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Calf and Feeder Prices Take Breather

calf and feeder prices

Between calves dominating the seasonal mix, the holiday week ahead, and beef demand pressures, calf and feeder cattle prices faded some this week.

Although lighter-weight calves traded unevenly steady to $5 higher, calves weighing more than 600 lbs. sold steady to $3 lower, according to the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS).

“CME cattle futures opened the week significantly lower, which pressured cash feeder cattle, perhaps hinting that prices are now descending the backside of the mountain top,” AMS analysts say. “However, lower price levels on feedlot replacement cattle are inevitable this time of year as a larger percentage of these cattle are merely big calves while true yearling supplies have been exhausted.”

The CME Feeder Cattle Index was about even week-to-week, while Feeder cattle futures declined an average of $1.32 after the expiring November contract.

There was no help from the fed cattle and beef markets.

Cash fed cattle prices that struggled for steady money the previous week sold $1 lower at $131/cwt. on a live basis and at $207/cwt. in the beef. Choice boxed beef cutout value was $2.24 lower week-to-week ($198.92/cwt.). Select was $1.62 lower ($186.82).

 

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Live Cattle futures declined an average of $1.80 week-to-week.

“All the talk continues to surround the reduced supply of fed cattle and its impact on beef, but at some point the effect of demand factors has to be discussed,” Andrew P. Griffith, University of Tennessee agricultural economist, explains in his weekly comments. “Consumers’ interest in beef appears to have waned, which provides little to no leverage opportunity for anyone in the cattle business.

“Beef prices generally receive a spark from holiday purchases after Thanksgiving. However, it may be a short-lived spark or it may not happen at all (this year) due to the short time period between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Soon after Thanksgiving, consumers will turn their attention to hams that will be lining the meat counter. If hams are taking up more space on the counter, then beef features will be sluggish at best. There are still consumers who prefer to eat beef during the holidays, but lower-priced meat alternatives will be difficult to overlook by consumers who are strapped for cash…”

Heading into this week, markets may also find some pressure from Friday’s Cattle on Feed report (see below). Placements in October were a bit higher and marketings were a bit less than analysts were expecting on average.
    
“Nonetheless, the new (old school) corn price is quickly pouring equity back into cattle feeders’ pockets and bolstering interest in all classes of feeder and stocker cattle with cost-of-gains well below the expected fed market,” AMS analysts say. “Calf demand remains very good as tight inventories of all classes of beef cattle are now blatant and many areas have sizeable stockpiles of hay and winter pasture to hold calves. Backgrounders are also already worried about their ability to purchase grazing cattle next spring.”  

Cattle on Feed Report Summary

  • Cattle on feed Nov. 1: (10.6 million head) is 6% less than a year ago, par with the average estimate.
  • Placements in October: (2.39 million head) are 10% more than a year earlier. Ahead of the report the average estimate was for an increase of 8.7%.
  • Marketings in October: (1.86 million head) are 1% more than last year. Ahead of the report, the average estimate was for increased marketings of 1.4%.

 

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Both Beef Exports And Quality Are Seeing Surprising Growth

Both Beef Exports And Quality Are Seeing Surprising Growth

Beef consumption may be basically static today, but it is a poor indicator of industry health anyway. My boss at CattleFax used to say that excess beef wasn’t going to be thrown in the ocean. In other words, we’ll consume all the beef that is produced. What’s important is the price at which that beef is purchased by consumers.

No one wants to see per-capita consumption of beef fall, but a lower number isn’t necessarily a bad thing if we’re exporting product at a higher price point than what we can get domestically. Domestic beef demand may not be garnering any headlines, but there are some positive things occurring on the demand front. 

Exports continue to grow. We’re seeing phenomenal growth in the Japan and Hong Kong markets, as the entire Pacific Rim market continues to rebound from the loss of access due to BSE a decade ago next month.

