Close
Home  All Articles
 
 
Thursday, December 20,2007

Futures give fed market optimism

by WLJ
— Calf, yearling market widely varied. Fed cattle trade last week was just starting to get charged up before press time Thursday, at prices $1 stronger live, $2-3 higher dressed. Volumes, however, were very slight as packers were trying to control the market from being much more than steady with the previous week. In addition, volumes were hampered somewhat because of Labor Day. As of Thursday afternoon, 10-12,000 head had traded hands in Nebraska at $128-130 dressed, some $82 live. The same prices were paid on limited volumes of cattle in both Iowa and Colorado, also. Southern Plains trade still hadn’t started last Thursday, with producers asking mostly $84, and packers coming in with bids mostly around $81, some $81.50. Texas market sources said that $83 might get some cattle traded, but it would be at the last minute on Friday. “They really think $84 is doable,” said Brent Snyder, analyst with Texas Cattle Feeders Association. Live cattle futures contracts added some bullishness to producers’ thoughts last week. At close of business Thursday, October live cattle were at $83.45, December $86.55 and February $88.37. Prices were up $2.25, $2.15 and $1.60 from settlement prices the previous Friday, respectively. Also adding some strength to the market complex was a stronger boxed beef market. Choice boxed beef was $1 higher through most of last week, compared to the end of the previous week. In fact, Choice almost got back to $135 per cwt. Select stayed mostly steady with the previous week. Boxed beef strength was also noted in the movement from packers to retail outlets. Spot cash movement topped 500 loads both last Wednesday and Thursday. Analysts with Cattle-Fax called Labor Day beef demand better-than-expected, as good weather was reported across the large majority of the U.S. The one exception, of course, was in the Deep South and Gulf Coast areas, where recovery from Hurricane Katrina was beginning. Last week’s continued increase in Choice boxed beef prices also gave analysts the feeling that demand for higher quality middle meats is stronger than once thought, thus improving the profitability for retailers. That extra profit is being used to buy more meat on the wholesale market. Fed trade volumes last week weren’t expected to be very large due to packers having one less slaughter day and being able to hold on to a one- or two-day supply of cattle into the third week of September. Between Tuesday and Thursday, 376,000 head of cattle were processed, 4,000 head more than the same week a year ago. On a daily average basis, last week’s slaughter volume was 125,300 head, about 4,000 head more per day than the previous week. Additional optimism was being shown by producers because of the three-week-long stretch of profitable margins being reported by packers. The packer margin index last Thursday was around $5 per head, down $3-4 from the previous few business days. Double-digit packer profits were being reported during much of the second half of August. Feeder market Feeder cattle volume is starting to increase in the north, however, that didn’t deter prices paid for cattle being offered from that area of the country. However, some pressure could be expected in upcoming weeks due to high fuel prices and lackluster demand. Prices at Torrington, WY, were $2-3 higher for steers and heifers over 700 lbs. Light feeder cattle in La Junta, CO, were lightly tested, however, 700-lb. steers were $1-2 higher. Billings, MT, reported light tests, but strong demand for the first loads of cattle for the season. In the southern tier, cattle were also trading at higher volume and prices. Feeder steers in El Reno, OK, were selling for prices as much as $4 higher and demand was considered strong for steers in the 650-750 lb. range. Feeder heifers were also steady to $2 higher. In Dodge City, KS, feeder steers in the 400-700 lb. range were lightly tested, but nonetheless sold $1-3 higher, heavy feeders, 850-950 lbs. sold as much as $3-4 higher. Feeder heifers across all weight classes were noted to be $1-3 higher. The Superior Video Auction last week brought mixed results. A number calves still on cows were offered. Those lots were heavily discounted by buyers, and several “no-sale” lots were noted by analysts. Producers offering weaned calves were receiving a $6-9 premium for uniform loads. Southern tier cattle brought an average price of $126.44 for calves in the 400-700 lb. range, with one instance of $157 for a load of lightweight 400-lb. calves in the southern tier. Fuel prices were beginning to moderate late last week as the impact of the hurricane was alleviated some by an opening of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve and a return to production of some of the refineries and pipelines knocked off-line by the storm. Several analysts have noted concern edging toward bearishness on feeder cattle prices as supplies begin to increase going into fall. Strong fall grazing prospects combined with good corn prices for feedlots are lending support for the feeder market right now. Going forward, market conditions are likely to soften some as supplies increase. The uncertainty for cow/calf producers right now lies in the weak fed market and high transportation costs, both of which continue to put downward pressure on the feeder markets which continue to exhibit good resiliency. According to Jim Robb, chief analyst with the Livestock Marketing Information Center, fuel costs are likely to add $1 per cwt to both cattle and grain transportation costs. In addition, fuel increases will be seen in the feed mills of most feedlots. As a result, prices to be paid for cattle coming into feedlots this fall could be pressured another $2-5 per cwt. — WLJ

