The cattle markets appear to be taking a bit of a breather. Perhaps all the longs have left the market. By midweek, fed cattle were trading between $123-125 live and $198 dressed, and negotiated trade was moderate at best. However, packers decided to pick up processing levels and processed 363,000 head through Wednesday, which was 8,000 ahead of the week prior, a 660,000-head slaughter week—a big week in relative terms. Perhaps labor issues have eased up.
It looks like the October live cattle contract has stopped its free fall and is aiming higher. I would be surprised if we don’t start to see fed cattle prices advance over the next few weeks. The next Cattle on Feed report is expected to show us that fed cattle inventories are lower. Placements and marketings are expected to be normal—nothing earth shattering is expected.
I hope you have all been watching the migration of the African swine fever (ASF) over the past few years. The virus started in Africa but has migrated throughout Europe and Asia. It has decimated the largest pork herd in the world, which is China’s honor. One would think the Wuhan Institute of Virology would be all over this virus and well on their way to developing a vaccine for this disease.
China has had a hard time getting a handle on the virus because much of their hog production is from small backyard breeders. They have their big pork players also, but procurement in the small backyard operations is the crux of the problem. The Chinese have been working on the honor system much of the time, and when authorities would ask the locals about infected herds, many wouldn’t say anything because they didn’t want to hurt their neighbor. If you have an infected herd, you automatically have a 3 km quarantine around you and your neighbors.
ASF has migrated through Europe, mostly through wild hog migration. Now the disease has shown up in Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and the Dominican Republic, which is on the same island as Haiti. Haiti is in shambles after another recent earthquake, and we have refugees now.
I don’t think it’s any secret that if you want to migrate your family to the U.S., this is the time to do it. Many Haitians have already migrated to South and Central America. Many more will come from Haiti to Mexico and north to the U.S. I’m sure they will bring provisions for their journey, like cured pork products. It would be simple to bring in ASF without realizing it from the Caribbean community.
I’m sure you have all seen the reports on how wide open our southern border is. Folks are walking in at will and trying to get refugee status so they can stay. Some will, some won’t, most will just run into the brush and do it alone.
We have experienced animal health issues along the southern border forever. At one point in 1949, ranchers wanted a wall built to keep infected livestock out; there were still some hoof-and-mouth disease issues occurring. Apparently, both Mexican and U.S. cattle breeders were interested in importing Zebu cattle from Brazil. They brought them in, quarantined them, then turned the cattle loose. This was a bad idea—Brazil was aggressively fighting hoof-and-mouth disease to no avail. It erupted again in the Southern Plains.
What our government is doing at the southern border is criminal. This southern border isn’t the way the American immigration policy is supposed to work. I don’t have a problem with the legal way—I have problems with the illegal way. I have a bigger issue when there is the possibility of bringing in diseases like ASF or hoof-and-mouth disease. These diseases never come in the front door. They always sneak in through the back door.
USDA says they have extra enforcement and eyes on Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, the Dominican Republic and Haiti. The department says they are all over it, and the root problem is the Dominican Republic and Haiti. USDA said they stepped up surveillance there and will monitor herds, provide mitigation equipment and monitor Haiti and U.S. aid workers who travel back and forth to the U.S. They have the Coast Guard on it to intercept illegal boat traffic. They will also help eliminate the urban wild hog herd.
The Pork Council says if we get ASF in the U.S., it will cost pork producers billions of dollars and be costly to export trade. Like I said earlier, USDA has a handle on this. But, I’m having a problem with the Biden administration getting it right. Meanwhile, pray for moisture—any kind—to fall. — PETE CROW