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HSUS targets beef checkoff; NCBA vows to take stand

It looks like our pals at the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) are attempting to use the good old “divide and conquer” tactic again in their mission to abolish animal agriculture. In recent years, the animal rights organization has been busy attacking the equine, pork, poultry and veal industries, but the group has now set its sights on cattle ranchers. The question is, are we going to allow it?

According to a recent press release from the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, “HSUS attorneys have filed a lawsuit against USDA’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) on behalf of the Organization for Competitive Markets (OCM). The lawsuit, filed by HSUS lawyers, seeks the release of documents related to two OIG audits of the beef checkoff and its contractors, including NCBA. Both audits found that producer investments in the checkoff are protected by the firewall, which prevents beef checkoff dollars from being used for policy activities. Two OIG full audits and multiple random audits by USDA have found contractors, including NCBA, to be in full compliance with the laws which protect checkoff funds.”

You have to wonder why HSUS would care about something like the beef checkoff. Well, for starters, the $1 investment yields a $5.50 return for the beef producer. It’s our industry’s main driver for boosting beef demand, and as such, it goes against HSUS’ goal of creating a vegan society.

More than that, HSUS knows that the beef checkoff has long been a point of contention amongst various groups within the beef cattle industry. For too long, internal industry fighting has divided this industry and distracted us from focusing on larger issues. We are too busy arguing with each other about the merits of the checkoff, the execution of the dollar, and who has the rights to use those dollars in various programs that we have taken our sights off of greater, external threats, such as the HSUS.

What the animal rights activist group so clearly understands is if they rekindle old fights, they can weaken the checkoff, weaken our industry, and find our vulnerabilities, which in this case is an industry facing an unstable market, fewer resources and regulatory demands that are pushing ranchers out of business. The sad and scary thing is — there are cattlemen who are helping them out.

“Those findings haven’t satisfied the extremist animal rights activists at HSUS or its partners at OCM,” said NCBA CEO Kendal Frazier, in the press release. “Instead of working to better our industry, these two organizations and a small handful of cattlemen have chosen a devil’s pact in an effort to weaken the checkoff, which will in turn, weaken beef demand and our entire industry.”

In order to protect the industry and halt HSUS, NCBA has said it will seek intervenor status in the lawsuit against OIG.

“There’s no doubt that HSUS stands against rural America. Their attacks on the beef and pork checkoff programs weaken promotion efforts. HSUS and its allies have clearly demonstrated they have no interest in the livestock business beyond ending it,” said Frazier.

“They will attempt to make this about transparency and say they’re undertaking this effort on behalf of producers. But let’s be clear: HSUS intends to put every cattleman and woman in America out of business. By weakening checkoff programs and damaging producer-directed marketing and promotion efforts, they can cause economic harm to our industry and force us out of production agriculture.”

According to the release, “HSUS and OCM are working to rehash questions that were asked and answered long ago. Since then, multiple audits have demonstrated full and ongoing contractor compliance with regulations governing beef checkoff expenditures. Furthermore, NCBA has demonstrated that it remains committed to transparency and its role as a contractor to the beef checkoff.”

“We have nothing to hide. We have, and will continue to fully cooperate with all reviews and audits of our contracting activities,” said Frazier. “However, we will not stand idly by and allow HSUS to kill the checkoff. This isn’t the first attempt to weaken our industry and it won’t be the last, but this is where we must draw a line in the sand and protect the interests of American cattlemen and women.”

I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty disgusted about this latest attack on our industry. I’m not going to let HSUS use the divide and conquer strategy to weaken this cattle industry I love and take away my dollar checkoff investment.

It’s incredibly frustrating to think about the time, money and labor that will need to be earmarked to deal with this petty and distracting lawsuit. I’m quite certain there are plenty of other ways we could be spending our industry’s precious resources.

Also, I’m disturbed by the small number of cattlemen who have been duped by HSUS into thinking the group cares more about animal welfare than ranchers do. I’m troubled by those few individuals who are flattered because HSUS has put them on a board as a rural director or invited them to speak at a meeting. They are a wolf in sheep’s clothing, and no animal owner is special in their eyes, nor will they be immune to their tactics down the road.