Read more
Thursday, December 20,2007

June beef imports a record; up 5% for first six months

by WLJ
The U.S. imported a record 123,875 tons of beef and veal during June, 8.8% higher than May and 8.3% higher than June 2004. Official figures show that imports of fresh, chilled beef came to 41,371 tons, virtually unchanged from the previous month but up by 9.2% over the same month last year. Imports of frozen beef were 75,639 tons, which was 12.8% above the previous month and 10% above June 2004. During June, beef imports from Canada came to 38,099 tons, unchanged from May. U.S. imports of beef from Canada during the first half of 2005 were 15.9% higher than a year ago, amounting to 202,616 tons. Canada was the leading beef exporter to the U.S. in June, accounting for 32.8% of total U.S. imports for the month. Beef from Australia during June rose 10%, compared to May, to 35,633 tons. Imports from Australia for the first half of the year totaled 132,890 tons, 18.3% below the same period a year ago. During June, the U.S. imported 25,186 tons of beef from New Zealand, a rise of 32%, compared to May. First-half beef imports from New Zealand were 123,645 tons, down 12.3% from last year. U.S. beef imports from Uruguay during June rose by 1.9 %, compared to May, to 17,541 tons. Total imports from Uruguay for the year to date were 79.3% more than last year, at 96,800 tons. Overall, during the first half of 2005, U.S. imports of beef and veal came to 617,154 tons, up 5.2% compared to the first half of 2004, USDA said.

Read more
Thursday, December 20,2007

Record ag income last year; cattle prices contributed

by WLJ
The agricultural sector contributed a record $125.9 billion to the U.S. economy in 2004. Net farm income, which is the return earned by farm operations, was a record $82.5 billion. A survey conducted by USDA indicated unique results among recent years in that both livestock and crop industries generated record levels of value of production and receipts in the same year. As a result, total receipts were a record $241.2 billion, which was $24.6 billion more than the previous record of $216.6 billion in 2003. Total 2004 production expenses, at $209.8 billion, rose more than 5% compared with 2003. Producers spent a record amount on purchased inputs, including items such as feed, seed, chemicals and especially fuel. The increase of more than $36.4 billion in the value of farm sector production over 2003’s record of $242.6 billion was of such magnitude that farmers earned a record net income, despite increasing production costs. Producers’ net cash income also increased to a record $85.5 billion in 2004, with cash expenses consuming 68.5 cents of each dollar of gross cash income, the smallest share since the late 1980s. The occurrence of two consecutive years of exceptionally large harvests for major crops and unusually high prices for most classes of livestock and milk have created record earnings for the farm sector, and participants who assume production risks have reaped the benefits. Production of livestock tends to be more stable from year to year, but prices can vary substantially depending on supply conditions. Thus, most of the volatility in the value of livestock production arises from fluctuations in market prices. Expenses for purchased supplies used in the production of crops and livestock were 5% higher in 2004 than during the prior year, and $13.4 billion greater than in 2002. This compares to the $60.3 billion difference in the value of farm sector production between 2002 and 2004. The gains in value of production have been largely a result of large harvests of crops and high prices for livestock and related products, neither of which required a corresponding increase in costs to realize the benefits. Net farm income, which is a measure of the sector’s profitability, was a record $82.5 billion in 2004, up $23 billion, or 39%, from the previous record of $59.5 billion in 2003. At $82.5 billion, net farm income was 67% above the average of the preceding 10 years. Market prices available to farmers for sales of livestock and products were substantially higher in 2003 and 2004 and have been a primary force behind the past two record years for farm income. In addition, near-perfect growing conditions for corn, soybeans, and other major crops produced large harvests. In spite of these large harvests, market prices available to producers for crops have remained strong relative to their 10-year averages. Completing the 2004 income portrait, the farm sector contributed a record $125.9 billion in value added to U.S. national economic output, up $24.7 billion from 2003 and 40% above the average of the prior 10 years. Two years ago was the first time that the economic output attributable to farmers and other agricultural stakeholders had exceeded $100 billion. Market prices received by farmers for sales of livestock and products were a primary force behind these two record years for farm income. Cattle and calves are the number one commodity in terms of cash receipts, with sales of $47.3 billion in 2004, and normally are more than double the sales of the second ranked commodity, dairy products. However, in 2004, dairy products rose $6 billion to top $27.4 billion. Livestock producers were able to sell their product at market prices that were high by historical standards, while buying feed at prices which were under pressure from large supplies following record harvests. 2005 Forecast In 2005, net farm income is forecast by USDA to be $71.8 billion, down $10.7 billion from 2004. Income is forecast down in 2005 only because it rose $23 billion to an unprecedented level in 2004. That year, both crop and livestock commodities experienced exceptionally favorable market and production conditions. Two consecutive years of record high corn production and large harvests for other major crops, combined with unusually high prices for livestock and milk, created record earnings for the farm sector. The value of production in the U.S. farm sector is forecast to be $269.1 billion in 2005. USDA predicts farms will contribute $118.3 billion to the U.S. economy in 2005, following successive record years of $101.2 billion in 2003 and $125.9 billion in 2004. Operators are forecast to earn net farm income of $71.8 billion in 2005, following records of $59.5 billion in 2003 and $82.5 billion in 2004.Total cash receipts are forecast to be $239.6 billion in 2005. Net cash income is forecast to be $85.2 billion in 2005, declining less than 1% from 2004. The value of crop production is forecast to be down by $12.4 billion in 2005 from 2004. However, cash receipts from the crop sales are forecast down only $1.8 billion as farmers sell large quantities of inventory carried over into this year. These sales will help maintain income near 2004. Cash receipts for crops are forecast to be $116 billion in 2005, down from the record $117.8 billion in 2004 due to a decline in production, higher transportation costs and downward pressure on market prices in the latter part of 2005.