 

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Mexico has also shown strength. In September, volume of exports jumped by 37% to Japan, 65% to Mexico, and 102% to Hong Kong.  In aggregate September exports rose by 5%. Value is increasing as well, being up 16% to Japan, 56% to Mexico, 182% to Hong Kong, and more than 41% to South Korea.

In fact, our current pace is to be up 10% over last year’s record export levels of $5.51 billion. In September, we exported 13% of our production, so it’s a sizable and growing amount. 

On the other side, steak is in. Even McDonald’s is offering premium menu items featuring steak. We’re even seeing improvement in some of the demographic groups that previously haven’t been that strong for beef – young females, for instance.

Yes, steak continues to be popular, and quality is a trait that is much in demand. Frankly, it’s left me a little surprised in that I assumed that as beef prices continued to escalate, premium products would be under the most pressure. The reality, however, has been almost the opposite. If people are going to pay more for beef, they seem to be opting for quality in their beef purchases.

 

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Farm Credit Donates $175,000 To South Dakota Rancher Relief

The Farm Credit System,  a national network of cooperatives that provides financing and related services to agricultural producers, agribusinesses, and rural infrastructure providers, today announced a $175,000 donation to the South Dakota Rancher Relief Fund. Five Farm Credit entities have partnered to assist the relief efforts including AgriBank (St. Paul, MN), CoBank (Denver, CO), Farm Credit Services of America (FCSAmerica; Omaha, NE), Frontier Farm Credit (Manhattan, KS), and Northwest Farm Credit Services (Spokane, WA).  

Established by the South Dakota Cattlemen’s Association, South Dakota Stockgrowers Association, and South Dakota Sheep Growers Association, the South Dakota Rancher Relief Fund will assist livestock producers impacted by Winter Storm Atlas. Heavy rain, followed by up to 55 inches of snow in the state’s western region, killed tens of thousands of farm animals over two and a half days in early October.  Experts predict that it will be several months before the full economic impact of the storm is determined.
 

“This ‘perfect storm’ was devastating emotionally and financially to ranchers,” said Lyndon Limberg, a member of the AgriBank board and a cattle and grain operator in eastern South Dakota. “All cattlemen take good care of their livestock and spend generations improving their cow herds and get emotionally attached to their cattle; that’s just who we are. Calf prices have gone up and rebuilding herds will cause real financial stress on people.”

As a mission-based provider of financial services dedicated to supporting rural America, Farm Credit is committed to standing by our nation’s farmers and ranchers in good times and in bad. Farm Credit’s donation is intended as a first step in helping South Dakota’s livestock producers rebuild their lives and their operations. 

“All of us are touched by the enormity of the loss these producers have experienced,” said Doug Stark, president and CEO at FCSAmerica, which provides credit to more than 11,500 farmers and ranchers in South Dakota. “Farm Credit stands ready to assist our customers to restore their working capital.  In addition, we hope that our donation to the South Dakota Rancher Relief Fund will help to meet the immediate and critical needs of those most severely impacted by this disaster.”

 

It’s Bigger, But Angus Shares Much With Its Smaller Counterparts

It’s Bigger, But Angus Shares Much With Its Smaller Counterparts

While attending the recent American Angus Association (AAA) annual convention in Louisville, I had the chance to review some current breed stats. I was amazed by what they depict, not only about the breed but the industry.

First off, most of us are familiar with the claim that the professional lifetime of an average purebred breeder is only seven years. And because the seedstock business tends to be 3-5 times as capital-intensive as commercial production, it’s not surprising that seedstock herds on average are smaller than commercial operations.

I found that the membership demographics of AAA are not only similar to those of other breed associations but almost all cattle membership organizations. They all seem to share the dynamic of the vast majority of members being relatively small in size, while the large operations are statistically small, but represent a large percentage of the inventory.

In AAA’s case, 65% of its members registered less than 11 head, but that same 65% only accounted for about 11% of the cattle registered. On the other end of the spectrum, only 4% of the membership registered more than 99 head, but they represent 46% of all the cattle registered in the last fiscal year. The top 9% of the membership registered 63% of the cattle.

