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Thursday, December 20,2007

Beef Bits

by WLJ
New Zealand’s beef import volume in 2006 is forecast to increase 7%, to 615,000 tons, according to a USDA report. The New Zealand Food Safety Authority (FSA) recently completed an assessment of the U.S. BSE regime and determined that U.S. safeguards were equivalent to those provided by New Zealand’s BSE measures. Following a certification agreement, FSA will remove its case-by-case assessment requirement for imports of U.S. beef and beef variety meats, which will allow for U.S. beef to cross New Zealand borders.   Mexico beef, cattle exports to grow Mexico continued to relax its import restrictions on U.S. bovine products during 2005, and beef imports are expected to climb to 350,000 tons in 2006, up from 2005 levels but still below pre-BSE levels, according to a report from the USDA. Mexico’s cattle exports are expected to remain strong during 2006 as exportable supplies of calves are good and grazing conditions have benefitted from favorable weather conditions.   Nitrites could save human lives The National Institutes of Health (NIH) have begun using sodium nitrite, a popular compound used in hot dogs and other processed foods, on volunteers in hopes of developing a treatment for a variety of human sicknesses, including sickle cell anemia, heart attacks and aneurysm. The commonality between these ailments is low oxygen, a problem research suggests nitrites can ease by preventing cellular death in oxygen-starved heart, brain and lung tissue. NIH researchers have filed for new patents on the chemical and are looking for a major pharmaceutical company to develop it as therapy. NIH officials, however, are so convinced of nitrite’s promise that they will pursue drug development on their own if necessary.   Burger King targets Chinese Burger King said recently it plans to open 1,000 stores in China by 2015. The fast food chain presently has one store in Shanghai, its only unit on mainland China. An additional 10-12 Burger King restaurants are expected in Shanghai by the end of this year. At present, all Burger King units are company-owned. China’s Ministry of Commerce issued regulations on commercial franchises earlier this year, requiring foreign companies to have at least two company-owned outlets running for one year or more before opening franchises. Burger King will not qualify until next July.   McDonald’s sales greater in August McDonald’s has said global systemwide sales for its restaurants rose 5.7% in August, or 4.4% in constant currencies. August comparable sales rose 3.4%, with U.S. comparable sales increasing 3.2% and Europe comparable sales increasing 3.6%. Comparable sales represent sales at all McDonald’s restaurants in operation at least thirteen months, excluding the impact of currency translation. Systemwide sales include sales at all McDonald’s restaurants, including those operated by the company, franchisees and affiliates.   Dakota Beef launches organic line Dakota Beef LLC, Howard, SD, has announced the launch of its Certified Organic Beef program at the new Whole Foods supermarket in Columbus, OH. The Columbus store will feature a full range of steaks, roasts, and other cuts from Dakota Beef, which is the store’s sole beef provider. In another part of the store, organic all-beef frankfurters supplied by Dakota Beef will be offered.   Sirloin a big hit at Boston Market Restaurant chain Boston Market and the Cattlemen’s Beef Board (CBB) recently announced that this summer’s joint promotion of several new beef sirloin products has been very successful. In June, the restaurant chain introduced 5- and 8-ounce lean steak entrees—a BBQ Sirloin and Cheddar deli-sliced carver sandwich and a Sirloin Dip carver sandwich. The sandwiches were unveiled at all 630 Boston Market locations across the U.S. Within the third week of its introduction, the sirloin items had reached double digits in terms of overall product mix across the Boston Market system. Officials with the CBB said the promotion has been very successful, particularly with Boston Market being most known for its chicken offerings. © Crow Publications - Any reprint of WLJ stories, except for personal use,  without permission, written consent and appropriate attribution is prohibited. ©1996-2005 Crow Publications. All rights reserved.