Read more
Thursday, December 20,2007

USDA offers disaster aid

by WLJ
USDA last week allocated over $170 million in emergency assistance available to agricultural producers suffering from Hurricane Katrina. In addition, USDA's Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC) is implementing immediate changes to its Marketing Assistance Loan Program. "We are doing everything we can to help our Gulf Coast producers recover from the affects of Hurricane Katrina," said Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns. "This assistance is an important component of USDA's efforts and our commitment to help farmers and ranchers rebuild their operations.” USDA is providing more than $20 million in Emergency Conservation Program (ECP) funds to help producers repair damage to their lands. ECP participants will receive cost-share assistance of up to 75% of the cost to implement approved emergency conservation practices such as debris removal and restoration of fences and conservation structures. ECP is administered at the county level under the guidance of USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA) state offices. USDA has allocated $855,000 in ECP funding for Baldwin, Choctaw, Clarke, Greene, Marengo, Mobile, Sumter and Washington counties in Alabama. Another $12.45 million has been set aside for ECP efforts in the Louisiana counties of Acadia, Ascension, Assumption, Calcasieu, Cameron, East Baton Rouge, East Feliciana, Iberia, Iberville, Jefferson, Jefferson Davis, Lafayette, Lafourche, Livingston, Orleans, Plaquemines, Pointe Coupee, St. Bernard, St. Charles, St. Helena, St. James, St. John, St. Martin, St. Mary, St. Tammany, Tangipahoa, Terrebonne, Vermilion, Washington, West Baton Rouge and West Feliciana, and Allen, Avoyelles, Beauregard, Concordia, Evangeline and St. Landry. The entire state of Mississippi has been allocated $7.1 million. Giles, Lawrence and Wayne counties in Tennessee will work with $25,000 in ECP monies. Emergency loans A total of $152 million in FSA's Emergency Loan Program is available to eligible producers who have suffered at least a 30% reduction in crop production or have sustained physical losses to buildings, chattel or livestock. Farmers and ranchers have eight months from the date of a presidential or secretarial disaster declaration to apply for low-interest agency loans. In addition, CCC is implementing changes to its Marketing Assistance Loan Program to allow producers to obtain loans for "on-farm" grain storage on the ground, in addition to grain bins and other normally approved structures. This action is designed to alleviate short-term logistical problems and support local cash prices above distressed levels as a result of the hurricane. Grain producers in the U.S. are facing logistical challenges as port operations in the central Gulf Coast and lower Mississippi River, which were already complicated by summer drought conditions in the upper Mississippi and Illinois River basins, have been hampered by Hurricane Katrina. The changes to the Marketing Assistance Loan Program are consistent with emergency storage provisions already available to commercial warehouses and remain consistent with the existing CCC mandate that ensures the orderly marketing of U.S. farm commodities. CCC has authorized outside, on-farm storage of commodities which have been offered as collateral on non-recourse marketing assistance loans as long as such storage meets CCC guidelines. Commodities stored outside must be protected from animals and located so that water drainage will not seriously affect the quality and quantity of the commodity. Producers are responsible for ensuring that the quality of the commodity pledged as marketing assistance loan collateral is maintained during the entire loan period. CCC is also reminding producers that its Farm Storage Facility Loan Program (FSFL) is available to provide low-interest financing for producers to build or upgrade on-farm grain or silage storage facilities. Eligible size of the structure is determined by the borrower's demonstrated need for additional on-farm storage capacity to store eligible commodities. An eligible borrower must have a satisfactory credit rating, as determined by CCC, and demonstrate the ability to repay the facility loan debt. Facilities built for commercial purposes and not for the sole use of the borrower(s) are not eligible for financing. The maximum amount a person is allowed to borrow through the FSFL program is 85% of the net cost of the eligible storage facility and handling equipment, not to exceed $100,000. Loans over $50,000 must be additionally secured with a real estate lien. Loans are repaid through seven annual, equal installments. Loan applications should be filed in the administrative FSA office that maintains the farm's records. Additional assistance FSA has other programs to help producers recover from losses resulting from natural disasters such as Hurricane Katrina. FSA's Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program (NAP) provides financial assistance to producers of noninsurable crops when low yields, loss of inventory or prevented planting occur due to natural disasters. To be eligible for NAP assistance, crops must be noninsurable crops and agricultural commodities for which the catastrophic risk protection level of crop insurance is not available. Producers must meet other eligibility requirements to receive NAP payments. Also, FSA's Debt Set-Aside (DSA) Program is available to producers in primary or contiguous counties declared presidential or secretarial disaster areas. When borrowers affected by natural disasters are unable to make their scheduled payments on any debt, FSA is authorized to consider set-aside of some payments to allow the farming operation to continue. After disaster designation is made, FSA will notify borrowers of the availability of the DSA. Borrowers who are notified have eight months from the date of designation to apply. Also, to meet current operating and family living expenses, FSA borrowers may request a release of income proceeds to meet these essential needs or request special servicing provisions from their local FSA county offices to explore other options. Producers should attempt to contact state FSA offices if local FSA offices are temporarily closed due to hurricane considerations. The following telephone numbers cover Gulf Region state FSA offices: • Alabama, 334/279-3500; • Louisiana, 318/473-7721; • Arkansas, 501/301-3000; • Mississippi, 601/965-4300; and • Florida, 352/379-4562.

