Bigger cattle means more beef
August 21, 2015
We finally broke 100 degrees this summer. Even with the rains we have been receiving it didn't take long for the crops and grasses to show some effects of the heat. Hopefully we can receive a few more timely rains this summer and relief from the warm weather. After all, school is about to begin and we are thinking about fall and weaning.
Expansion in the beef herd has definitely begun. We have all been bombarded by the numbers comparing the total herd size to 1950s levels. I was around in the early '50s but don't remember much about the cow herd size. What I do remember is cow size. Show cattle at that time were let's say small. Pictures depict showmen displaying calves which were chest high at best. Through the years they got larger until we could barely see over their shoulders. In the early sixties the average carcass weight was 650 pounds. For the next forty years this steadily increased until 2000 when we hit 800 pounds. That equates to about a four pound increase per year. Since some 2000 weights increased to 850 pounds. That's about six pounds per year. With the cattle we are now seeing at the market place I am surprised it isn't higher. Fat steers at 1,300 pounds plus are being re-implanted and sent back to the feedyards for ninety to one hundred days. It's not uncommon for these critters to weigh 1,650 pounds at harvest. I realize I can only speak of Northern cattle, because that is what we raise and have little knowledge of weights of cattle in the more dense cattle feeding areas of the South. The take home point is many of us are utilizing new technologies to get more pounds of beef from each cow in the herd.
Demand for our product is good. The prices have risen to levels which allow the cow-calf producer to finally reap some profit in their operations. People want to eat beef. Similar cuts of pork are valued at about 25 percent of beef. We have done a good job of promoting and producing a quality product. We cannot become complacent and allow the market to decline.
The packer has been talking shortage for the last several years. Several of the plant closures have been low rail plants which could probably not handle the larger carcasses. We have watched the pork industry change in the same period of the time, from a 200 pound market hog to a 300 pound market hog. Their point was chain time and chain space. It costs them very little more time and dollars to fabricate a 300 pounder vs. a 200 pounder and they receive an extra 50 pounds of product. We are seeing packers phasing out older plants and transferring operations to larger more efficient plants. Why should that affect the market?
Heifer retention was high this spring. We are expecting a four percent increase in heifer numbers over 2015 and in the spring of 2015 we already calved about seven percent more heifers than 2014. Couple that with a two percent increase in cows and it is not hard to visualize the increase of approximately 10 percent.
Although the cow herd has been decreased because of drought and other financial problems, our overall beef production has remained relatively constant. Pounds are still king in the market place at this time. Anytime you can receive more dollars for a pound of beef than it costs to put it on, you are showing profitability. With low grain prices there are many opportunities to harvest these dollars. Consult your extension specialist, nutritionalist, veterinarian, or financial adviser and see if there is a scenario in the market which will fit into your operation. Utilize the new technologies to secure a solid future in the ever changing cattle industry.