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Thursday, December 20,2007

Cash cattle prices dip

by WLJ
September 18, 2006 The contract versus cash basis levels that had been encouraging feedlots to hold cattle and add weight finally reversed last week and cash is once again “king.” The live cattle contract trade slipped below cash prices in a big decline on Wednesday last week and the move almost immediately spurred sales of live cattle last Thursday morning.   Cash trade in the north developed in a range of $138-140 live. Bids in the south, as of press time, were narrowing the gap between ask and offer. Bids were up to $88 and offering prices stood in a range of $90-91. Trade was expected in the $89-90 range in the southern tier. Prices last week were expected to be down $1.50 to $2.50 from the previous week. According to HedgersEdge.com, packer margins slipped solidly into the red. On Thursday last week, packers were estimated to be losing $20.15 per head harvested. Losses were created by the high prices paid by packers over the last several weeks and failures at the packer level to boost carcass cutout values. Despite cutbacks in slaughter volume last week, including reports of dark plants, the Choice and Select cutout values turned sharply lower last week. Thursday's kill was scaled back to 128,000 head. For the week to date, USDA estimated harvest at 499,000, up from 388,000 head the prior week which was shortened by the Labor Day holiday. Large cuts in the harvest speed over the past several weeks haven't achieved the desired results and Choice cutout values had slid to $146.36 by Thursday last week. That's a decline of more than $2 from the previous week when USDA estimated harvest at 591,000 head the week ended Sept. 9. Select values were also lower, trading at $136.85, down $1.27 from the week prior. Despite the slump in cutout values over the last week, prices remain well above year ago levels. The same week in 2005, Choice boxed cutout values were $140.56 and Select was trading at $129.39. There were some reports last week of large supplies of Select product in the pipeline leading to additional weakness in the boxed beef cutout. If those prove to be true, it is likely to add to the decline in cutout values in the weeks ahead.   Some of the strength can be attributed to rising prices in other proteins. Jim Robb, director of Livestock Marketing Information Center, said increases in the boneless, skinless chicken breast prices, as well as stronger pork values, had lent some support to the beef market. This is particularly true with the end meats, which will continue to gain favor with retailers and consumers as the weather cools.   "Competing meats are certainly less of an issue than they were early in the year. Now with boneless, skinless chicken breasts up around $1.50 per pound, beef prices don't seem quite as high for consumers," Robb said.   Unlike the competing meats, the market opening in South Korea did little to move the markets last week. Because export volumes are expected to be very small for the near-term, as are shipments to Japan, it is doing little to boost prices. However, as volumes begin to increase, so will the value added to beef values domestically. Just two weeks ago, the popular beef bowl made with U.S. beef was added to the menu at Yoshinoya, a leading Japanese fast food chain. Demand for the product was so strong, a million servings were expected to sell out in a single day.   As previously mentioned, the Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME) trade last week was mostly lower for the week as cash values declined. Fund selling as contracts dropped below critical support levels added to the weakness in the market. Last Thursday's session saw both the October and December contracts close below their 40-day moving averages. Contracts were down across the board with October leading the way down, off 107 points to $89.25. December was 60 points lower, to $89.25, and February was also down 60 points, to $90.27, at the end of the session. Feeder cattle Economists say feeder cattle have appeared to have reached their seasonal highs but far later than most analysts had anticipated. Feeder cattle have been on fire, according to livestock auction markets, and the reasoning is up for speculation. The CME shows futures down significantly from the week prior but auctions are still rolling on and even up $2-3, and as much as $7 in others.   In Carthage, MO, at the Joplin Regional Stockyards, steers of all weight classes and heifers over 550 lbs. were $1-3 higher, heifers under 550 lbs. were $1-3 lower. Demand was moderate to good, supply moderate to heavy. Market officials said dry pastures are still the norm and chances of rain are in the forecast, but it "may be too little, too late." In the country's largest livestock auction market, Oklahoma National Stockyards, 11,500 went through the ring last week, up nearly 250 from the week prior. Feeder steers and heifers were up as much as $7 per cwt. For the most part, steers and heifers were $3-6 higher. Steer and heifer calves in Oklahoma City were steady to $2 higher with good demand.   In Philip, SD, at the Philip Livestock Auction, 4,763 sold, up significantly from the prior week’s 1,897 head. Feeder calves and yearlings sold mostly steady with the 950- 1000-lb. heifers selling $3. Feeder cows sold $1-2 higher. Market officials said like “usual, calves with all the shots were in demand.”   Last Tuesday at the Live Oak Livestock Auction located in Three Rivers, TX, 2,205 head sold compared to only 752 last week. Compared to last week, feeder steers and heifers were steady to firm. Feeder cattle accounted for 77 percent and slaughter cows and bulls, 23 percent of the run. In the feeder supply, steers made up approximately 57 percent of the run, heifers 43 percent; steers and heifers over 600 lbs. totaled approximately 6 percent.   At La Junta Livestock Commission in Lajunta, CO, steer and heifer calves sold steady to $1 higher. This week's supply in La Junta included 80 percent feeders, 20 percent slaughter cows and bulls. In the feeder supply, steers made up approximately 75 percent of the run, heifers near 30 percent.   Although prices suffered on the board last Thursday, auction markets still witnessed very positive prices. Markets also witnessed a higher number of head go through the ring as a result of producers trying to take advantage of the very positive market prices before they begin the downward cycle, according to Jackie Moore, co-owner of the Joplin Regional Stockyards. Due to recent rains in the central Plains, producers are purchasing stockers to get ready for winter grazing. In drier areas, the prices are staying strong due to increasing demand, in part due to South Korea opening their doors to U.S. beef.   On CME, prices were lower across the board. September contracts traded 85 points lower to settle last Thursday at $117. Even lower were October contracts, which dropped $1.45 when compared to the prior day's $116.75. October closed at $115.30. November contracts suffered the most, dropping nearly $1.60 from $116.50 last Wednesday. Thursday trading stopped at $114.93.   Futures are predicted to have gone as high as they are going to go for the season, but in reality, livestock markets are strong, with few predictions as to how long this can keep going on.