Read more
Thursday, December 20,2007

Obit

by WLJ
September 13, 2004 Record Stockman Publisher Emeritus Harry E. Green, 81, of Lakewood, CO, died Sept. 5 of cancer and heart disease. Editor and Publisher Dan Green said, "Dad was tough and a real fighter, not giving in to the ravages of his diseases. He maintained an active interest in his beloved Record Stockman and livestock industry, his family, and Colorado sports teams, right up to the end." Green is survived by two sons, Dan, Lakewood, CO, and Gibb, Windsor, CO; stepson John D. Walker, Beaver, UT, stepdaughter Donna Gary, Artesia, NM; four grandchildren and two great-grandchildren; brother Ralph H. Green, Greeley, CO, and sister Louise Westover, Tucson, AZ. Green was born and raised in Greeley, and attended the University of Denver, and later the University of Colorado. While a student at CU he was also herdsman of the Painter Cattle Co. at Roggen, CO. Upon graduation he joined the Record Stockman as a fieldman and became publisher in 1963. Green was an innovator in both livestock publishing and the printing business. Green was a director of Denver's National Western Stock Show. He was especially proud of founding, The Livestock Marketeers, along with Ross H. Miller and Claud Willett. The Livestock Marketeers is a fraternity of livestock fieldmen, sales managers, and auctioneers that meet for dinner to honor two Marketeers of the Year, during the National Western Stockshow.

Read more
Thursday, December 20,2007

Feds focusing on import safety

by DTN
Working to heighten public awareness on the Bush administration’s efforts to improve the safety of imports, two cabinet secretaries toured a small meat plant on Sept. 12 to talk about the importance of high business standards. Cracks in import safety have become a national focus this year with recalls ranging from pet foods to children’s toys. It has led to a political and consumer backlash that will place more demands on businesses and government officials to ensure foreign products are safe. The demands, however, are stressing the inspection system as the global economy and more trade deals open up U.S. ports to more goods. “I believe...that our current import systems are not keeping pace with the growth,” said Health and Human Services Secretary Michael Leavitt. In response, the administration has created an interagency working group on import safety that involves 12 federal departments and is headed by Leavitt. The working group provided a report to President Bush on Sept. 10 to push strategic goals of import safety. A follow-up report will be issued later in the year to reflect any new funding, restructuring or changes in law that may be needed to better link government departments mandated with protecting consumer goods. Leavitt and Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns spent the morning of Sept. 12 talking with producers, business owners and front-line inspectors in Kansas City on the issue of import safety. The visit is one of several federal officials will be conducting to “make sure our ideas match reality,” Leavitt said. A key part of the import-inspection strategy will be to shift from intervening when tainted food is found to “prevention and verification” that will concentrate inspections and resources on food sources most likely to encounter contamination. Inspectors will concentrate more on trouble spots and use technology “to shrink the size of the hay stack” where the needle may be found, Leavitt said. Quality has to be built into products and there must be a process in place to ensure foreign suppliers are meeting U.S. quality and safety standards, the two secretaries said. “You can’t inspect everything,” Leavitt said. “If there is one thing I have found in my travels, it’s the vastness of the amount of products that come into this country. It’s not just food.” Such emphasis on import and export safety and quality is critical in agriculture, Johanns said. Agricultural exports will hit about $79 billion this year and ag imports will be about $70 billion, he said. Next year, each will increase about $4 billion in value, Johanns said. The crossover from manufacturing and imports from other sectors has an effect on agriculture because problems challenge the integrity of a country’s overall inspection and quality system. “Issues from one sector are very definitely going to impact other sectors,” Johanns said. Leavitt and Johanns toured Boyle’s Famous Corned Beef, which imports beef and pork from countries such as Chile and Canada. The company, which employs about 45 people, further processes beef, pork, chicken and turkey into marinated, sliced or pre-cooked products for retailers and restaurants. Besides being an importer, Boyle’s also exports its processed meats as well. Johanns noted he was impressed with Boyle’s traceability system, which can track the final destination of shipped boxes within hours, he said. A key issue for companies is the growing demand to track product ingredients from fork back to farm. That places particular focus on companies that import food products. “A lot of this is being driven by businesses who are seeing consumer reaction to this,” Leavitt said.

