, prices may be somewhere between these two. Current high $150s prices could drop to the very low $150s by late summer and recover to the mid-$150s by the end of the year, with annual prices near last year’s $155. One thing seems certain — 2014 was an extraordinary year for the animal industries. So comparing this year’s prices to last year’s prices may bring inherent dangers. But, the beef industry is the only one which will not increase production this year and therefore has a reasonable chance of seeing annual price averages near 2014 levels.The wide difference of opinions about cattle prices for the remainder of this year point out the large price risks for cattle finishers. Cattle feeders already have record amounts of money invested in the cattle in their feedlots. Even with the lowest feed prices in five years, they are vulnerable to weak live cattle prices as the futures market is currently suggesting. Feedlot managers should strive to price calves based on budgets using current futures prices and then should look to hedge those cattle with either futures or put options. If feedlot managers find themselves bidding so much for calves that they have to have a sizable rally in the live cattle futures to cover costs, they may want to re-think buying the calves in the first place.
Share Facebook Twitter Google + LinkedIn Pinterest This time of year, Ohio State Fair exhibitors are beginning to really focus on a myriad of tasks all to prepare for one thing this summer — providing what the judge of their livestock show will be looking for in the show ring. Every exhibitor knows how much time and effort goes into getting things just right at just the right time, but what exactly is the “just right” in terms of both animal and exhibitor for earning that champion banner?Gary Childs, one of the barrow judges for the 2016 Ohio State Fair Junior Market Show, had plenty to say on the subject.“Success in the show ring requires lots of attention to many small details,” Childs said. “There are no shortcuts leading to show ring glory.”With that in mind, Childs compiled a few points to help exhibitors maximize their chances for success. Here they are. Work at homeThe harder I work, the luckier I get. Everybody wants to win the day the pigs are picked out or purchased. Everybody wants to win at the show, but not everybody is willing to put the time in it takes to develop a champion in between purchase date and show date. I tell the kids I work with that “the days you decide not to clean the pens or work on breaking your pigs to drive are the days you get beat because your competition is working!” Make the pig the limiting factorThey need to be shown at 12 o’clock! It is almost impossible to win a show at any level if the pig isn’t being driven as close as to show ready as possible. Regardless of the kind of pig a judge may or may not prefer, almost all judges select pigs that are show ready. Proper nutrition is one of the key factors for getting pigs to look their best on show day. Showing the right age pig is another huge advantage. Remember, every pig is unique and developing a specific plan for each individual is very important. ShowmanshipDon’t beat yourself. The higher the level of competition, the more important showmanship becomes if the plan is to maximize the opportunity for success. Most judges dislike having to pull that great one out of the corner that is squealing and about to stress out. Pigs have to be broken similar to a steer to get that extra look. The pig needs to have the endurance level to be able to drive at least 45 minutes without gasping for air. SportsmanshipI like to see humble winners. It is my sincere wish that every child that ever exhibits a pig is able to experience what it is like to win at least once. Learning how to win is as important as properly coping with a loss. Experiencing both winning and losing are valuable life lessons for young people. Humble winners don’t do “victory laps” in front of other competitors. Gracious losers don’t whine and pout — they address what needs to be done differently in the future. Always respect the judge’s decision. It is your right to disagree, but listen carefully to the reasons and the answer should be clear as to the placing. Family timeFamily time is the most important time. Showing pigs in 2016 has evolved into a family project. The time the exhibitor spends with their family or mentor is reason enough to show pigs, if there was no other benefit. Dad helps in his way and Mom does her thing and the child benefits almost as much as the parents. I firmly believe that the family that shows together grows together.