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Thursday, December 20,2007

U.S. red meat export value increased through July

by WLJ
U.S. red meat exports posted increases in value through the first seven months of this year compared to the same time last year, according to the latest statistics compiled by the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF) and provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. U.S. beef and beef variety meat exports worldwide increased 27 percent in value to $1.42 billion, and 16 percent in volume to 425,394 metric tons (937.8 million pounds), while U.S. pork and pork variety meat exports were up 5 percent in value to $1.7 billion, but declined 5 percent in volume to 704,138 metric tons (1.55 billion pounds). Through July, Mexico continued to be the leading market for U.S. beef and beef variety meat exports with a volume of 202,500 metric tons (446.3 million pounds) valued at $670.8 million. Mexico, still the second-largest destination for U.S. pork and pork variety meat, posted a 27 percent decline in volume to 154,410 metric tons (340.4 million pounds), and a 22 percent decline in value to $248.2 million. However, export volume in July was 21,389 metric tons (47.1 million pounds), a 12 percent increase from the prior month. Canada, although not an area where U.S. red meat marketing takes place, was the second-largest export market for U.S. beef and beef variety meat. Volume through July increased 31 percent to 69,716 metric tons (153.7 million pounds), and value was up 33 percent to $315.6 million. USMEF reports the increased volume is partially attributed to a 12-percent increase in slaughter cattle imports and a 17-percent increase in feeder cattle imports. Meanwhile, Canada is ranked third for U.S. pork and pork variety meat exports with a volume of 77,228 metric tons (170.3 million pounds) valued at $260.1 million. The strengthening Canadian dollar, along with higher feed and labor costs, are other dynamics driving trade, according to USMEF. Moving from North America to Asia, the fourth-largest market for U.S. beef and beef variety meat exports was Japan with a volume of 5,387 metric tons (11.9 million pounds), the largest volume since the market reopened in late July last year. Through July, beef export volume to Japan was 26,025 metric tons (57.3 million pounds) while value was $132.8 million. Japan remained a lucrative market for U.S. pork and pork variety meat exports as volume increased 7 percent through July to 209,591 metric tons (462 million pounds) and value increased 13 percent to $667.8 million, almost three times the value of the next market, Mexico. USMEF reports the Middle East continued as an expanding area for U.S. beef and beef variety meat as export volume through July increased 15 percent to 55,658 metric tons (122.7 million pounds) valued at $62.1 million. USMEF also notes that U.S. beef and beef variety meat exports to the Caribbean in July set a new monthly record at 1,898 metric tons (4.1 million pounds). USMEF works extensively with Caribbean chefs, introducing new ways to use a variety of U.S. beef cuts which provide the high quality and taste that tourists and islanders alike are looking for. And for U.S. pork and pork variety meat exports, volume to Australia went up 39 percent to 20,353 metric tons (44.8 million pounds) through July, and value increased 47 percent to $62.8 million. The Australian pork industry continues to struggle with high feed prices and the strengthening Australian dollar. According to a recent report, Australian pork producers are losing around A$30 per pig sold.

