Cattlemen wonder what’s next for market


SALEM, Ohio — The cattle, market similar to the grain market, is on a wild ride thanks to the 2012 drought.

Stephen Boyles, Ohio State University Extension beef specialist, said the cattle market can change at any time, but currently, cattlemen have been able to garner a good price for them.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture released their midyear cattle inventory report in August. It showed that beef cow numbers dropped by 3 percent since 2011, and projects the 2012 calf crop to be down 2 percent, and is down 8 percent since 2006.

The drought affecting the Southwest in 2011 caused a drastic sell-off in the number of cattle and 2012 looks to be doing the same thing.

“The pencil will be as important as the tractor key in feeding cattle this winter.”

Stephen Boyles

OSU Extension Beef Specialist

Boyles said producers in eastern Ohio are in no rush to sell cattle, but in the western portion of the state, it may be a different story since the drought conditions are so much worse in that area.

“The pencil will be as important as the tractor key in feeding cattle this winter,” said Boyles.

According to Chris Hurt, Purdue Extension agricultural economist, the lack of available feed crops and forages and the high prices for what is available have forced many producers to start culling their herds. More cattle in the market means lower prices.

Hang in there

The good news for some cattle producers is that if they can hold on through 2012, cattle prices may rebound in 2013 and create a profit.

For now, Boyles said consumers still have a strong demand for beef, but the profit margins cattlemen are working with are difficult to reach.

“It’s important to know whether cattle are working for you, or are you working for them,” said Boyles.

One thing he said cattle producers can do to cut their feed costs is to strategically cull cows from the herd.

“If they are open, keep an eye on their food intakes and make the necessary decisions,” said Boyles.

Look at feeding practices

Boyles suggests farmers also consider changing feeding habits.

“Use bale rings, watch how much corn you are buying. Instead, try supplementing them with other feedstuff,” he said.

Boyles also tells cattlemen it’s time to get cattle in good condition — before the weather turns cold.

“It’s expensive to keep cattle warm when they are in less-than-good condition. It will mean more feed to keep them warm,” said Boyles.

Some other tips by the Ohio State University Extension is to estimate forage needs now and not wait until bad weather hits. Remember the needs of the herd, including how many cattle may be lactating, how many are open and how many are pregnant and what their needs will be.

Also, be on the look out for wasted feed and ways to correct the issue. Reducing the waste may outweigh the costs of the feed this year.

Another thing to consider, is if it is necessary to purchase feedstuffs, explore what is available: hay, corn silage and alternatives to byproduct feeds, and how much is available compared to how much is necessary. Also consider the price and how the feed will be fed.

Boyles said producers have to be ready to answer all of the questions, and find answers in order to produce a profit in 2012.

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