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Grazing Conditions

Good rains + good pastures = more cows

Good rains this year means there's plenty of hay and forage available.

This column has focused on inventory issues during the previous two weeks. First, the column highlighted some of the broader issues around feeder cattle supply heading into the last quarter of the year. The discussion noted that bigger supply is clearly a driver for the feeder cattle market going forward. Second, the column subsequently detailed beef cow slaughter during the past several years. During the first nine months of 2016, beef cow slaughter totaled 1.834 million cows – about 200,000 head more on a year-over-year comparison, yet 100,000 head fewer versus 2014.

There’s one theme that’s consistent through both columns: feed and pasture management. The feeder cattle conversation mentioned that current feed supplies are enabling enabled producers to sit on cattle and wait out the market. To that end, several readers responded by noting they’re doing that very thing. Meanwhile, the cow slaughter discussion asked if feed supplies and pasture conditions are sufficient for most producers to simply fight the market and hang on to their cows.

With that theme in mind, this week’s graph details the percentage of cows in states with either poor (or very poor) versus good to excellent pasture conditions at the end of October. For the most part, it’s been a productive summer across the country with a few exceptions, especially the Southeast U.S.

The data reveal that reality: the percentage of cows in states with poor/very poor pasture conditions has declined from nearly 30% a year ago to just over 12% in 2016. Meanwhile, the percentage of cows in states with good to excellent pasture ratings jumped from 49% in 2015 to 62% at the end of last month.  

Clearly, those categorizations also hold for feeder cattle, too. That is, pasture seems ample in most of the country.   Couple that with the prospects of a record corn crop and likelihood of growing hay inventory in most states (data has not yet come available), there’s lots of feed out in the country. And that reality provides producers with increased marketing options for both feeder cattle and cull cows. 

What do your feed conditions look like? Is increased availability enabling you to be more patient about the market? Have you changed your normal marketing pattern because of more feed options versus previous years? Leave your thoughts in the comments section below.  

Nevil Speer is based in Bowling Green, Ky., and serves as vice president of U.S. operations for AgriClear, Inc. – a wholly-owned subsidiary of TMX Group Limited. The views and opinions of the author expressed herein do not necessarily state or reflect those of the TMX Group Limited and Natural Gas Exchange Inc.


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