I’ve always felt that the policy differences between two groups like AAA and the overall beef industry is overstated. After all, theoretically, what’s good for the Angus breed should be good for large or small producers alike. And what is good for the cattle industry should be good for small and large producers, tool. As JFK once said, “a rising tide raises all boats.” Still, there is inevitably tension between these demographic groups.

Technology is transforming the business. Registrations overall were down for the year as the industry continues to consolidate. However, just over 10% of registrations were the result of embryo transfer, while 52.2% of the calves registered were the result of artificial insemination.

In addition, the amount of data now being incorporated into the national genetic evaluation program is staggering, as it includes records on more than 20 million head of cattle! While ultrasound was revolutionary just a couple decades ago, now it’s DNA, and more than 100,000 DNA samples were processed by AAA last year – double what it was the previous year.

 

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I remember when AAA rolled out its computer program geared to helping producers collect their data and transmit it electronically. Today, more than half of the membership is using the Angus App on their smartphones. And where new EPDs once were calculated every six months, they’re now run on a weekly basis.

Public relations and communications are vital to any organization, but the primary means of communication used to be a monthly print magazine. AAA now has a TV show, a radio show, is all over social media, and utilizes YouTube and live streaming of cattle events all over the U.S. Today’s world demands to be connected and informed on almost a real-time basis, and the electronic media not only makes this communication more timely, but even more personalized.

But even with all the new technologies, this remains a people business. Family and kids are still the top priorities and the primary focus for so many operations.

Another thought I had is that the segment approach is dead. A lot of organizations used to divide themselves up based on industry segments, or were created to represent just one segment. In one sense, that’s logical as every segment has specific issues and areas of emphasis. In the end, however, every segment is so intertwined and interdependent that these barriers seem out of place. For instance, nothing is further removed from the seedstock producer than the consumer, but nothing is more vital to the success of the seedstock industry than the consumer.

Certified Angus Beef® (CAB) was a revolutionary concept at its inception 25 years ago; now it’s helping to drive bull sales and breeding decisions. CAB sales were up 6.7% this year, another record, at 865 million lbs. No one within CAB likely envisioned ever selling 1 billion lbs. of beef, but that level undoubtedly will soon be reached.

CAB’s overall acceptance rate continues to grow as genetics improve – it was 24.2% this last year. I’m simply amazed at the growth of the various branded products and programs, and their export growth, when compared to the generic domestic beef market. It’s obvious that our future rests in differentiation and meeting specific consumer targets.

The final comparison is the rather mundane but ever important topic of money. The Angus breed is the dominant, most influential breed in our industry. That size provides Angus with tremendous opportunities, as AAA and its subsidiaries had over $45 million in revenue in the past fiscal year.

I’d never underestimate the value of passionate members in helping an organization achieve its goals and get their message out. But whether it’s a breed association, a state or national cattle organization, or even an anti-livestock group, if you want to understand their importance and political clout, look at their revenue figure.

AAA is unique in this regard, as it’s among very few membership organizations that don’t rely on membership dues for revenue. In fact, AAA’s registration, transfer and membership revenues were flat or down compared to a year ago. However, total revenue increased by nearly $6 million, thanks to increases in royalties, investment income and new revenue streams.

 

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Those Kids Talking To Themselves In The Hall Aren’t Crazy

I consider collegiate livestock judging programs one of the most impressive programs in the livestock industry. For one, it’s a pretty large fraternity, as more than 30 schools and thousands of kids participate at the college level. I have no idea how many young people compete at the 4-H and FFA levels each year, but the number has to be significant.

If you’re involved in livestock production, visual appraisal of livestock is an important skill set. However, anyone who’s participated in these programs will tell you that being able to evaluate livestock is actually a secondary benefit. It’s about the competition, the team camaraderie and, most importantly, learning to think logically, organize your thoughts, make a decision, and verbally defend your placings. I’ve been told that company recruiters love hiring from within the judging ranks because of the skills this program helps to develop in participants.

