Extension experts paint optimistic future for beef industry

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Environmental conditions recovering from consecutive years of drought and market prices achieving record marks are creating generous opportunities for cattle producers in the years ahead.

Texas A&M AgriLife Extension experts told cattle producers about the abundant opportunities for the industry at last week’s South Central Texas Cow-Calf Clinic in Brenham, Texas.

Rainfall is up across the state, regenerating pastures and filling ponds, and low corn prices have drastically lowered input costs compared to the past two years.

Larry Pierce, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service agent for Washington County, says the drought cut into the state’s cattle numbers, but ranchers are expected to build back herds, especially as forage options return.

“We have benefitted greatly from the rain and that has supplied our ponds with plenty of water going into the winter season,” said Pierce. “The rain has lifted the spirits of our local producers.”

Until herd sizes return to pre-drought levels, cattle producers can capitalize on high cattle prices resulting from low supplies. A presentation by AgriLife Extension livestock economist Dr. David Anderson explained record cattle and wholesale beef prices and the market outlook.

“The recent rainfall has pushed cattle prices higher,” Anderson said. “That’s helped ranchers with available forage and encouraged some to purchase cattle, pushing bids higher.”

Anderson forecasts fewer cattle available in 2014 as drought conditions in Texas subside and producers hold on to heifers and add animals. Management techniques to rebuild in 2013 and 2014 will thin supplies, translating to higher beef prices in 2014 and 2015.

Last week’s cattle markets support Anderson’s insight. Heifers are selling quickly across the country as producers look to rebuild and baby calves are moving quickly at $5 higher than the previous week as producers are taking advantage of a low cost of gain.

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