Fed Cattle Recap | What goes up eventually comes down

Fed cattle recap

It seems that cattle feeders have been a conflicted bunch the past few months, welcoming the unexpected and amazing increase in prices, all the while wondering how long the joy ride would last.

Could it be over? After all, cash prices for fed cattle ended the week of May 13 $6 to $8 per cwt lower than the week before. Or is the market merely taking a breather? Only time will tell.

Click on the red arrow below for the complete audio report.

The weekly weighted average cash steer price for the Five Area region, which includes the major feeding areas of Texas, Kansas, Nebraska, Colorado and Iowa, was $137.28, compared with $144.60 the previous week, for a drop of $7.32. 

The Five Area weighted average cash dressed steer price was $220.33, compared with $229.80 the previous week, for a $9.47 plunge.

Estimated total federally-inspected cattle harvest was 612,000 head, compared with 598,000 the same week last year. That’s only 14,000 head over last year and the closest it has been in a long time. 

The five Area total cash steer and heifer volume was 79,512 head, compared with about 140,937 the previous week. 

The Five Area average formula price was $224.62, compared with $213.87 the previous week, $10.75 higher. Five Area formula sales totaled 161,712 head, compared with about 176,308 the previous week. 

Nationally reported forward contracted cattle harvest was about 72,000 head, compared with 34,000 the previous week. Packers have more than 244,000 head of forward contracts available for May and 288,000 for June.

The latest average national steer carcass weight for week ending April 29 was 2 pounds lower at 847 pounds, compared with 868 pounds last year, so we continue to run well below last year.                            

The Choice-Select spread was $22.18 on Friday, almost $3.00 higher compared to the previous week. That compares with a $12.61 spread last year. This is the time of the year that the spread widens because of tremendous demand for Choice steaks.




Max Armstrong opens today's episode with a look at another problem at United, the release of cockpit codes. He also looks at how fast farmers are catching up with planting despite wet weather. And Max shares a tweet from @SecretarySonny – a Mother's Day Greeting. And news of a Chicago announcer's induction into the Radio Hall of Fame.

Midwest Digest is a twice-daily audio feature produced by Max Armstrong, offering news and commentary from across the Midwest.

Farm Progress America, May 16, 2017

Max Armstrong looks into a company that is offering the ability to customize herbs and greens grown in a hydroponic vertical farm. Max explores how the company plans to control the taste of the greens based on customer demands.

Farm Progress America is a daily look at key issues in agriculture. It is produced and presented by Max Armstrong, veteran farm broadcaster and host of This Week in Agribusiness.

What’s ahead for beef cow slaughter?

Nevil Speer 2017 year to date beef cow slaughter

Several months ago, this column highlighted the importance of the beef cow slaughter rate to the beef cow inventory. Based on data between 1987 and 2016, the equilibrium slaughter rate runs around 9.3%. That is, bigger slaughter as a percentage of the cowherd means a smaller cowherd in the following year, while a slower rate than 9.3% spells expansion.  The data is fairly reliable with only a few outliers—1993, 2015 and 2016. 

Within that analysis, it’s important to monitor what’s occurring month to month—or at least quarter to quarter. Monitoring the rate on an on-going basis allows us to see what producers may be thinking as we enter into the all-important fall culling season.

Additionally, monitoring this comparison provides some indication for the cowherd inventory prior to USDA coming out with the agency’s annual inventory reports. Accordingly, this week’s data reflects two items.

First, the average monthly beef cow slaughter rate during the previous 30 years is applied to the 2017 starting inventory. For example, the average January slaughter rate in the previous 30 years has run right around 0.82%; applying that to the 2017 annual base equals about 255,000 beef cows. The annual total – 2.91 million – is equivalent to 9.3%.

Nevil Speer

Second, the data also reflects what’s actually occurred to date in 2017. Through the first quarter, beef producers have culled 653,000 cows, compared to the expectation of 686,000 cows. While the actual difference is, to date, inconsequential (33,000 cows), the trend is running 5% behind expectations. If that continues, it indicates we could be in store for some significant cow retention in 2017. 

What’s your view of the current trend? Will beef producers catch up with the trend in the coming months? Or are we seeing early indications of continued expansion in the country? What are your plans for 2017? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below.   

Is it the land or livestock that motivates you the most?

Kacey Green Springtime in Colorado

The ranching business requires taking bold risks. With uncertain markets, unpredictable weather conditions and unbelievable amounts of capital required, production agriculture is a huge commitment, and the returns are earned not through regular paychecks but through successes achieved over the long term.

This business takes time, labor and sacrifice, but for those who are willing to weather through the challenges, there are some great rewards for being involved in the beef production industry.

What motivates you to get out of bed each morning and get to work on your ranch?