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Thursday, December 20,2007

Montana sheep quarantined over bluetongue concerns

by WLJ
Sheep producers in Musselshell County, MT, are not allowed to transport sheep anywhere within or beyond county lines for the next 30 days because of a recent possible outbreak of bluetongue. State Veterinarian Dr. Marty Zaluski authorized the hold order Monday, Sept. 10, in an effort to reduce potential transmission of the virus.   About 100 sheep in Musselshell County have died within the past two weeks. Several initially tested positive for the virus in a screening test and when whitetail deer were tentatively diagnosed, too, Zaluski decided to protect other livestock with the hold order. “I implemented this hold as a general precaution after the state laboratory provisionally diagnosed bluetongue in a flock,” Zaluski said. “The sheep from this flock had clinical signs and death loss that is consistent with bluetongue, but we still need to confirm that diagnosis. Also, several deer in Musselshell County tested positive for bluetongue.” Confirmation of the test results are expected this week. Bluetongue, epizootic hemorrhagic disease and other diseases look similar on screening tests so more specific tests are required before bluetongue can be confirmed. “Samples from the infected Musselshell deer have been taken to the National Veterinary Services Lab in Ames, IA, and they are working on identifying this particular serotype,” Zaluski said. Sheep, whitetail deer and antelope are especially susceptible to bluetongue; the virus often causes death if these species are exposed. Cattle, goats, mule deer and elk also can contract the disease, but rarely show symptoms and are a much lower risk in spreading the disease, said Zaluski. Humans are not susceptible. Bluetongue commonly spreads by biting gnats, especially in late summer and early fall. Zaluski wants to limit movement of infected sheep so gnats will not have the opportunity to bite an infected sheep and then bite a healthy sheep, spreading the disease. Vaccines have been developed for bluetongue, but no antibiotics exist for the virus. However, infected animals often develop secondary bacterial infections and those infections can be treated with antibiotics. Once the national lab identifies the specific serotype in this potential outbreak, Musselshell County sheep producers might have the opportunity to vaccinate their sheep. However, the vaccination is not widely available and it takes two to three weeks before the vaccine effectively increases immunity. “We’re going to have a frost sometime soon and that would lower the risk of spreading the disease just as well this year,” Zaluski said. Common symptoms of bluetongue include a crusty, swollen muzzle, lesions or bleeding in the mouth or on the skin and, sometimes, lameness. In sheep, the mouth can become swollen and have bloody blisters inside. Those red or dirty blue-colored blisters give the disease its name—bluetongue. Livestock producers should look for the following signs of the disease: Depression with heavy breathing or panting; High fever; Open sores on the tongue, mouth, or nostrils; Redness of the skin, face, neck, and possibly body; Lameness accompanied by an engorged reddish–blue area around the base of the horns and on the coronary bands of the feet; Loss of condition and muscular weakness; Loss of wool. Livestock owners are the first line of defense against the spread of the virus. Producers should inspect their flocks and herds frequently for suspicious signs and report any such symptoms to their local veterinarian. For more than 25 years, the presence of bluetongue viruses in the U.S. has blocked the export of U.S. cattle, sheep, and goats to many major world markets, including Australia, New Zealand, and the European Union. Canada accepts U.S. cattle, but requires rigorous testing before the animals may cross the border. “Montana has not had a major outbreak in the 15 years that I’ve been here,” said Montana Veterinary Diagnostic Lab Director Dr. Bill Layton. “We’ve had serological evidence that it is out there, but this outbreak was a bit of a surprise.” Bluetongue was first recognized in South Africa in the late 1800s, but it was not until the early 1900s that it was described in detail. The disease was reported in Cyprus in 1943 and subsequently in Israel, Turkey, Spain, Portugal, Pakistan, India, and the U.S. during the 1950s. In the U.S., the disease is most prevalent in the southern and southwestern states.

