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Feedlot cattle eating

Feed prices appear stable

Hay stocks are lower but El Niño should help replenish them.

Feed prices through the first half of this year appear mainly steady, according to the February World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates (WASDE)—the first since December due to the government shutdown.

For instance, WASDE left the projected 2018-19 season-average corn price received by producers unchanged at a midpoint of $3.60 per bushel. 

“Corn is expected to trade in a range of $3.60 to $4.10 per bushel during the first half of the year,” said CattleFax analyst Mike Murphy, at that organization’s recent Outlook seminar. 

Likewise, WASDE left the midpoint price for soybeans unchanged with a forecast of $8.10 to $9.10 per bushel. 

Weather hampered winter wheat planting

The wet fall took a toll on winter wheat pasture potential, according to the Winter Wheat and Canola Seedings report. Winter wheat planted for harvest in 2019 is estimated at 31.3 million acres, down 4% from last year and down 4% from 2017.

“This represents the second lowest United States acreage on record,” say analysts with the National Agricultural Statistics Service. “Seedings, which began in early September, fell behind the 5-year average seeding pace in early October and remained behind the 5-year average seeding pace for the duration of the planting season. Seeding was mostly complete by November 11.”

Year to year, the seeded winter wheat area is 6% less in Kansas, 5% less in Oklahoma but on par in Texas.

Hay stocks lower

Hay stocks Dec. 1 were 5.4 million tons less than the previous year (-6.4%), according to USDA’s February Crop Production report. The decline is accentuated in areas like the Southern Plains, where stocks are down a combined 16.0% in Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma and Texas, according to Derrell Peel, Extension livestock marketing specialist at Oklahoma State University.

Since then, Peel says in his weekly market comments, there’s little doubt winter storms chewed further into stocks.

“Around Oklahoma, anecdotal reports suggest that some producers are concerned about having adequate hay supplies for the winter and are finding, in many cases, that hay is in tight hands and, if available to purchase at all, is increasingly expensive,” Peel explains. 

If Art Douglas, professor emeritus at Creighton University, is correct, El Niño conditions should provide above-normal precipitation to these areas through the summer.

“La Niña conditions are unlikely in the next eight months as the equatorial current shows only slow cooling,” Douglas explained at the CattleFax Outlook. “The residual warmth along the equator will lead to a wetter summer in the southern half of the U.S., while warm waters off the coast of Mexico will favor an active monsoon season in the Southwest.”

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