It’s time to saddle up, ranchers; HSUS isn’t going away anytime soon. Are we ready for the fight?

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

 

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Still growing Overton Veterinary Services in Nebraska has built its business supplying manpower and veterinary services to a feeder and to other beef operations in its region
<p class="BVCaption"> <style type="text/css"><!-- /* Font Definitions */ @font-face {font-family:"Cambria Math"; panose-1:2 4 5 3 5 4 6 3 2 4; mso-font-charset:0; mso-generic-font-family:auto; mso-font-pitch:variable; mso-font-signature:-536870145 1107305727 0 0 415 0;} @font-face {font-family:Calibri; panose-1:2 15 5 2 2 2 4 3 2 4; mso-font-charset:0; mso-generic-font-family:auto; mso-font-pitch:variable; mso-font-signature:-520092929 1073786111 9 0 415 0;} @font-face {font-family:"Century Gothic"; panose-1:2 11 5 2 2 2 2 2 2 4; mso-font-charset:0; mso-generic-font-family:auto; mso-font-pitch:variable; mso-font-signature:3 0 0 0 1 0;} /* Style Definitions */ p.MsoNormal, li.MsoNormal, div.MsoNormal {mso-style-unhide:no; mso-style-qformat:yes; mso-style-parent:""; margin-top:0in; margin-right:0in; margin-bottom:10.0pt; margin-left:0in; line-height:115%; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:11.0pt; font-family:Calibri; mso-ascii-font-family:Calibri; mso-ascii-theme-font:minor-latin; mso-fareast-font-family:Calibri; mso-fareast-theme-font:minor-latin; mso-hansi-font-family:Calibri; mso-hansi-theme-font:minor-latin; mso-bidi-font-family:"Times New Roman"; mso-bidi-theme-font:minor-bidi;} p.BVCaption, li.BVCaption, div.BVCaption {mso-style-name:"BV Caption"; mso-style-priority:99; mso-style-unhide:no; margin:0in; margin-bottom:.0001pt; line-height:11.0pt; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; mso-layout-grid-align:none; text-autospace:none; font-size:9.0pt; font-family:"Century Gothic"; mso-fareast-font-family:Calibri; mso-fareast-theme-font:minor-latin; mso-bidi-font-family:"Century Gothic"; color:black;} .MsoChpDefault {mso-style-type:export-only; mso-default-props:yes; font-size:11.0pt; mso-ansi-font-size:11.0pt; mso-bidi-font-size:11.0pt; font-family:Calibri; mso-ascii-font-family:Calibri; mso-ascii-theme-font:minor-latin; mso-fareast-font-family:Calibri; mso-fareast-theme-font:minor-latin; mso-hansi-font-family:Calibri; mso-hansi-theme-font:minor-latin; mso-bidi-font-family:"Times New Roman"; mso-bidi-theme-font:minor-bidi;} .MsoPapDefault {mso-style-type:export-only; margin-bottom:10.0pt; line-height:115%;} @page WordSection1 {size:8.5in 11.0in; margin:1.0in 1.25in 1.0in 1.25in; mso-header-margin:.5in; mso-footer-margin:.5in; mso-paper-source:0;} div.WordSection1 {page:WordSection1;} --> </style> <b>Still growing:</b> Overton Veterinary Services in Nebraska has built its business supplying manpower and veterinary services to a feeder and to other beef operations in its region.</p>

Nebraska’s Overton Veterinary Services has built a business by offering solutions to specific client needs.

“Any time you can sit down with clients one on one and get a sense of the direction they have for their operations, then there is always a chance to find a way to benefit them,” says Jared Walahoski, DVM, one of the owner-partners of Overton Veterinary Services LLC (OVS) at Overton.

This statement goes a long way in explaining the number of innovative ways that OVS serves its clients — about 85% cattle (60% cow-calf and 40% feedlot), with the remainder equine and companion animal.

Consider that OVS staff are the processing crew for Darr Feedlot Inc., at Cozad, Neb. It’s a custom feedlot with a one-time capacity of about 50,000 head. Built upon a longstanding relationship forged with trust, OVS agreed to provide Darr with a processing crew in 1997, when the cattle feeding operation was much smaller.

