I would like to put one of these fall newsletters together and oﬀer nothing but positive news. Unfortunately, this is not that year. Cattle prices are really good and national cattle inventory numbers indicate they should stay good for a while. Fertilizer prices are creeping back down from the elevated and record highs that we’ve seen the last couple of years so ryegrass planting costs are down. With those 2 factors alone, it would normally be time to celebrate. As is normal in agricultural production, here comes the inevitable BUT. Pastures are short and hay is shorter. Many producers out there are having to make the really tough calls on what to keep and what you are forced to send down the road. The lack of rain coupled with the extreme heat are making many pastures look more like what I grew up seeing in West Texas opposed to what I’ve become accustomed to living in Louisiana. Our precipitation swings have been pretty wild. It has either been too wet or too dry over the last couple of years with little in between. Here’s to hoping the heat dome lifts and the moisture comes our way.
You all have been dealing with it for a long time but we finally hit the drought monitor as a severe drought. That designation triggers the FSA’s Livestock Forage Disaster Program. You can contact Patrick Babineaux in the Amite office for more information. Their number is 985-748-8751 ext 2. To participate you must certify your pasture acres. If you didn’t do that during their certification window, there is a small fee to do so. Deeds for owned pastures or lease information for rented pastures are needed. Patrick covers a large area and there will be a lot of producers participating in this program so you will need to set up an appointment with him.
(This article is related to Oklahoma calf prices but gives good incite for calf prices and cattle inventory)
Cattle Prices March Higher…and Higher
Derrell S. Peel, Oklahoma State University Extension Livestock Marketing Specialist
Feeder cattle prices have increased sharply in 2023. Figure 1 (for more information access Word document) shows the increase in Oklahoma combined auction feeder prices that started in late 2022. In the last four weeks, prices for lightweight calves and stockers under 600 pounds have averaged about 45 percent higher year over year, with heavier feeder cattle prices up slightly less, from 37 to 40 percent over last year.
Cattle prices are trending higher in response to ever tightening cattle and beef supply fundamentals. The beef cow herd on January 1, 2023 was the lowest since 1962 and is still getting smaller. The projected 2023 U.S. calf crop is 2.5 million head smaller than the recent peak in 2018 and leads to an estimated July 1 feeder cattle supply down 3.6 percent year over year and the smallest since 2017. Feedlot inventories have been smaller year over year since September 2022. Cattle slaughter is down 3.9 percent so far this year, leading to a 4.9 percent year over year decrease in beef production for the year to date.
Feeder cattle prices have reached record levels or are rapidly approaching record levels. Table 1 (for more information access Word document) shows record weekly Oklahoma steer and heifer prices by weight group. As seen in the table, all feeder steer and heifer prices for animals over 600 pounds are already at new record levels. Prices for lightweight feeders are expected to reach new record levels in the coming weeks and months. Table 1 (for more information access Word document) will soon be out of date as feeder cattle prices are expected to continue moving higher.
Cattle prices have advanced quickly; in some ways faster than expected. The highest cattle prices will occur when herd rebuilding begins in earnest. The retention of heifers and reduced cow culling will squeeze feeder cattle supplies, cattle slaughter, and beef production to sharply lower levels. This process has not yet started and is expected to proceed rather slowly when it does begin. Herd rebuilding is expected to take three to four years or more. Heifer retention may begin in late 2023 but is likely to consist primarily of weaned heifer calves that will not increase beef production until 2026. Cattle prices are expected to average higher through 2024 and 2025 at least.
Our annual Livingston Fall Beef Meeting will be held the afternoon of October 21st. Charles and Bea Kemp have graciously agreed to host us this year. I will send out more information as we get closer. Please mark it on your calendar.
I based my calculation on a medium fertility requirement of 50‐60‐60 for nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. I used urea along with diammonium phosphate and muriate of potash as the bulk fertilizer ingredients. This fertilizer rate is same rate I use on a yearly basis to track costs. As always, pull a soil sample and see what your needs will be. The seed cost is based on the more popular tetraploid varieties and planted at a rate of 40 pounds to the acre. The estimated cost to plant is somewhere around $121 this year. This is significantly cheaper than last year. It is somewhere in the neighborhood of 30% cheaper at this fertilization rate. Of course, there are additional fertilizer costs for topdressing with nitrogen as well.
For additional information on calculations, seeding rates for cool-season pasture and forage crops, planting dates for cool-season pasture and forage crops, cool-season pasture and forage crop varieties suggested for consideration in 2023-2024 and mean dry forage production (pounds per acre) from annual ryegrass entries at three locations in Louisiana during three growing seasons, 2020-2021 through 2022-2023, access Word document.