Cattlemen prepare for the future |

Cattlemen prepare for the future

Story by Robyn Scherer, M.Agr. | Ft. Collins, Colo.
Photos Courtesy of Dave Link
Graphs courtesy of LMIC
Lee and Glenn Benjamin listen attentively to the speakers at the symposium.

Cattlemen live in an interesting time. High calf prices are encouraging, but high input costs are a cause for worry. For many of these producers, education is the key to making sound managerial decisions.

For producers in Elbert and Douglas counties, the beef cattle symposium held at the Spruce Mountain Ranch in Larkspur, Colo., on Nov. 3, allowed them to take home information that will help them to make decisions in the coming year.

“This is the second annual Beef Cow symposium. It is held to inform producers in the local area of market information, and recent activities in the cattle industry, as well as an opportunity to enhance first hand knowledge of the markets and the future of the beef industry,” said Dave Link, President of the Elbert/Douglas County Cattlemen’s Association.

The day-long event featured Beef Quality Assurance Coordinator Travis Hoffman, Livestock Marketing Information Center Director Jim Robb, David Mast from Purina Animal Nutrition and Dr. Nevil Speer, Professor of Animal Science at Western Kentucky University. Booths from various area vendors including feed companies, tag companies and livestock supply companies also allowed participants to browse new products and information.

Dr. Speer talked about the economics that are involved when making decisions in the beef industry. He talked with the producers about how to use the ideas and strategies they learn in the decision making process.

“Dr. Nevil Speer was the featured speaker this year from the University of Western Kentucky. He is a Colorado State Grad with an excellent understanding of the beef industry and the markets,” said Link.

He continued, “David Mast from Purina Animal Nutrition offered advice in body condition score, and how that related to cow performance and the importance of that score in a drought situation.”

Hoffman, the coordinator for the BQA program, taught producers about the program, and talked about the 2011 National Beef Quality Audit.

According to the BQA website, “The National Beef Quality Audit (NBQA) is a comprehensive survey that evaluates beef industry efforts to improve beef quality. Conducted every five years since 1991, the checkoff-funded Audit assesses progress the industry makes on a variety of production issues that ultimately affect consumer demand for beef. Extensive enhancements were made to the 2011 NBQA design to provide the industry with direction on factors beyond the physical characteristics of beef, such as food safety, sustainability, animal well-being, and the disconnect between agricultural producers and consumers.”

Hoffman touched on the fundamentals that producers can have on impacting food safety and eating quality.

“There are three main pillars for success. Those are: product integrity, eating satisfaction and telling the story,” Hoffman said. “Assuring food safety is of the utmost importance for consumers. Achieving eating satisfaction is becoming more important now, as we realize that beef is becoming more of a luxury meat on the dinner plate.”

He continued, “Efforts to combine those two things is highlighted by telling the beef story and continuing to work as an industry to promote our lifestyle and strive to improve and increase consumer demand of beef.”

Hoffman believes events like this are very important to producers. “Combining the lifestyle we love and enjoy can only be afforded to us if we can be profitable and sustainable. This symposium helps producers with that,” he said.

Robb’s presentation focused on the present and future outlook of the beef industry. “Jim Robb from the Livestock Marketing Information Center was very informative about the markets and the volatility surrounding them. He offered a look into the years to come provided the drought situation is over,” said Link.

His presentation started with a brief history of the LMIC, which is part of Colorado State University Extension, and then he talked about the aspects of domestic consumer beef demand. The next part of his presentation focused on international trade, and then he spoke about the markets and the outlook for the industry.

“On a quarterly average basis, all cattle types have posted prices above a year ago, a trend that is expected to continue for the balance of the year,” Robb stated in a report on the LMIC website. “In fact, annual average cattle prices will be record high in 2012. However, calf and yearling prices have been quite volatile this year, while those of slaughter cattle have generally followed normal seasonal patterns.”

He added, “Looking ahead the price volatility may continue in 2013, and only slaughter cattle (steers, heifers and cows) are expected to have consistent year-over-year price gains.”

The next part of his presentation focused on feedstuffs. “High feedstuff costs translated into gushing red ink on feedlot closeouts and crashing calf prices last summer. In the Southern Plains, 500- to 600-pound steer calf prices dropped by $28.00 per cwt., 16 percent, from the second to the third quarter of this year. In that same timeframe yearling steers (700-to 800-pound), prices dropped by an average of nearly $11.00 per cwt. (21 percent). For the balance of 2012, calf and yearling prices are to remain near recent levels,” he stated.

Robb talked about his predictions for the coming year. “In early 2013, calf and yearling prices will not reach 2012’s lofty levels. Feedlots simply cannot afford to pay last year’s prices. If the 2013 growing season is normal for both crops and pastures, calf and yearling prices will likely return to posting year-on-year gains in the second half of the year. Rather normal weather could take 2013’s fourth quarter calf market $5.00 to $15.00 per cwt. above this year’s,” he said.

He then talked about the slaughter cattle market. “Slaughter cattle prices may be in for some short-term setbacks in coming weeks, but for the balance of this year prices are forecast to trade sideways. For the year, fed cattle prices will average over $120.00 per cwt. for the first time ever (up about 7 percent from 2011s). In 2013, the highest fed cattle prices are likely to occur in the second and fourth quarters, each could average over $130.00 per cwt. Annual average cull cow prices next year will set new record highs, supported by lower slaughter and very high meat markets,” he wrote in the report.

Overall, the second annual symposium was considered a success. “This is EDCLA’s opportunity to offer a superb adult educational program through presentations from highly respected leaders in the industry in order further the attendees’ knowledge in an ever changing world. This event is not limited to just our membership,” said Trena Smith, secretary for EDCLA. “Offering the latest information helps the participants continue learning about the some of the complexities of the modern livestock market and current factors having impacts on various facets of livestock production.”

The symposium was hosted at Spruce Mountain Ranch, a working cattle ranch in Larkspur, Colo. The event drew nearly 100 people, and the Colorado Cattlemen’s Association and Colorado Livestock Association also helped with the event.

“We had 19 industry partners for the trade show including Pfizer Animal Health and Pfizer Animal Genetics. We enjoyed a great venue at Spruce Mountain Angus Ranch. Tom Ames provided his facilities for the second year in a row, and its such a beautiful place to get together and talk about cattle and the beef industry,” said Link.

Organized in 1875, the Elbert-Douglas County Livestock Association (EDCLA) is one of the oldest livestock associations, and is a affiliate of the Colorado Cattlemen’s Association. The Elbert Douglas County Livestock Association promotes health, education, agricultural business, land and resource stewardship, and family & community in Elbert and Douglas Counties. ❖

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