“As Darr has grown, our staff has grown to meet their needs,” Walahoski explains. “Our commitment to them is to provide trained, BQA-certified staff to process their cattle.” The processing staff always includes at least one of the five OVS veterinarians. One way or the other,  Walahoski — consulting veterinarian for Darr — is at the feedlot most every day, unlike the weekly or every-other-week schedule common to consultants.

“It lets the feedlot staff do their jobs more efficiently,” Walahoski says of the OVS processing. “From the perspective of feedlot customers, we feel like it should also provide added confidence.”

The need and opportunity to provide processing expertise and labor has everything to do with the ongoing challenge faced by those in every sector of the cattle business to find folks qualified, willing and able to take care of cattle.

Other services

In fact, providing manpower to cow-calf clients is one of the fastest growing parts of OVS. Understand that many of their cow-calf clients also farm extensively.

As a client, you can sort the calves off from your cows and send them to the OVS facility, or have the OVS crew come to your place with a four-man crew and one of their recently purchased hydraulic calf cradles. OVS does it all — castrate, dehorn, vaccinate and all the rest, documenting and tying the work to individual animal identity. OVS processed between 11,000 and 12,000 calves for clients this spring.

Although some OVS clients continue to use cow herd management software programs to track individual animal performance — OVS also provides the service — Walahoski explains that some are drifting back to the group data approach because of the labor required to input and maintain data, especially when more than one person is involved in data collection.

Jared Walahoski, DVM

“The labor pool of people who want to work hard and work in the cattle industry is getting smaller,” Walahoski emphasizes. “We have a large number of people on our staff trained to work cattle.”

Many of the OVS staff assistants have been with the clinic at least five years. Besides having the requisite processing expertise, they’re familiar with the clients and their operations, and the clients are familiar with having them around.

Counting the veterinarians, there are 16 OVS employees.

More on manpower

“We have to make sure that continues to be the case. Our clients have come to expect that from us,” Walahoski says. “When the need arises, we have to make sure we continue to find qualified people who care about the industry and are looking for a career rather than a job to get them by.”

Walahoski believes the industry needs to spend more resources in figuring out how to entice young people to get involved, or remain involved, in the cattle business.

Improving cattle care

Working with Darr Feeders and other cattle feeding clients offers Overton Veterinary Services additional opportunity to help cow-calf clients prepare calves for the market channel.

“By and large, all calves are going to end up at a feedyard. I want the calves our practice takes care of to be as prepared as possible for that environment,” Walahoski explains. “We want to have calves prepared from both a health standpoint, and in terms of nutrition and minerals.”

OVS has a staff nutritionist who works with client rations, but also helps the clinic offer clients an optimized mineral mix for specific situations, at the correct time.

Similarly, OVS uses autogenous vaccines in order to customize prevention for specific situations and threats.

“Because we have so many retained-ownership cattle at Darr, if there’s an issue, we have the ability and leeway to go back and visit with the producer to make suggestions,” Walahoski says. “If we can get them to deal with preparing calves on the front end, it minimizes problems at the feedlot.”

Some of the calves fed at Darr come from OVS cow-calf clients. When it comes to those, Walahoski explains, “We’ve seen those cattle once, if not twice, before they arrive at the yard. Our vaccination program at branding and preweaning is fairly aggressive.

“At the feedyard, you can see the difference in cattle that have been weaned and preconditioned properly,” he says.

In other words, it’s harder to be a hero taking care of health and nutrition on one side of the trade, and then processing cattle with that knowledge once they get to the feedyard. There just aren’t many health problems.

“Our expectations and those of our customers are higher,” Walahoski says. But, he adds, “I think there is always an opportunity for veterinary practices to help their clients improve their vaccination programs — not necessarily in the vaccinations given, but in making sure they’re given at the right time, and making sure cattle are prepared to enter the feedyard.”

From an industry standpoint, Walahoski continues to be frustrated by the diverse definitions of preconditioning and the lack of standardization.

Walahoski understands that OVS is blessed with a willing clientele.

“That’s part of what drew me here,” Walahoski says. “We have a group of cow-calf clients who are concerned about what they’re doing. We have a very loyal and committed client base in tune with what we’re trying to do.”