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Thursday, December 20,2007

Holiday trade slow, prices steady

by WLJ
Trade last week was typically slow as it tends to be during the lull between the holidays. As of Thursday last week, there was little to report in the area of fed cattle trade. Packers were still low on their bids as feedlots held out for at least steady money. Weather was of little impact, which is a welcome change for feedlots after some very cold temperatures stressed cattle and increased cost of gains across much of the cattle feeding area. However, those same feedlots that were frozen and snow-covered are dealing with mud, which was reportedly a major factor as warmer weather prevailed across the intermountain west and Plains states for much of the week. As of Thursday, it was yet to be seen whether packers, who have slowed harvest in an attempt to regain positive margins, would gain any leverage over feeders or if they would simply end up paying more for cattle late in the week to keep chains full. Offers on Thursday morning were still at $95-97 and $155-157 dressed. There was some small trade in Iowa on Wednesday last week at $150, and some light trade in Nebraska at $151 on Thursday, although the volume was not enough to call it a trend. Bids in the South were at $92. Analysts expected trade to develop at $94-95 live basis and $152-153 dressed when it did finally occur in earnest. In terminal markets last week, south St. Paul, MN, slaughter steers and heifers sold $1-2 lower. Sioux Falls, SD, sold slaughter steers and heifers mostly $2 lower, with high Select/low Choice yield grade 2-3 steers selling at $89-90. Boxed beef cutout values for the week were slightly lower on light to moderate demand and offerings. Mid-day Choice cutout values were $158.15, down $1.42 from the previous day. Select traded lower at $143.67, down $0.92, which provided insight into the packers’ reluctance to pay higher money on the week. Despite the downward trend in the light boxed beef trade, last week’s prices were well above 2004 prices and nearly $30 higher than the five year average price of $130. Slaughter volume for the holiday-shortened week was well below the previous week at 376,000 head, versus the prior week volume of 486,000 head. The Dec. 1 cattle on feed report, which, as expected, contained some bearish news, went mostly unnoticed last week. Because the report fell mostly in line with expectations, the placement figure of 117 percent didn’t register with Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME) traders. As of Thursday last week, live cattle contracts on the CME had traded unevenly but with an overall upward trend. Thursday trading last week closed 32 points lower to 30 points higher. Nearby December 2005 contracts shed the most points, falling 32 as traders liquidated contracts before they expired on Friday. Later summer 2006 and December 2006 contracts traded two to 30 points higher. There has been some speculation among cattle traders that large amounts of money being pumped into CME by large commodity index funds are skewing the market. With Lehman’s announcement last week that it will roll out a new commodity index fund early in 2006, there is speculation that CME will increase limits on speculative cattle futures which would allow further increases in holdings by commodity funds. Traders say increased fund holdings will further slant the cattle market as speculative money flows in. During 2005, a key measure of market activity, the “Open Interest Record,” nearly doubled, from 120,000 to 200,000 in the last month of the year. A CME spokesperson declined to comment on the speculation that CME would allow more fund speculation last week. Feeder cattle contracts on CME also traded unevenly on Thursday, despite a higher overall movement for the week. Nearby contracts of January 2006 through April saw selling pressure and fell two to 27 points on moderate volume. Most country markets were closed last week for the holiday with only a scattered few holding sales. The closures prevented any trend from being established, although the few markets that did hold sales called the light runs of feeder cattle steady. That is good news as seasonal marketings pick up after the first of the year.

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Thursday, December 20,2007

Beef Talk

by Kris Ringwall, North Dakota State University
Structural problems, poor performance and/or behavior were the reasons for culling three bulls at the Dickinson Research Extension Center the other day. The bulls were sold to two different buyers for a total of $3,831.35. After the trip to town, the bulls weighed 2,095, 2,085 and 2,145 pounds. They had weighed 2,210, and 2,210 and 2,270 pounds walking out of the lot three days earlier. The issue of shrink or fill is real. Given the volume and capacity of these bulls, the 5.5 percent shrink during the marketing process is somewhat typical. (I will save the shrink discussion for another article.) The cash for reinvestment into the future herd sires is nice and now is the time to review the remaining animals in the bull pen. Are the performance expected progeny differences (EPDs) of the remaining bulls up to the challenges of this year’s spring offering of bulls? The center maintains a line of Hereford bulls for use following artificial insemination of the cowherd. After culling issues are resolved, all producers should go to their respective breed association Web sites and check out how their bull pen rates in the industry. For the center, a quick review of the American Hereford Web site at www.hereford.org was in order. Following a quick review of the Hereford home page, as well as a quick look at the Hereford verified program, I clicked EPD Inquiry and proceeded to enter the center’s list of 3-year-old bulls. By simply typing the registration numbers, which in this case are 42287234, 42287389, 42287422, 42287429 and 42287459, the genetic value of the center’s remaining 3-year-old bulls popped up on the screen. The neat thing about the Hereford Association’s Web site is that the average for all similar age bulls can be printed at the bottom of the listing. I was able to determine quickly that all these bulls should sire calves that are above the breed average for weaning weight and yearling weight, based on their above-average EPDs for weaning weight and yearling weight. In fact, four of the bulls rank within the top 10 percent of the Hereford breed for weaning weight, and three of the five bulls rank within the top 10 percent for yearling weight. Four of the bulls have heavier than average birth weight EPDs, although calving experience with these bulls on the center’s mature cows has not been a problem. These bulls have sired cows that are average for milk production. Four of the bulls are predicted to sire calves with less than average 12th-rib fat at 365 days of age and three are expected to sire calves with greater than average ribeye at 365 days of age. Two of the bulls are expected to have greater intramuscular fat at a year of age. The data led me to conclude the bulls are fit, sound and have good performance behind their pedigrees. None of the older bulls are the superstars that excel in every trait, but they are good, solid performance bulls that will produce a calf crop with value in today’s market. A similar procedure needs to be done for all the younger bulls as well. There is no use hauling feed to bulls that aren’t predicted to produce calves with additional value. Following a spring semen evaluation to assure fertility, these bulls are good to go. Now, all that is left to do is count the breeding groups, determine the number of groups that are short bulls and start looking at bull sale data. Bull sales are always a good way to pass the winter months, but just make sure the homework is done and don’t buy bulls you don’t need. May you find all your NAIS-approved eartags.

