The current scare of legislation running through packers and feedlots will pass soon. My guess is after Nov. 3, things will be back to normal. Packers will continue their high margins and cow-calf operations will continue to disappear.
After reading your article, I turned to page 16 for market news. As of Sept. 26, over 1 million head of Mexican feeders had been imported. According to WLJ that is 100,000 head more than last year. So, price discovery and cash purchase of cattle will not have a positive effect on those trying to make a living in cow-calf operations. With more cash purchases of fat cattle, their prices have gone up, while feeder prices have gone down.
Your closing comment, “It’s all supply and demand related” sums up the issue with cow-calf operations. If we have too many cattle being supplied, why are we importing record numbers of cattle and fresh beef? No one in the industry can give an answer that makes sense. I always get the same tired answer. We need those foreign cattle to mix with the fat coming off our Prime beef. In Naval aviation, we have an action for that type of statement: We raise the bullshit flag.
Beside your article, Steve Kay wrote a commentary on waste of cattle hides. If we have too many hides why import more beef? That supply and demand thing again. Cattle hides going to landfills. What a waste! Below Steve’s article Matt Niswander wrote an article on depression in rural America caused by a virus. It is probably not the virus depressing farmers and ranchers. It is the price received for their products causing the depression. People should keep fear in perspective. Imagine being in a boat about to have the ramp dropped as you approach Iwo Jima.
The average cow-calf herd in the U.S. is 40 head. That is figured by taking the 32 million head of beef cows divided by total beef cow operations, approximately 700,000. Those figures come from USDA. The guy who has 40 head of cows is working another job. He does not get involved in discussions about imports or supply and demand. He files his Schedule F and takes his tax deduction. And that is what cow-calf operations have become; a tax deduction.
Then you have our fine USDA trying to put us out of business with more restrictions. VFD, ADT, RFID are a few acronyms that a cow-calf operator should fear. The veterinary feed directive (VFD) requires a script from a vet to feed Chlortetracycline (CTC) for prevention of anaplasmosis. Who makes money on that? USDA vets want to make their job easier so they are demanding radio-frequency identification (RFID) tags. First on adult cattle, but it will soon go on each head of cattle we sell. An RFID rule by USDA will require all premises be registered with the federal government. The comment period on that sneaky rule ended Oct. 5.
Did National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) fight that rule? No. Placing RFID tags into a cow’s ear takes a head gate. A lot of 40-head herds don’t have those type facilities. That means when they show up at a sale barn they’ll be told they can’t sell their cows because there is no RFID tag in place. Of course, the sale barn will sell them a tag and put the tag in for a price. This same USDA allows Mexican cattle to cross the border, go through inspections with one of their vets, be made into USA cattle, shipped to Canada, fed, then returned to the USA as “product of the USA.” If you don’t believe me, look at the comments made on the Federal Register for RFID.
So, where does this leave the American rancher? With grazing and pasture using the most agriculture land in the USA, the rancher should be getting the most support. The rancher has no support from NCBA, USDA, packers, or U.S. Congress. Period!
Please, prove me wrong. I don’t want to end up in Matt Niswander’s article next edition.
Thanks for your time.
Bill Yancey, captain USN-RET; Prairie Grove, AR