This relationship-based approach means there’s more opportunity for OVS veterinarians and their clients to learn from one another.

As Walahoski says, “Once health is taken care of, how did the cattle perform?” That leads to conversations about genetic selection, reproduction management, herd nutrition and all of the rest. OVS clients have access to a complete menu of services, from estrus synchronization and artificial insemination, to embryo flushing and transfer, to records management and herd financial analysis.

“The big thing for us is being able to spend time with our clients to identify their needs,” Walahoski explains. “We’re not trying to reinvent the wheel, or push things that don’t benefit the client. We focus on finding areas where our clients need assistance, and we provide them with solutions.”

For the folks at OVS, serving clients boils down to taking care of details. Or, as the longtime
OVS philosophy goes, “Do the common things uncommonly well.”

VFD opportunities

Though looming implementation of the Veterinary Feed Directive (VFD) will undoubtedly come with a few potholes and speed bumps, the veterinarians at Overton Veterinary Services LLC at Overton, Neb., believe it offers more opportunity than challenge.

“At the end of the day, we all have to make sure consumers purchasing beef are comfortable with the product,” says Jared Walahoski, DVM, one of the owner-partners at OVS.

On the other side of the animal care equation is the need to preserve the opportunity to use antimicrobials.

“Our program is designed to be as much of a preventative health program as it can be. By and large, where
we can do that with our cow-calf clients, there are few health problems,” Walahoski explains. “That said, there
are instances, from an animal welfare standpoint, where using antibiotics in feed and water is a superior option to putting animals through the stress of individual handling, which is why we need to embrace the fact that there will be oversight.”

OVS has been preparing clients for VFD for more than a year with educational meetings. They’re also taking a proactive approach with feed dealers serving their clients to ensure that the paperwork is in place so that clients will be able to get the products they need without interruption.

“Our goal is to make it as painless as possible for our clients,” Walahoski says.

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4 beef nutrition articles you need to read & share

Beef has long been the target of many nutritionists who claim that red meat is the cause of many ailments — ranging from cancer to heart disease to diabetes. However, a growing body of researching is proving otherwise, and mainstream media outlets are now picking up on the good news. Here are four recent beef nutrition articles to read and pass along.

1. “We’re all guinea pigs in a failed decades long diet experiment” by Markham Heid for vice.com

Heid explains how animal fats and proteins like red meat and dairy products might soon make a comeback and shares how he believes these foods became “villains” in the first set of dietary guidelines.

He writes, “The USDA, along with the agency that is now called Health and Human Services, first released a set of national dietary guidelines back in 1980. That 20-page booklet trained its focus primarily on three health villains: fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol. Recently, research has come out strongly in support of dietary fat and cholesterol as benign, rather than harmful, additions to a person's diet. Saturated fat seems poised for a similar pardon.”

VIDEO: Human nutrition benefits from beef

2. “How the sugar industry shifted blame to fat” by Anahad O’Connor for the New York Times

If you want to dig deeper into how the Dietary Guidelines were created and how they have steered Americans in the wrong direction, check out this article.

Here is an excerpt: “Today, the saturated fat warnings remain a cornerstone of the government’s dietary guidelines, though in recent years the American Heart Association, the World Health Organization and other health authorities have also begun to warn that too much added sugar may increase cardiovascular disease risk.”

Don't Forget: Enter the "Cattle & Colors" photo contest today!

3. “Don’t ban the bratwurst; German nutritionists declare veganism unhealthy” by Carey Reilly for Fox News

A life without meat isn’t good for you? You don’t say! It appears Europe might be ahead of the curve when it comes to the risks of an all-plant diet. Reilly writes that the German Nutrition Society (DGA), a non-profit research institution, has taken a firm stand against the plant-based diet in recently published study that declares veganism will not provide the body with the proper nutrition it needs to be healthy. The study goes on to explain that “the most critical nutrient is vitamin B12 which is found naturally in animal products and is lacking in the diet.”

4. “Could brisket boost your good cholesterol?” by Abby Knight for KBTX.com

Here is an excerpt from the article, which promotes beef fat as a health food:

“Stephen Smith is a professor and researcher at Texas A&M Agrilife. He says while examining brisket, his research team discovered it could have health benefits.