Read more
Monday, December 3,2007

Live cattle sales steady

by WLJ
—Analysts encourage caution, expect near-term weakness. Live cattle trade began at mid-week last Wednesday with prices steady to higher than the previous week. Sales last week in the northern Plains trended steady from $95 to $95.50, with dressed sales steady at $150 in Nebraska and steady to $1 higher, from $150-151, in Colorado. Live sales in the southern Plains were fully steady from $95-95.50, with dressed sales reported in Kansas $1 higher at $152. Western Corn Belt fed cattle trades last week were steady from $94 to mostly $95 on the live side and steady to $2 lower from $148-150 dressed. Much of the credit for last week’s climb in the cash market was a result of a surge in boxed beef prices from the previous week as demand picked up and retailers began looking ahead to the holiday season. The likelihood of short supplies of product had Choice boxed beef prices pushed higher last Thursday. At mid-day, Choice was mostly steady at $150.93, while Select product moved at $136.62. Those prices were $2-3 higher than the previous week and an advance of $7 from two weeks earlier. Some of the bounce in boxed beef prices came as a result of a holiday-shortened production schedule two weeks ago and a production shortfall as a result of a fire at JBS-Swift’s Grand Island, NE, plant, which broke out Nov. 24. The reportedly minor electrical fire shuttered the plant for three days and lowered the week’s production farther than expected last week. For the week-to-date total slaughter through last Thursday, packers had harvested 505,000 head, well above the prior week total of 390,000 head and the 491,000 head total for the same period in 2006. The Chicago Mercantile Exchange last week was working against the cash market, moving lower for much of the early portion of the week. At the closing bell last Thursday, December contracts were 42 points lower than the prior day, ending at $94.57. February traded down 40 points to close at $96.65 and April lost 22 points to close the session at $97.70. However, despite the gains in the boxed beef market and steady live cattle trade last week, analysts were adding caution to the market last week, encouraging the timely sale of any market- ready supplies. The market needs to be on the lookout for a lower trend in the short-term, said Virginia Tech Commodity Marketing Agent Mike Roberts last week. “Prices were pressured by some hedge selling and concerns over how much higher cattle prices can go amid an abundance of meat protein in the supply chain,” Roberts said. He urged cattle feeders to be aggressive in their marketing efforts. “Cash sellers should definitely push market-ready cattle out of the door,” Roberts said. It will be important for cattle feeders to lock in any profits available going ahead into early 2008 when prices are expected to peak early in the year. Analysts are predicting that the spring high will come very early in the first quarter. Red ink has reportedly taken its toll in the feeding sector this fall, and Iowa State University agricultural economist Shane Ellis said recently that feeders could expect more of the same into next year despite high beef prices and a shortage of available fed cattle. “We know that cattle feeders have been seeing some red ink so far this fall and based on the futures market, this is likely to continue until the second quarter of 2008,” Ellis said. “Producers using a position on the futures market would have their best chance of locking in a profit margin from April to June.” He said their analysis also shows a positive year-over-year trend in the Iowa fed cattle market in 2008, however, that may not necessarily point toward better times for cattle feeders after mid-2008. “As for the breakeven points past next summer, uncertainty in the 2008 corn crop and supply have kept the forecasted breakevens for cattle finishing well above the range of expected sale values,” Ellis said. Feeder cattle Demand for nearly all classes of cattle at auctions around the country was good last week, with prices up across the board. As the fall run of calves dwindles, order buyers are able to find generally fewer ready-for-rail feeder cattle and are turning to calves, which some say may be the best value. Troy Applehans, analyst at Cattle-Fax, explained that even though the unweaned calves are generally of lesser quality, supply and price gaps have tightened enough to make them an attractive option. “I think if you take a look at what the calf market has done, you’d see that it has declined enough in price so that some people are beginning to realize that the unweaned calves may be the best buy,” said Applehans. Applehans said that while the gap between the prices being paid for calves and bigger feeders has been large in the past, unweaned calves have nearly caught up to the larger cattle and are now the best bargain. “What we look at pretty closely a lot of the time, the calf-to-feeder spread, which recently has gone down to about 105 percent or so, meaning that for the past month or so, calf prices are only about 5 percent away from feeders,” explained Applehans. “There’s no doubt that most feed yards would probably prefer to feed yearlings, but they are in very short supply, and with the calves being cheap enough to take the risk on lesser quality cattle, the demand for them is high.” Applehans also says that the price spread has allowed more people to get into the calf market than would normally be the case. “There’s more calf users out there right now that are more willing to just background the calves, which has kept the demand higher than it would be otherwise,” said Applehans. “Definitely, folks will have to put some money into the calves to get them healthy and doing well, but there is definite value in them. Most guys probably have a situation where they can feed a high amount of roughage or even just put them in a dry lot for the winter and will come out better on the calves in the end than they would on yearlings.” In Oklahoma City last week at the Oklahoma National Stockyards, there were a total 7,350 receipts with most cattle going higher. Feeder steers and heifers were lightly tested, at steady to $1 higher. Steer and heifer calves were $2-4 higher, with the most advance on the steer calves. There were 5,100 cattle available for sale last week at the Joplin Regional Stockyards in Joplin, MO, where compared to the week previous, steers under 700 lbs. were steady to $2 higher, with weights over 700 lbs. going $2-4 higher. Heifers were steady compared to a light test at the previous sale. Demand was moderate to good for the moderate supply. Buyers had the opportunity to purchase several loads of yearling cattle. Higher fed cattle trade and feeder cattle futures added to the positive side. Feeder steers weighing 626 lbs. went for an average of $109.71 at this sale, with heifers weighing 624 lbs. coming in over 10 lower at $97.36. At the La Junta Livestock Commission Company in La Junta, CO, last week, steer and heifer calves under 600 lbs. were $2-4 higher, with weights over 600 lbs. at $2-3 higher. There were 2,961 head available at this sale, with active trade and good demand. Previous sale weeks did not see enough yearling feeder steers and heifers to produce an accurate comparison. Steer calves weighing between 600-630 lbs. were selling from $107.50-$113.75, with heifer calves weighing 615-625 lbs. going between $102-104. In Torrington, WY, last week, there was a good run of 6,850 head, with steer calves under 650 lbs. going $1-3 higher compared to the previous week. Heifer calves under 600 lbs. were $3-6 higher, with instances of $7-10 higher. There were not enough comparable sales on yearling steers and heifers for a good price comparison, however, there was a higher undertone noted. Demand was called good. — WLJ  