 

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I wouldn’t be surprised if outside observers who watch these young adults, who are all dressed up, walking around and talking to themselves as they prepare their reasons, see them as almost comical. But for anyone who has been part of the program, it brings back great memories.

The top five place winners in this year’s contest held few surprises, as there typically are 10 schools that perennially finish at the top. This year was no exception, as the final results were: Texas A&M, Texas Tech, Kansas State, Oklahoma State and Iowa State, respectively. For those schools and the young men and women who invested so much time and effort, it was undoubtedly all about winning.

I’m sure all these young participants were told by their coaches that they are all winners, regardless of the contest results. I know from experience, however, that it will take 10 years for that realization to become obvious to these same folks, and that is why it’s such a great program.  

 

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Meat Market Update | Rolling Boxed Beef Average Falls Considerably Below Last Year

Ed Czerwien, USDA Market News reporter in Amarillo, TX, provides us with the latest outlook on boxed beef prices and the weekly cattle trade.

The Daily Choice Cutout ended the week at 201.16, which was 1.63 lower than the previous Friday. The weekly total for the spot volume was 756 loads, which was only 11% of the total sales for the week.

While formula trade was lower this week, it still accounted for 47% of the overall trade. In fact, the formula trade helped buffer the declining negotiated trades, as well as a jump in out front sales.

Find more cattle price news here or bookmark our commodity price page for the minute-by-minute updates.

Industry At A Glance: Feedlot Treatment Costs Continue To Grow

Industry At A Glance: Feedlot Treatment Costs Continue To Grow

USDA’s Veterinary Services (VS) provides the beef industry with valuable services through its various surveys over time. These surveys allow for useful and meaningful insight into major trends within the industry. One such survey is assessment of the feedlot sector.

This fall, VS released results from the Feedlot 2011 survey. When compared to the Feedlot ’99 survey, one of the most interesting aspects surrounds the difference of treatment costs for various cattle diseases. It’s important to note that the survey details direct treatment costs (e.g., cost of antibiotics) vs. indirect treatment costs (loss of performance, labor, etc.).  

In fact, the direct cost of treatment of bovine respiratory disease (BRD) in feedlot cattle is substantial at $23.60/case. These costs appear to have nearly doubled since 1999, when the cost of treatment was estimated at $12.59/case. This direct cost alone highlights the reason that feedlot operators’ management strategies are frequently directed at minimizing the occurrence of BRD in these cattle.

The bottom line is that treating disease, along with all production factors, has become increasingly costly in the feedyard. As such, it’s probably safe to assume that indirect costs have also increased proportionally. Additionally, the data clearly indicate that BRD and pneumonia continue to be the largest and most costly challenge to managing new arrivals at the feedyard.

feedlot costs to treat cattle disease

Respondents indicate that 16.2% of all cattle are affected by BRD (vs. 14.4% in 1999). In other words, we haven’t made any progress toward reducing incidence of BRD in the feedlot. Simultaneously, 21.3% of cattle are estimated to undergo preventive treatment (metaphylaxis) in the latest survey vs. 18.8% in 1999.   

What’s your assessment of these costs? Are the actual costs in line with those on your operation? Do you find these trends surprising? How are managing treatment costs to keep them at a minimum?

Leave your thoughts below.

 

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California Ag Producers, Business Cooperate To Fight Overregulation

California Ag Producers, Business Cooperate To Fight Overregulation

It began out of frustration. In just three years, however, it has channeled frustration into effectiveness for ag producers and other businesses in Ventura County, CA, as they deal with a crushing load of local regulations that threaten to put them out of business.

And the sparkplug behind it is Bud Sloan, a veterinarian who returned to his ranching roots and wants his grandsons to have the same opportunity.