“‘When you look at brisket fat, it had the same composition of our ground beef that was the best for you, that had high oleic acid,’” said Smith.

“Smith says oleic acid helps your body regulate cholesterol levels by raising your "good cholesterol." Smith is hoping to take his research from the lab and start testing it on humans. He says doctors often tell patients who have high cholesterol or are overweight to cut out red meat.

“‘We are pushing against that and saying perhaps they should continue to have beef in the diet, and especially beef with fat,’” said Smith.”

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

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Stunning fall snapshots from the ranch

BEEF is celebrating fall on the ranch with a new photo contest called, "Cattle & colors." Readers have submitted their favorite autumn ranch scenes for a chance to win a VISA gift card.

Do you have a photo to enter? Entries will be accepted until 8 a.m. on Monday, Sept. 26, and will be posted in a photo gallery, which will be updated daily throughout the contest. Email amanda.radke@penton.com to enter.

UPDATE: The contest is now closed and voting is taking place. Please click here to find out the finalists and help select a winner.

For complete details on the contest, click here.

Check out the gallery each day as new photos will be added daily.

U.S. beef trade gains steam

U.S. beef trade gains steam

Beef export volume increased 8% in July—from a year earlier—according to statistics released by USDA and compiled by the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF). Beef export value for July was 5% less at $526.7 million. For January through July, export volume was up 4% to 640,888 metric tons, while value fell 10% to $3.44 billion.

“The U.S. export numbers were generally encouraging, and seem to reflect increasing domestic supply coupled with lower prices and a relatively lower U.S. dollar, all assisting sales to foreign customers,” say analysts with the Livestock Marketing Information Center (LMIC) in the most recent Livestock Monitor.

Likewise, Derrell Peel, Extension livestock marketing specialist at Oklahoma State University, explains that increased U.S. beef production and lower cattle prices are reversing the trend of recent years, where beef exports decreased as record-high prices rationed demand in both domestic and international markets.

According to USMEF, exports accounted for 14% of total beef production in July and 11% for muscle cuts only – each up about 1 percentage point from a year ago. For January through July, these ratios were 13% and 10%, respectively, steady with last year.

Export value per head of fed slaughter was $263.89 in July, down 5% from a year ago. For January through July, export value per head was $251.82, which was 13% less.

“Markets work best and most efficiently, not by stopping and starting abruptly, but by gently tapping the brakes or the accelerator as conditions change,” Peel explains. “International trade of cattle and beef is a significant buffer that reduces drastic market swings in U.S. markets.”

In 2014 and 2015, Peel explains record-high U.S. prices and reduced supplies had the expected effect of stimulating beef imports and cattle imports while retarding beef exports. A strong U.S. dollar exaggerated those effects both ways.

“Increased imports augmented supplies of beef, especially supplies of lean processing beef – primarily for ground beef – and moderated what would have been an even more extreme impact on domestic demand in a period of record prices,” Peel says.

So far this year, beef exports are recovering, albeit slowly and unevenly, Peel says. He explains, “Beyond short-term market conditions, trade flows are impacted by longer term conditions in various countries and structural changes that alter the long-term trajectory of beef and cattle trade flows.”

For example, China became the second largest beef importer in recent years as consumption there exceeds beef production, making China a global beef market participant for the first time.

“The United States does not yet have direct access to the Chinese market but the impacts are already evident in global markets and are expected to continue to grow,” Peel says.

Closer to home, Peel explains Mexico’s growth in beef production, processing and exporting impacts the U.S. market in a variety of ways. For instance, he explains Mexico was the fourth largest source of beef imports for the U.S. last year.

“At the same time, increased demand for Mexican cattle in Mexico is reducing the flow of Mexican feeder cattle to the United States,” Peel explains. “Cattle imports from Mexico were down 54.1% year-over-year in July and are down 20.9% for 2016 to date. This is likely a permanent or at least long-lived decrease in Mexican cattle exports.”

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70+ photos showcasing all types of cattle nutrition
Readers share their favorite photos of cattle grazing or steers bellied up to the feedbunk. See reader favorite nutrition photos here.

 

Analysts expect decreased beef imports and growing beef exports to play a central role in stabilizing cattle and beef prices in the United States as production expands in the coming years.