Read more
Monday, December 3,2007

Decision on endangered species listings revised

by WLJ
—California red legged frog, Arroyo toad among animals to be reviewed.   U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) officials announced late last month that it would reverse course on seven of eight recent endangered species decisions which were impacted by former Deputy Assistant Interior Secretary Julie MacDonald who resigned in May. The decision could have significant impacts on ranchers whose land is inhabited by the animals. The news means that earlier victories on the part of ranchers could be overturned as part of the review. According to a letter which was sent to House of Representatives Natural Resources Committee Chair Nick Rahall, D-WV, FWS officials said they will reverse the original rulings after finding that they had been “inappropriately influenced” and that “revising the seven identified decisions is supported by scientific evidence and the proper legal standards.” Acting Fish and Wildlife Director Kenneth Stansell wrote the letter to Rahall, saying that the cases were reviewed “after questions were raised about the integrity of scientific information used and whether the decisions were made consistent with the appropriate legal standards.” The decisions included a decision to prevent Endangered Species Act (ESA) protection for the white-tailed prairie dog. However during the FWS review of species rulings during MacDonald’s tenure, the agency determined that it “believes this decision should be reconsidered.” The white-tail prairie dog is now subject to a 12-month review on the status of the population which will be responsible for determining whether the animal warrants protection. FWS also revised the ruling on the Preble’s meadow jumping mouse in Colorado and Wyoming, as well as a separate ruling on the mouse’s habitat in the two states. The mouse will lose protection in Wyoming, while remaining a protected species in Colorado where FWS officials found development threatens its habitat. Four other cases which will receive reconsideration involve critical habitat declarations for the Canada lynx, 12 species of the Hawaiian picture-wing fly, the Arroyo toad and the California red-legged frog. The single case which will remain intact after FWS review is the southwestern willow flycatcher. The agency found after its review that the decision to prevent a critical habitat declaration was “scientifically supportable.” In a statement on the issue, Rahall criticized MacDonald, saying she “should never have been allowed near the endangered species program.” Referring to Stansell’s letter, Rahall also took a shot at the Bush administration, saying that FWS’s “announcement is the latest illustration of the depth of incompetence at the highest levels of management within the Interior Department and breadth of this administration’s penchant for torpedoing science.” Environmental activists at the Center for Biological Diversity took their criticism of the agency and MacDonald’s impact even farther, filing suit in federal court last month seeking the protection of an additional 55 species, many in California, Arizona and New Mexico. “To quell the scandal, the Department of the Interior and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service pledged to review eight decisions illegally reversed by MacDonald. This cynical effort at damage control flamed the controversy, however, because MacDonald is implicated in more than 100 cases of overruling science,” the group said in announcing their lawsuit. “In response to a congressional request, the Government Accountability Office is currently investigating additional instances of science manipulation by MacDonald.” The lawsuits challenge the FWS’s refusal to list the Montana fluvial arctic grayling in Montana and Mexican garter snake in Arizona and New Mexico as endangered species, along with the elimination of 109,382 acres of protected critical habitat from the Santa Ana sucker in California, loach minnow in Arizona and New Mexico, and the spikedace, also found in Arizona and New Mexico, and its refusal to provide any critical habitat at all for the Mississippi gopher frog in Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi. “These are some of the most endangered species in the United States,” said Michael Senatore, senior counsel for the Center for Biological Diversity. “It’s outrageous that federal scientists were blocked from protecting them by political appointees in Washington, D.C. The depth of corruption within the Department of the Interior goes way beyond Julie MacDonald and eight decisions. It impacts hundreds of endangered species and millions of acres of wetlands and wildlife habitat.” However, the impact of additional lawsuits, combined with the effects of the additional reviews announced two weeks ago, will only add to the over-worked status of FWS officials who are already struggling to deal with the requirements of the ESA. Speaking about the additional reviews now required in California, FWS spokeswoman Valerie Fellows said, “These are a top priority, but we are already working with a limited staff and limited resources, and facing a number of court-ordered deadlines.” — John Robinson, WLJ Editor  