Perhaps it’s your love of the land. Just as Gerald O’Hara famously told his daughter Scarlett, in the class book, Gone With The Wind, “The land is the only thing in the world worth working for, worth fighting for, worth dying for, because it's the only thing that lasts.” Land is an income-earning asset and a true legacy to pass down to future generations. Is that what drives you to work so hard in this business?

Or maybe it’s the livestock. There’s nothing quite like seeing your breeding decisions come to fruition each calving season and watching those calves grow into a set of feeder calves you’re proud to sell at the sale barn. It doesn’t matter which segment of the beef production chain you’re in, managing the cattle to produce the best beef possible is something worth working for, and it not only benefits your ranch, but it ultimately provides a great beef eating experience for consumers around the world. Is that what you love most about this business?

In addition to the land and the livestock, ranchers may love the wide open spaces, the challenge, working outside every day, being your own boss, setting your own goals, or creating something from nothing. Your driving passion may be providing for your family, passing on the tradition of ranching to the next generation or building up your nest egg for retirement.

There are countless reasons to love this business, and BEEF is aiming to capture a rancher’s love of the land, livestock and everything else this industry has to offer with a new photo contest.

Introduced last week, the “For the love of land & livestock” photo gallery truly showcases what makes this industry great, and there is still time to enter if you haven’t yet.

To enter, simply email me at amanda.radke@penton.com with your favorite photo, plus a caption, your name and mailing address. The entry period will be open until 8:00 am CST on May 18. All photographs will be added to a gallery, so stop back often to view the images.

Click here to view the collection of images.

Click here to learn more about the contest.

Thanks to everyone who has submitted photos already! I’m loving the entries we’ve received so far.

The opinions of Amanda Radke are not necessarily those of beefmagazine.com or Penton Agriculture.

5 Trending Headlines: Cattle as wildfire prevention tools; PLUS: what’s up with live cattle imports?

USDA wildire photo

Only your cattle can prevent wildfires

While that’s not exactly what Smokey the Bear says, it’s becoming increasingly evident that as cattle are kicked off public lands, the risk of wildfires increases. In what is being called an unprecedented year for wildfires, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Assn. (NCBA) and the Public Lands Council (PLC) recently kicked off a media and advertising campaign to shine a spotlight on how grazing on public lands helps mitigate the risk of catastrophic wildfires – the leading threat to species like the greater sage grouse. The campaign will be centered around a new website, GrazingPreventsWildfires.com, and will run through May, Feedstuffs reports.

“Coming off the wet winter we had across much of the West, ranchers are on the sidelines as new spring growth explodes and adds to residual grasses from prior grazing reductions," said Ethan Lane, executive director of PLC and NCBA's Federal Lands. "These fuel loads are building at the same time that livestock numbers on federal grazing permits continue to shrink due to misplaced priorities, political pressure and a lack of regulatory flexibility for BLM (Bureau of Land Management) and Forest Service staff to make the right management decisions on the ground.”

Click here to read more.

Answering consumer questions about beef production

Consumer research conducted by the National Cattlemen's Beef Association (NCBA) and funded by the beef checkoff indicates that consumers are confused about terms commonly found on labels such as "grass-fed" and "organic." Additionally, some consumers have questions about the use of antibiotics in cattle production. Two new factsheets walk consumers through how cattle farmers and ranchers use antibiotics in accordance with Food and Drug Administration guidelines and the choices consumers have when buying beef in their local supermarket.

Those fact sheets help consumers decode the many marketing claims made on beef labels as well as understand antibiotic use in cattle production. The labeling factsheet breaks down the four common labels and what they actually mean, based on USDA definitions. The Antibiotic Use in Cattle fact sheet addresses consumer questions about how and why antibiotics are used and what the Beef Quality Assurance program is doing to educate producers about best practices.

Click here for the antibiotics factsheet.

Click here for the beef labeling factsheet.

Click here to find answers to other beef-related questions.

Wildfire relief not over

Patty Young via Southwest Farm Press

The 2017 Southwest wildfire relief effort is not over. In fact, two months after deadly wildfires burned almost 2 million acres in West Texas, Oklahoma, Colorado and Kansas, some ranchers have suffered additional losses from early spring blizzards and flooding.

That last-gasp of winter resulted in some livestock deaths as well as severe damage to forage and wheat crops that some ranchers were looking to for much needed cash flow.

Melanie Pennebaker, an Oklahoma rancher who has traveled across much of the wildfire-ravaged Southwest in recent weeks, says livestock losses from the fires are still being assessed but may total from 20,000 to 40,000 head, reports Southwest Farm Press.