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Thursday, December 20,2007

Fed market softens, feeders steady

by WLJ
Active trade got underway last Thursday in Nebraska at prices of $148-149 following steady packer bids of $147 as feeders held out for prices of $150. When trade finally developed, it was at good volume and prices steady to $2 lower than the previous week. Market analysts and feedlot managers said last week they were already focusing more on the week ahead than the current market week. In the southern tier, significant trade had not yet developed by the time WLJ went to press, however, feeders were holding out for $95-97 live basis in the face of packer bids in the $91-92 range. Most analysts expected trade to occur in the range of $94 even to slightly below week prior trade. One market analyst in Texas said last week’s large jump in the number of cattle offered for sale in Nebraska could make cattle owners there more aggressive sellers. If prices in Nebraska drop because of that selling interest, it could pressure fed cattle prices in the remainder of the five-state area, the analyst said. Boxed beef cutout values reported by USDA elicited different responses from market analysts. Last Wednesday’s midday report showed a jump in composite beef values, but the end-of-day report backed away from the midday price listings and some market analysts saw the moves as a market’s last gasps before a longer-term decline. However, one market analyst said the end-of- day report still showed a higher price quote for Choice product and only a small decline for Select beef cutout. This was stronger than many expected and could result in firmness in fed cattle markets. Urner Barry’s Yellowsheet last week reported that chuck rolls, shoulder clods, bottom round flats and knuckles are areas of opportunity for higher sales. Slaughter volume last week was well ahead of the prior week at 385,000 as packers moved more cattle through production chains in an effort to take advantage of last week’s rising Choice/Select spread. Last Thursday’s harvest volume was 12,000 head higher than the previous week, but 64,000 behind the prior year number. Reduced volume for the week was largely due to the New Year holiday. USDA reported the composite price for Choice boxed beef last Wednesday was up $0.97 at $157.28, while the value for Select product was down $0.26, at $140.82. Market analysts reported lackluster consumer demand coming out of the holiday as the reason beef buyers were pressuring prices lower. Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME) live cattle trade Thursday saw futures close unevenly on the CME. The closing bell had nearby February and April contracts down 20 and 32 points respectively, while farther off June to December 2006 closed in a narrow range between 7 points lower and 10 points higher. Meanwhile, CME confidence readings remained stuck in neutral for the second straight week in last Thursday’s weekly survey of market participants. Live cattle responses cancelled each other in yielding a zero simple figure and only a minus one weighted number. “Those readings pretty much reflect what’s going on in the livestock pits so far this year,” said a prominent floor-based analyst and broker. The meter is a consensus of opinions compiled each week by a poll of futures floor traders and industry analysts. Respondents are asked to take a bullish or bearish stance on futures prices for cattle for the coming week. Usually, analysts and traders believe only extreme readings in the meter are successful contrary indicators of market movements for the following week. Fund activity is expected to place pressure on nearby live cattle futures in the days ahead as large funds roll money out of nearby contracts in favor of those farther off. Feeder cattle Higher grain prices put pressure on CME feeder cattle contracts in early week trade. Rising corn prices, which have posted significant gains in the last two weeks, are causing some traders to rethink current positions. If corn prices continue to climb, or remain at current levels, it could add pressure to the market. Thursday’s CME feeder cattle contracts closed higher across the board as a result of slight weakness in corn contracts. Feeder contracts closed the day five to 57 points higher. In spite of recent declines in feeder contracts, prices remain nearly $10 above year ago levels. In addition to higher grain prices, dry conditions across much of the country continue to cause problems for producers and stockers. First the winter wheat crop slump, and now a series of severe fires across Oklahoma, Texas and the southwest are compounding problems faced by producers in those areas. Reports of a lack of hay and water shortages in some areas are likely to pressure feeder cattle prices in affected areas. However, as of last week, seasonally larger runs of cattle in most markets were met with good demand from buyers and prices which were unevenly steady to slightly higher in most areas. In El Reno, OK, last week, feeder steers were mostly steady, with the exception of steers in the 800-lb. class which traded $1-2 lower. Feeder heifers were called steady to $2 lower, with the largest slide on heavier weight classes. Steer and heifer calves were steady. Demand was reportedly very good for most classes. The exception was for classes of cattle that will finish in June which sat at a discount of more than $7 to the April live cattle contract last week. In West Plains, MO, compared to the sale two weeks prior, steers were unevenly steady, although the better end of heavy 400-lb. steers sold $2-3 higher. Heifers under 500 lbs. were called $2-5 higher, with several 400-500 lb. steers $5-7 higher during the high time. Weights over 500 lbs. sold mostly steady, although 600-700 lb. heifers were $2-3 lower. The supply was called moderate, with uneven demand. In the northern tier, at Bassett, NE, compared to two weeks ago, the bulk of feeder cattle trended unevenly steady, with the exception of a few lots of fancy steers and replacement heifers that received premiums of $5 or more. Supply was called ample for 550-lb. feeders, with good demand from a broad buyer base. In Mitchell, SD, compared to two weeks ago, feeder steers 500-650 lbs. were steady and feeder steers 650-800 lbs. were $1-3 lower. Feeder heifers 400-600 lbs. were unevenly steady, and 600-800 lbs. were steady.