“Along with domestic beef demand, international demand for U.S. beef will determine just how big the U.S. beef industry needs to be as it grows,” Peel says. “More than just total tonnage, beef exports and imports are critical in balancing the supply and demand of specific beef products. This helps maximize the value of every beef carcass in the U.S. market.”

 

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Calf value continues lower

Calf value continues lower

Despite hopefulness shown in the futures market, calf prices continued to lose ground—steady to $3 per cwt lower—while feeder cattle sold steady to $3 higher with instances of $5-$7 higher, according to the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS).

“There has been little to no positive price improvement in calf and feeder cattle markets since the first week of August,” says Andrew P. Griffith, agricultural economist at the University of Tennessee, in his Friday market comments.

Although prices for calves of the lightweight, fresh-weaned variety will likely lose more ground as auction receipts increase, Griffith says, “There should not be much more downside price risk, but that is simply because the wind has been taken out of the sails and prices are already putting producers in a bind as it relates to profit potential.”

Week to week, Feeder Cattle futures closed an average of $1.49 higher across the front half of the board ($1.00 to $2.02 higher) and then 35 cents to 65 cents higher.

There are signs, however, that fed cattle prices might be past the summer corner.

Live prices were $3-$5 higher on Friday at $110 per cwt on moderate trade and demand in Nebraska and the Southern Plains. Prices were $2-$3 higher in Iowa-Minnesota at $107. Dressed trade was $4-$5 higher at $170.

Week to week, Live Cattle futures were an average of $2.91 higher through the front four contracts ($2.65-$3.47) and then an average of $1.34 higher.

This respite was more than welcome.

Fed steer prices declined 21% since the beginning of the year and are currently 25% below 2015 levels, according to analysts with USDA’s Economic Research Service (ERS), in the monthly Livestock, Dairy and Poultry Outlook (LDPO) released Friday.

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70+ photos showcasing all types of cattle nutrition
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“Over the past four weeks, expected fed cattle prices have declined at least $10 per cwt, leading to projected losses of at least $150 per steer for closeouts throughout the remainder of 2016,” says Glynn Tonsor, agricultural economist at Kansas State University, in the most recent issue of In the Cattle Markets. Data is from the most recent K-State Kansas Feedlot Net Return series.

Tonsor emphasizes the K-State series mimics a cash market situation without price risk management.

“Those operations regularly implementing price risk mitigation tools likely have experienced more moderated returns and may have been partially protected against recent fed cattle market declines,” Tonsor says. “While many feedlots indeed engage in price risk management, few can fully offset price risks as it is rare that attractive margins can be locked in at placement.”

“Aggressive steer and heifer slaughter rates, coupled with the seasonal increase in carcass weights, remain bearish for the entire beef complex,” ERS analysts explain. “Demand is also a concern as beef prices typically weaken after Labor Day and supplies of competing meats are large.”

“Wholesale beef prices have declined for five consecutive weeks, resulting in $15 losses for both the Choice and Select cutouts over that time period,” Griffith says. “The price decline is largely related to beef production which is 5.2% higher than 2015 year to date.

“Looking at a shorter time period, beef production the past nine weeks was 7.9% higher than the same nine weeks a year ago. The increased production this year compared to last year is due to pulling cattle forward, while last year those cattle were being backed up to put more weight on them.”

Choice boxed beef cutout value was $1.70 lower week to week at $186.20 per cwt. Select was $3.89 lower at $178.38.

But, beef exports appear to be picking up (see “U.S. beef trade gains steam”) and beef retail prices are moving lower.

According to ERS, the July retail Choice beef price was reported at $6.09 per pound, down 11 cents from the previous month and down approximately 28 cents per pound from July 2015.

“Fed cattle prices, along with beef prices, may begin to stabilize and reverse the current trend in the fourth quarter with seasonally tighter beef supplies and stronger demand for popular beef items in anticipation of the holiday season,” ERS analysts say.

ERS projects Oklahoma City feeder steer prices at $141-$144 for the third quarter and at $143-$149 for the fourth. LDPO projects prices for Choice fed steers (5-area weighted average) at $113-$116 in the third quarter and $115-$121 in the fourth.

 

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