Read more
Monday, November 26,2007

Southern placements show strength

by WLJ
—Nov. 1 on feed numbers down 1.7 percent from 2006. —Fed cattle marketings rise.   There was little in the Nov. 1 cattle on feed report to cause shockwaves in the market last week as numbers were in line with pre-report expectations. On Nov. 16, USDA reported that in feedlots with more than 1,000 head capacity, there were 11.76 million head of cattle on feed. The number was down 1.7 percent from 2006, but it remained 4 percent ahead of the five-year average. The number of cattle on feed remains supportive of the market through the end of the year and into the first quarter of 2007 as tight supplies are expected to continue to boost fed cattle sale prices. “Predictions about the latest U.S. cattle inventory and October marketing numbers were generally right on the money. While there are no big surprises in USDA’s report, it’s reasonable to conclude that supplies of fed cattle will be tight at least through the first quarter of 2008, especially when you look at current activity in the futures markets,” said Jim Sartwelle, American Farm Bureau Federation livestock economist. “We’re tacking back toward the placement patterns that existed before the ethanol boom. Cattle feeders this October returned to the longer-term trend of Octobers past.” According to the National Agricultural Statistics Service report, net placements last month totaled 2.669 million head. That figure is 13.6 percent above last year and more than 2 percent higher than market analysts expected. A sizeable increase in heavyweight placements illustrated the preference by feedlots to hold cattle on feed a shorter number of days in an effort to minimize cost of gain due to expensive grain and hay. Placements of feeder cattle weighing more than 800 pounds were up 23.1 percent from last year. The number of cattle in the 600-800 pound range was also up from last year, rising 15 percent. Lightweight placement numbers increased just 1.8 percent from year ago figures. Sartwelle said the increase in October corn prices led to the preference for heavier placements as feedlots, nervous about the rise, showed a preference for the heavier cattle. However, he said he didn’t expect to see that trend continue as feedlot managers adjust to the more expensive feeding costs. “More and more, we’re hopeful the industry is adjusting to higher feed costs and that the fall of 2006 was an anomaly in cattle feeding,” he said. “I expected to see signs of lighter-weight feeder cattle heading to feed yards due to short supplies of wheat pasture available for grazing this winter. We haven’t seen that flow of light-weight feeder cattle to the yards yet.” Sartwelle said that is a shift away from October 2006, when more than one-third of newly placed feeders weighed less than 600 pounds. He said the issue going forward will be a very limited availability for heavier feeder cattle, which have mostly been accounted for. “Supplies of heavier-weight feeder steers and heifers are still pretty tight, as evidenced by nearly 60 percent of all placements weighing in at less than 700 pounds despite the crystal-clear preference by the market for heavier calves,” he said. Placements it Texas, Oklahoma, and Colorado, partially due to the lack of available wheat pasture this winter, were steady to slightly above last year. Feedlot placements in Iowa, Nebraska and South Dakota showed 11 percent more cattle in feed yards compared to last year’s numbers. The battle between packers to gain market share by purchasing fed cattle, despite expected losses in that sector over the past several months, led to a sharp rise in fed cattle marketings last month. For October, total marketings reached 1.876 million head, 6.3 percent higher than 2006. However, there was one less marketing day in October 2006, so the actual increase was just 1.7 percent from last year. According to University of Nebraska agricultural economist Darrell Mark, marketings as a percentage of the on feed inventory jumped to 17.1 percent, compared to 15.5 percent last year. Those figures show feedlot marketings over the course of the month enabled feeders to maintain their current state, tightening the supply of market-ready cattle even farther. “This suggests that the on feed inventory became more current this past month, which is supported by the spike in cattle slaughter and dressed weights in October,” Mark said. “As slaughter numbers and weights have begun to decline in the past couple of weeks, the front-end supply of cattle in feed yards has decreased. The number of cattle on feed for more than 120 days was 7.2 percent lower on Nov. 1, 2007, compared to last year.” — John Robinson, WLJ Editor  