Sloan served a term as second vice president for the California Cattlemen’s Association and was on the program at a meeting where he heard a presentation from the Santa Barbara CoLAB, which stands for Coalition of Labor, Agriculture and Business. “I was there to speak, but I got the better end of the deal because it gave me the idea that this could be an organization that fills a niche that no other organization was filling, especially on regulatory and land use issues.”

The southern border of Ventura County butts up to Los Angeles County. You wouldn’t think a coastal county in California that close to huge metro area like Los Angeles would support ag production. However, agriculture in Ventura County is a $2 billion economic engine that supports many other businesses, and creates 35,000 jobs as they supply the goods and services to ranchers and a remarkable variety of field and tree crops.

However, as the affluent of L.A. gravitated to more rural areas to escape urban problems, Ventura County changed. “As they came out here, they saw the open spaces and they wanted to keep it that way,” Sloan says.

How they’ve gone about it, however, has a downside effect, by creating a crushing regulatory environment that makes it nearly impossible for ag producers to stay in business.

Strawberry fields forever

“Our Ventura County CoLAB actually started out of frustration,” says Sloan, who serves as the group’s president. “It was frustration with our county government and the pressures they were putting on us.”

Among those pressures was a county ordinance called SOAR – Save our Agricultural Resources. Judging by the name, Sloan says the ordinance seemed positive. Instead, what it did was give county planners complete authority over any land use decision made anywhere in the county.

“If you changed the intensification of the land in any way, you had to go before the population with a special election that you paid for,” Sloan explains. “Whether it was unintended consequences or not, it put pressure on agriculture, whether it was cattle, strawberries, row crops, tree farming, whatever. It narrowed us with biological constraints.”

No longer could a cattleman clear brush from his pastures, or a strawberry farmer improve the productivity of his fields. “It essentially turned a $50,000 equipment shed into a $500,000 project,” Sloan says.

That’s when the rub between Ventura County’s ag and urban communities became glaringly evident. “Ranching and farming is a business. It’s not someone’s view shed, it’s not someone’s open space; it’s somebody’s property that they’re trying to make a living on,” he says.

And that’s when the newly formed CoLAB went to work. “We went to battle with the planning department,” Sloan says. “We found 21 points we felt were critical. Over about a six-month period, at a cost of about $115,000 for biologists and attorneys, we won 19 of the 21 points.”

They won, he says, with science, logic and using the law to their advantage. “And that’s been our motto ever since. We want to do things on an up-and-up way. No backroom politics. It’s a matter of presenting the data, presenting the legal ramifications and how it will affect the economy of Ventura County.” And they’re non-partisan. “We leave our politics at the door and we talk about the issues.”

Regulation happens

In its three short years, the effort has notched several successes by being pragmatic, says Lynn Jensen, Ventura County CoLAB executive director, and by recognizing that often a victory is negotiating reasonable regulations.

“I think one of the reasons we’re successful is we have partners in everything we do,” she says. Many of the ag commodities have county organizations, but those groups don’t have the resources individually to fight the county. Pooling resources through CoLAB, they do. Then, she says, they do their homework, understand the details, and come prepared.

“We get into the details with our partners, and we try to negotiate regulations so they’re reasonable and don’t put cattlemen out of business,” she says. “There’s an economic impact to all these regulations, and I think sometimes they don’t recognize that it’s the successful businesses that pay for all this government.”

Beyond that, Jensen keeps a high profile. “I monitor the county Board of Supervisors (county commissioners) every week. And I attend a huge number of meetings of different groups that are trying to promote certain agendas. And in some cases, they don’t recognize they’re being detrimental to certain businesses and that a lot of times, there’s no real reason (for the regulations they’re trying to push). We can work it out.”

Ventura County CoLAB is a membership organization and the money comes from dues and fundraisers. “We have 300 members throughout Ventura County,” Sloan says, “and there are another 1,000 out there who are in agriculture and don’t know we’re here yet.” About 85% of the membership is ag producers, Jensen says, but as the name suggests, the group works on any issue that affects jobs and the business environment in the county.