“Many ranchers lost 80% of their herds,” Pennebaker says, “and that’s compounded for many by lost wheat crops.” A lot of wheat acreage was damaged by a February ice storm before the wildfire roared across the Southern Plains. An early May blizzard damaged more of the grain crop. In addition to lost livestock, thousands of miles of ruined fencing pushes financial losses well beyond what government aid or insurance will cover.

Click here to read more.

What’s up with cattle imports from Canada and Mexico?

"Total U.S. cattle imports were down 7.4% in March compared to one year ago. Monthly imports of cattle from Mexico were down about 1% while cattle imports from Canada were down 17% year over year," says Derrell Peel, Extension livestock marketing economist at Oklahoma State University.

"For the first three months of the year, total cattle imports from Mexico are up 24.3% while imports from Canada are down 18.5%, leading to a combined year-to-date cattle import total up 5.6% compared to the same period one year ago. Total annual cattle imports from Mexico and Canada in 2016 were 1.71 million head, down 13.9% from the 2015 total, and the lowest total cattle imports since 2004,” Peel tells the Oklahoma Farm Report.

Click here to read Peel's full analysis of the numbers relative to this year's North American cattle imports.

Return per acre or return per cow?

Jamie Purfeerst

For years—and especially renewed in the recent cost/price squeeze—discussion has centered around reducing cow size and increasing cow numbers as a way to increase returns per acre. That’s usually seen as more important than return per cow, but it makes some sense to look at both: how you measure profitability should vary by the most limiting resource.

In land-limited operations, you can add value per acre through grazing management without changing the cow herd. Where land use is not yet optimized, more cows can increase pounds produced per acre, says Justin Sexton with Certified Angus Beef.

Click here to read more.



This is the time of the year when they pay tribute to fallen police officers and firefighters who die in the line of duty. Next year will include name of Eric Disario, Kirkersville chief killed in Kirkersville, Ohio. He is survived by wife, 6 children and another on the way.

When quarterly survey of ag bankers come out, lot to digest. 24% reported farm income was unchanged in first quarter. Max didn't expect it to be that good. Farmland values did not fall. Max was surprised.

Winnishiek County, Iowa, bridge will be out for a while after truck broke it. There was 3 ton weight limit on the the bridge. His truck was 30 tons.


There really isn't much too Kirkersville, Ohio. The town of 500 people will know be known as a town where a mass shooting occurred. A man killed two nursing home employees and the police chief there on May 12, 2017.

Do you have a steep embankment that you mow? I do. 61 year old central Missouri man suffered life threatening injuries when mower tipped over on him.

Southwestern Indiana woman selected as Farm Mom of the Year. Two daughters. 

Great small town bars. Buck's Bar in Venice, Neb., on our radar screen. Great up and coming country music arts come there. Buck used to sell John Deere tractors.

Farm Progress America, May 15, 2017

Max Armstrong notes the news that celebrity chefs including Andrew Zimmern is a march on Washington for food. And there's talk from the same group that the Farm Bill should be renamed the Food Bill. Max looks at one perspective that the Farm Bill is more than a "food bill."

Farm Progress America is a daily look at key issues in agriculture. It is produced and presented by Max Armstrong, veteran farm broadcaster and host of This Week in Agribusiness.

Watch out for activist drones

Flickr User Andrew Turner Drone

For cattlemen, I think part of the appeal of being in this business is enjoying the wide open spaces, breathtaking views and privacy of living in a remote rural area.

However, for some, that peace and quiet is being interrupted by a buzzing noise overhead.

It’s a drone, and activists could be the ones flying them over your operation.

Cattlemen in south central Nebraska are being warned about possible drone flights over their operations.

Pete McClymont, executive vice president of the Nebraska Cattlemen, tells 1049 Max Country radio that his organization has learned from members and local law enforcement officials that activists from the group SHARK could be attempting to fly drones over feedlots and around the Meat Animal Research Center near Clay Center, Neb.

This is not the first time these activists have done this. According to the report, the activists, “could be back in the area attempting to get drone footage of dead stock. McClymont says they may be in the Franklin County area, as well. There was a report of a black pickup with Illinois plates possibly taking photos near a Custer County feedlot, but that was not confirmed.”

McClymont is advising producers to be on the lookout and keep any dead livestock hidden from view before rendering services come.

Additionally, producers are encouraged to contact local law enforcement if they feel drones, or trespassers on foot or vehicle, are invading their privacy.

First activists went undercover as employees trying to find fault in livestock producers, now they are simply going to spy on you with the latest technology. As always, if we keep doing what is right by our land and livestock, we have nothing to worry about. However, activists should be reminded of the laws in this country, and playing Big Brother by sneaking around is an extreme invasion of privacy.

The opinions of Amanda Radke are not necessarily those of beefmagazine.com or Penton Agriculture.