Thoughts from Justin’s Side of the Fence

Justin Angell

In the past year, The Cattlemans Advocate has taken on an expanded role, serving more cattleman across a broader area of the Midwest. One thing we all shared this week was an unusually prolonged widespread heavy rainfall. The entire Midwest would’ve received 2 inches or more with many areas – including where I live – receiving 5 inches or more over two days.

As you can imagine, the grass is responding and so is the market for new crop grazing type cattle being higher again this week. I find it both incredible and encouraging that the price for steer and bull calves generally begins with the three dollar figure and goes up from there.

Unfortunately, this is the part of my article where I encourage us to curb our enthusiasm. As history has shown us, the higher the market gets, the more fragile it is. The bird flu saga just will not go away. For some reason, the government is bound and determined to find more of it in beef.

Corbitt Wall in his Feeder Flash commentary, pointed out the irony of testing beef all over the country for avian flu, but poultry products have never been tested for avian flu. Of course, beef testing is done under the guise of consumer protection, but I’m afraid two results will be increased pressure on our robust fed cattle market and secondly, some type of mandatory identification for the sake of disease traceability.

It’s being speculated the mandatory identification of some type in the commercial beef industry could happen in less than a year. As a livestock auction advocate, I believe the burden of animal ID will occur at the point of first ownership transfer. If sale barns become tagging facilities this will probably cause consolidation of our smaller livestock markets because of the facility and labor cost associated with such a large project.

Conversely the mega markets sales volumes may be limited by the shear effort it would take to tag calves before they’re sold. There would be a limit to how many calves could be physically tagged a day before the sale. No matter how this unfunded mandate comes down, the cost shall be passed down to those standing at the bottom of the hill. Let’s face it. The reason USDA was created was to ensure cheap food, and our federal government knows no bounds in their quest to control everything. (Think Obamacare)

Unfortunately, the second reason to curb our enthusiasm is based more in pure economics rather than speculation and fear mongering. Struggling boxed beef prices that appear to be at the upper limit of what the consumer can support seems to have capped fed cattle prices in a $1.82-$1.92 price range.

The much-lauded coming higher price surge due to short supply of fed cattle is not materializing due to slow chain speeds that have resulted in much larger carcasses. Carcass weight compared to just one year ago is regularly 25 pounds heavier. I believe the national beef wire reported recently one week carcass weights compared to a year ago were 46 pounds heavier.

Basically, we’re producing much more beef with fewer animals. Never underestimate the American farmers ability to overproduce.

Over the past few months, the most impressive cattle market has been bred females and pairs. Besides being a little hard to find, the better end of the bred females are bringing closer and closer to $3000, while the figure on pairs is closing in on $4000.

One thing that is keeping Jon and myself busy is procuring cows, and pairs for customers. We have had very good success in finding what people want. If you need replacement females give one of us a call and we help you find what you are looking for. In the past 90 days we have placed over 250 cows. We really only have interest in sourcing the good cows, so the way things are, I think you will love the cattle, but only maybe like the price.

In closing, I would like to encourage all my friends’ customers to give me a call just to catch up. There’s been no better time to be in the cattle business than now. If there’s anything I can do. whether it’s finding cows, buying your calves, or helping you sell your cattle with my fantastic new team at Farmers and Traders at Palmyra, give me a call!!!

I think that’s all for this month. I will see you at the auction… Sale Day is Tuesday It’s the best day of the week.