Now that they’ve established themselves as a reputable, straightforward and formidable player in the county regulatory bureaucracy, Ventura County CoLAB is working to increase its profile throughout the county, with rural and urban residents alike.

According to Sloan, their outreach program includes newspaper op-eds and programs at service clubs, such as Kiwanis and Rotary. The goal is to educate and inform.

“City folks tend to not understand the difficulties of agriculture,” Sloan says. “It’s the same story over and over again; we have to educate them, we have to bring the science to them, we have to bring the law to them, and hopefully we will prevail,” he says. “Unfortunately, we’re about 15 years behind the forces that are after us. We’re catching up fast, but it’s been a real struggle.”

Bringing it home

Sloan and Jensen say the CoLAB concept can work in any county where agriculture is facing an increasingly urban and regulation-happy government.  “It just takes the will to do it,” Sloan says. “If you have the will, and frustration is what you’re thinking when walking through the doors of that county administrative office, then it’s time.”

He uses himself as an example. “What I did for the last 30 years was keep my head down and try to dodge the bullets coming at me,” Sloan says. ”I didn’t want to get involved, and I don’t want to now. But I realize I have to.”

He’s the third generation of his family to operate the ranch, which dates back to a Spanish land grant. The fourth and fifth generations are living on the ranch.

“I’ve got grandsons who are 10 years old, and they got two cows in their cattle company,” he says. “If I don’t do this now, if our generation and the generation right behind us don’t get involved, we’re going to have to accept what’s coming down the pike, and we may not be here to carry on.”

 

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2014 Will Be A Record Year For Calf Prices, And Risk

outlook for cattle prices is great

Cattlemen, looking ahead to what 2014 might have in store, can’t be blamed if their facial expressions vacillate between euphoria and bewilderment. Indeed, the coming year promises to blow the doors off past records for cattle prices and returns/cow. Yet, amidst the euphoria, lays an undercurrent of uncertainty that may dampen the excitement.

“I think it’s fair to say we have more uncertainty in lots of arenas than the industry is used to,” says Glynn Tonsor, Kansas State University ag economist. While some of those uncertainties have been around for a year or two, they’re still new enough that the industry has yet to adjust, he says. “I think we have very heightened, elevated levels of uncertainty. There are lots of examples on the political, regulatory and technology use fronts.”

As politics affect cattlemen, he says the uncertainties surrounding the farm bill and country-of-origin labeling have kept the industry guessing for years. “And it’s hard for me to see the end in sight on the uncertainty of those two issues,” he says.

For the country in general, he says political analysts say the level of political uncertainty is at a peacetime high. “The reason that’s important is conservative investors are less likely to pull the trigger on investments in the presence of that uncertainty.”

On the technology front, continued assaults by anti-agriculture forces using emotion to trump science make the landscape for continued advancements in production technology an uncertain thing. “If you generalize that, that uncertainty over technology use is something we need to be aware of because I think that is holding back a little of the optimism that might otherwise be the foundation for expansion of the herd.”

Closer to the ranch gate, cattlemen’s outlook for an improved feedstuff situation is picking up, “but I think it’s fair to say producers are mixed on whether they think that’s a permanent recovery or a temporary recovery,” Tonsor says.

Banner year ahead for cow-calf producers

Now, take that coin and flip it. For cow-calf producers, 2014 might go down as the banner year of all time.

Looking at data on cow-calf returns over cash costs from the Livestock Marketing Information Center (LMIC) in Denver, Tonsor says 2004 and 2013 were record years, with cow-calf producers seeing returns between $140 and $150. Those returns were higher than any other year back to 1985.

Now, take a peek at 2014 projections. “Despite how high those years are, expectations for 2014 are for returns to double those two best years,” he says.

How does $305/cow sound? Go ahead and turn cartwheels. Just try not to pull anything.