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Thursday, December 20,2007

Sale entries top prior year

by WLJ
The Red Bluff Bull and Gelding Sale, one of the most anticipated events of the year for western bull buyers and producers, is set for Jan. 24-28 at the Tehama District Fairgrounds in Red Bluff, CA. This year’s sale will feature an increased number of bull entries with more than 450 headed to the competition, up from 437 in 2005. As herd expansion continues amid record calf prices, this year's event promises to be among the most exciting ever. Last year’s bulls averaged $2,664 on 302 lots. This year’s event features bulls from 11 different breeds. Bull producers from Washington, Oregon, California, Idaho, Nevada, Montana and Texas have consigned their top calving ease, halter and range-ready bulls to the sale. The popular range-ready bull division continues to be a big driver of the event. Range-ready bulls are ready to work for producers. The range-ready category allows bulls to be evaluated in their working condition, giving a good idea of what they will look like in pasture and range conditions. The halter division is similar to those found at fairs and stock shows. All bulls are evaluated by a four-person sift committee, which includes the show veterinarian. The sift committee closely evaluates each class of bulls, scrutinizing phenotype, conformation, muscling, mobility and production records to ensure the bulls are eligible for the show. Following the sifting of bulls, a team of three producers judges the bulls. The outcome of the judging competition determines the sale order. This year’s sifting committee is comprised of Gordon Bruce, Los Molinos, CA; Buttons Dougherty, Vina, CA; John Owens, Red Bluff, CA; and sale veterinarian O.W. ‘Bill’ Hooten, DVM, Red Bluff, CA. The bull judging committee is comprised of Dave Peterson, Powell Butte, OR; Gary Giacomini, Bishop, CA; and Ken Hufford, North Powder, OR. Sifters and judges serve a three-year rotating term with a new judge and sifter on the team each year to replace the outgoing judge who has worked three consecutive sales. Along with the bulls, since 1990, the Red Bluff sale has included a commercial replacement female sale. This year, approximately 1,500 head of females, primarily spring and fall bred heifers, open heifers and first calf heifer pairs, will be sold at Red Bluff. Each heifer load lot will be evaluated on quality and consistency prior to the sale. Last year, heifer lots averaged $1,022. In addition to the show and sale activities, this year several added attractions will be offered to attendees including the popular Red Bluff trade show which will feature more than 150 vendors and an American Angus Association outreach seminar. This year’s event also features the ever popular equine and canine show and sales. Red Bluff has become known as a premier sale for working horses and stock dogs. The gelding sale at Red Bluff began in 1963 with a total of 22 horses. This year, approximately150 ranch-ready geldings and 7 mules will be sold. Last year’s sale produced an average of $6,048 for 113 lots. The high-selling lot went for $20,000 in the 2005 sale. The dogs are first evaluated by the sale committee veterinarian and then put through their paces in both indoor and outdoor competitions. The dog sale follows the final outdoor competition. Last year’s sale brought an average of $4,642 for the seven dogs offered and $2,562 for the four pups exhibited.