Read more
Monday, November 26,2007

Border now open to older Canadian cattle

by WLJ
—Shipments began to trickle south on Nov. 19.   USDA moved forward with its planned opening of the border to Canadian imports of live cattle born after March 1, 1999, and beef from cattle of any age last week. However, despite attempts to fight the proposal, analysts said there would likely be little market impact. The number of cattle expected to flow south will be limited by a lack of proper documentation, excess slaughter capacity in Canada, the cost of shipping cattle south, and a surge in the value of the Canadian dollar. Those factors combine to create a financial barrier which will be difficult for cattle owners to hurdle while remaining profitable. Despite attempts by R-CALF United Stockgrowers of America to prevent the border from opening, which included filing for an emergency restraining order on Nov. 16, the courts failed to step into the fray in time to prevent the opening. As of Nov. 19, no action had been recorded on either the emergency restraining order or the group’s lawsuit aimed at preventing over-thirty- month (OTM) cattle and beef shipments. Despite the open border, very few shipments actually occurred, according to USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) which is responsible for examining cattle shipments from Canada. APHIS spokesman Ed Curlett said the agency had recorded very few cattle crossing into the U.S. from Canada on the day the border opened last week. Curlett said Monday’s tally of cattle entering the U.S. as a result of the new regulation was 514 head, through seven ports of entry. Curlett said Monday’s reported totals included 35 head at Dunseith, ND; 174 head through the port of entry at Niagra Falls, NY; 37 head at Pembina, ND; 33 head at Port Huron, MI; 77 head at Sumas, WA; 85 head at Raymond, MT; and 78 head at Highgate, VT. However, concern remains among U.S. cattle producers who fear that the Canadian ruminant-to-ruminant feed ban has not been in place long enough, or been enforced stringently enough, to prevent future cases of the disease from being imported. In addition, U.S. Cattlemen’s Association (USCA) officials said last week that the potential losses from lost export markets were an additional consideration. “U.S. Cattlemen’s Association has consistently contended that USDA’s priority should be regaining lost U.S. export markets,” stated Chuck Kiker, USDA director and Animal Health Committee chairman from Beaumont, TX. “It is perplexing that USDA fails to recognize this discrepancy in the Final Rule. This issue continues to serve as a roadblock for regaining lost export markets, a situation exacerbated by quality control issues that have occurred in recent months when export markets received shipments of beef containing banned materials. It’s time for USDA to explain to producers how the decision was made to set an effective feed ban date for Canada well before the feed ban was effectively implemented.” “The March 1, 1999, feed ban implementation date effectively compromises two of these fire walls,” noted Kiker. “Unfortunately, USDA’s decision appears to be politically driven rather than based on the best available science and data.” One possible political motivation often cited by USDA is their ongoing effort to improve international markets for U.S. beef. Those efforts have been frustratingly slow and the move to allow older Canadian imports into the U.S. is considered a key to improving trade. For example, by paving the way for expanded trade, there may be reciprocal benefits in the future for U.S. beef producers, including more relaxed restrictions for breeding stock headed for Mexico. For more than a year, U.S. states bordering Mexico have been pushing the Mexican government to allow shipments of U.S. cattle south. Mexican bull buyers have long been an important source of customers for U.S. cattlemen in Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California. However, Mexican officials have reportedly tied expanded trade to restoring trade between the U.S. and Canada. But USCA said last week those concerns aren’t enough to override the concerns that beef producers and consumers have on the subject of allowing OTM cattle in from Canada. “Consumer confidence, both domestically and internationally, is something U.S. cattle producers take very seriously,” noted Danni Beer, USCA Region X director from South Dakota. “The U.S. produces the safest beef in the world. Mitigation measures have been implemented and extensive testing has been conducted to ensure the U.S. feed ban has been effective. In the wake of numerous food recalls as well, as consumers’ growing concern about the safety of foreign produced food and goods, this is no time for the U.S. to lower its import standards and risk a negative outcome.” Although there will continue to be concerned cattle producers here in the U.S. as long as the border remains open, producers and government officials from north of the border say they are relived to get the issue put behind them. “This government and our industry partners have worked closely with the American industry and with the USDA to achieve this goal,” said Canadian Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz. “It’s great to see our work pay off with the USDA Final Rule normalizing trade for all cattle born after March 1, 1999.” — John Robinson, WLJ Editor  

Read more
 
 
User Box (click to open)
 
SEARCH IN WLJ
Get WLJ In Your Inbox!
   
 
S M T W T F S
1 2 3 4 5 6
7 8 9 10 11 12 13
14 15 16 17* 18* 19* 20*
21 22* 23 24* 25* 26* 27*
28* 29* 30
 
 

© Crow Publications - Any reprint of WLJ stories, except for personal use, without permission, written consent and appropriate attribution is prohibited. 2008 Crow Publications. All rights reserved.