 

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Looking out to 2014, he says LMIC projects an annual average of $188 to $194 for 5- to 6-weight feeders on the Southern Plains. “If you were to do a price adjustment on lighter-weight calves, that would give you a projection for 2014 that we well may have $2 calves for an annual average, which has never happened before.”

Stocker operators are likewise looking at positive returns. “Most producers have costs of gain below value of gain; therefore, there’s some optimism among stockers as well,” he says.

The cattle feeding segment continues to struggle, despite a noticeable improvement in the market in recent months. However, Tonsor says it may not last.

“In the event we pull the trigger on expansion and we hold back heifers that would otherwise have gone through the food supply chain, that will (further) pull down feeder cattle supplies,” he says. “That’s one reason cow-calf producers are so excited, but the deeper question is just how high will these go and will feedlot operators choose to bid away some of these recent improvements in returns?”

And ultimately, he says the big question is how high retail beef prices can go. That’s because consumer demand is an issue that underlies all profitability for everyone in the industry.

So far, consumers have been very willing to keep beef on the plate. “It’s been more positive than most people expected coming out of the recession,” he says. “In aggregate, (the strength of) beef demand has surprised most analysts.”

Next year may well test consumer resolve to keep beef front and center. “(Beef demand) is going to have to continue surprising analysts throughout 2014 and 2015 in order to justify some of the prices that are expected,” Tonsor says.

 

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Which Skills Do You Have That Your Grandkids Don’t?

Which Skills Do You Have That Your Grandkids Don’t?

I spent a few days in Great Falls, MT, this week at the 2013 Montana Association of Conservation Districts State Convention. I was the keynote speaker talking about issues the beef industry faces and how we can better respond via social media outlets. Although I received positive reviews after my presentation, gazing the crowd beforehand and seeing the average age of the group, I wasn’t so sure how well it would go over.

After all, I’ve had firsthand experience trying to teach my parents and grandparents how to use social media. Grandpa jokes that he can’t turn on the computer; Grandma likes email but the ads on Facebook overwhelm her; Dad likes reading my blog, but thinks I'm too controversial at times; Mom is the only one who really has the hang of it, often taking photos of the cattle and her kids on the ranch and posting them to Facebook.

Meanwhile, I’m in the generation that grew up with computers and the Internet. Facebook was created while I was still in high school, so communicating online is second nature to me. But when I start to think I’m tech savvy, I just need to talk to my 17-year-old sister to see how far I lag behind the folks younger than me. My sister Kaley has more apps than a Christmas tree has bulbs, and Snap Chat has replaced her texting and calling ways of communication.

 

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With each generation, old lessons will be lost and new ones will be gained. I was recently sent a BuzzFeed link to “13 Skills Your Grandparents Had That You Don’t.” I think it’s an apropos topic when you consider today’s beef industry and how multiple generations work and interact together on a ranch, and try to communicate despite an age and experience gap that can be hard to bridge at times.

According to the BuzzFeed piece, the list of skills the younger generation is losing include: the ability to write legibly, being able to fix your car and do basic home maintenance, the ability to use a real map, writing a check properly, knowing how to tie multiple types of knots, knowing how to sew beyond putting on a button, knowing how to raise crops and livestock, and socializing without checking your phone every two minutes. You can see the entire Buzz Feed list here.

I’ll admit that a few of these skills I no longer use very much just because modern technology has created new, cheaper and easier ways to do things – wrinkle-free fabrics, for instance. Of course, growing up on a farm, I think I’m probably more self-reliant than a lot of city-raised kids. I learned from my parents and grandparents about how to garden, preserve fruits and vegetables, sew, and other basic skills more common to a rural upbringing. But, overall, we do live in a much more disposable society than past generations – convenience seems to be much more the rule today than in my grandparents’ time, for instance.

What do you think? Let’s start a conversation. If you’re of the older generation, what tasks and skills do you see as being lost on the younger generation? And if you’re among the younger generation on the farm, which skills do you wish you had, or are glad you no longer have to worry about? Leave your thoughts in the comments section below.

 

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