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Thursday, December 20,2007

BLM seeks pasture lease

by WLJ
Details of BLM’s requirements will be posted in solicitation NAR070052, which is available at www.fbo.gov. Applicants must be registered at www.ccr.gov to be considered for a contract award. The solicitation ends Feb. 8, 2007. BLM manages wild horses and burros as part of its overall multiple-use land management mission. Under the authority of the 1971 Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act, the Bureau manages and protects these living symbols of the Western spirit while ensuring that population levels are in balance with other public rangeland resources and uses. To achieve this balance, BLM must remove thousands of animals from the range each year to control the size of herds, which have virtually no predators and can double in population every four years. The current free-roaming population of BLM-managed wild horses and burros is about 31,000, which exceeds by some 3,500 the number determined by BLM to be the appropriate management level. Off the range, there are about 28,000 wild horses and burros cared for in either short-term (corral) or long-term (pasture) facilities. All animals in holding are protected by BLM under the 1971 law. After wild horses and burros are removed from the range, the Bureau works to place younger animals into private ownership through adoption. Since 1973, BLM has placed more than 214,000 horses and burros into private care through adoption. Under a December 2004 amendment to the 1971 wild horse law, animals over 10 years old, as well as those passed over for adoption at least three times, are eligible for sale. Since that amendment took effect, BLM has sold more than 2,200 horses and burros. For information about BLM’s wild horse and burro adoption program, see www.wildhorseandburro.blm.gov; for information about the agency’s sale of older wild horses and burros, see www.blm.gov/nhp/spotlight/whb_authority.

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Thursday, December 20,2007

Foreign demand presents opportunity

by WLJ
In 2007, the total value of U.S. farm exports is forecast to reach $77 billion. Exports account for one-quarter of all agricultural cash receipts annually. While addressing a conference during the AFBF’s annual meeting, Crowder acknowledged the importance of farm exports for the national economy. “Trade is fundamental for U.S. agriculture,” Crowder said. “And agriculture is fundamental for U.S. trade.” He listed a series of bilateral and multilateral farm trade negotiations undertaken by the administration in the past year to boost such exchange. Among other accomplishments, he cited the U.S. and trading partners implemented the Central American Free Trade Agreement—Dominican Republic pact, concluded trade treaties with Peru, Panama and Colombia, and also signed agreements with Ukraine and Russia. Crowder called on Congress to ratify such measures promptly. Once ratified, he declared, they “will help level the playing field by affording U.S. growers these markets.” National lawmakers must also extend the president’s trade promotion authority (TPA), a power that facilitates a clear, definitive vote on any new agreements negotiated by the administration. “We need to finish the job by passing them through Congress and getting them so that you can sell your products,” he said. “All trade negotiations ought to have TPA because of the importance of these agreements for agriculture and the U.S. economy in general.” Although talks in the World Trade Organization’s (WTO) Doha Round were suspended last summer, Crowder pointed out that work on an international framework of reciprocal trading rules has continued. “Despite the suspension of the formal talks, we never stopped communicating and we never stopped negotiating. We have a long way to go and we have a lot of differences, but we have not given up. We are just working harder as we go.” Much of the success of trade agreements involves the good faith implementation of their provisions by all signatories. “We will continue to push for fair, science-based import regulations with our partners,” Crowder said. He cited WTO’s rejection of the European Union’s—ban on biotechnology products as an example of how negotiation and effective representation of U.S. interests can achieve results. Other matters must also be addressed. “We know about your frustration with the EU,” he said. “We hear you when you say, ‘We can’t ship our poultry, we can’t ship our beef and we can’t ship our rice to the EU.’ One of our priorities this year will be to enhance our markets for poultry, beef, rice and other products.” Crowder predicted that the “WTO negotiations still hold the most promise for international economic growth and creating new markets for U.S. agricultural products.” He emphasized that the administration will closely assess the benefits of any new trade proposal for U.S. agriculture before agreeing to it. “We will not move until we see other countries come to the table to provide market access,” he said. Ultimately, the goal shared by farmers and ranchers, as well as U.S. negotiators, is to stabilize trading in farm commodities so that it operates on predictable terms. The change in party leadership in Congress as a result of last fall’s elections may not derail pursuit of new trade agreements, Crowder explained. “If we are doing the right thing in bringing these agreements home, I think the Congress will do the right thing to approve them. I am an optimist.” The ambassador repeatedly expressed his appreciation for the support AFBF members have given to U.S. agricultural trade negotiations. “There is a lot of opportunity,” he said. “Your involvement will be critical.”

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