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Tool for Valuing Replacements

One important financial aspect of cow-calf production is evaluating replacement decisions. Whether you always hold back your own replacements or look for opportunities to expand when the price is right, it’s crucial to take an objective look at the profitability and feasibility of your investment.

To help producers with this task, we’ve developed a decision aid (available here) that will allow you to examine a range of replacement female scenarios. I recommend looking through the red triangles in the upper right corner of the key cells to get an idea of how the spreadsheet works.

Looking Ahead: Feed Costs This Fall

As we saw in 2013, corn price movements can have a big impact on steer prices. Feed prices are obviously important for feedlot operators, but they have implications for stocker and cow-calf operators as well. Recent crop condition reports and yield estimates, combined with a 3% reduction in planted acres versus last year, indicate that corn production will almost certainly be below last year’s. However, that does not doom us to higher feed costs in the coming months. There is still a lot of old-crop corn out there, indicating that the 17/18 ending-stocks-to-use ratio will be similar to 16/17. Thus, we are likely to see corn prices remain low through harvest this fall, assuming the weather holds in corn country.

Feed costs are especially important from an industry perspective this year because of drought conditions in the northern High Plains. Cattle in drought-stressed regions will likely move south early, meaning that they will be put on grass (instead of the wheat they would graze if they had come later) or will go directly to feedlots. Feedlot returns have been positive during 2017 thanks to both low feed costs and strong beef demand fundamentals. This is, of course, good for cow-calf producers and stocker operators, as positive feedlot profits have put upward pressure on calf and feeder prices as the herd has continued to expand.

For more on this topic, check out this month’s “In the Cattle Markets” publication from the Livestock Marketing Information Center.

Beef Exports to China – Webinar

Many folks in Georgia are interested in hearing about the possibility of exporting beef to China. Now that the first shipment has been made, I feel more comfortable discussing the economic impacts of this new market. The webinar, linked below, gives the details on the restrictions the Chinese government has put on the beef that they will import. As the video indicates, the restrictions are severe enough that the Chinese market will not be a major component of our exports. However, time will tell if those restrictions change or if production practices in the U.S. adapt to serve this market.

Webinar Link

First Shipment of Beef to China

I’ve been getting a lot of questions lately about opportunities for the US beef industry in China. Given the way these deals can go, I was hesitant to put a lot of faith in theĀ  possibility of re-opening this market (after 14 years). But today we received news that Greater Omaha Packing will be shipping beef to Shanghai starting today. This represents an opportunity for US beef producers; another source of demand is certainly welcome and could help boost our already-strong international trade numbers. However, there is

However, there is reason to be cautious: Chinese officials have placed a number of restrictions on imported beef. One of those restrictions is that the location of birth of each calf must be verified. While this practice is not mandated by the US government, it could become the norm if domestic and international consumers of US beef demand it. I still think it’s a long way off, but the fact that we are now shipping beef to China under this requirement is an important development in the broader conversation of traceability.

Now is a Good Time to Lock in Profits for Spring Calves

by Levi Russell

The recent run-up in wholesale beef prices has sent cash and futures prices through the roof in the past few weeks. This provides an opportunity for producers with spring-calving herds to lock in a profit. For instance, right now producers can buy a put option on the September feeder contract at a strike price of $135/CWT for $1,375. This is relatively cheap “insurance” since we’re likely to see calf prices fall again in the near future as wholesale beef drops back down or feedlot margins are squeezed.

Today’s cattle on feed report is a good example of bad news at the feedlot level affecting marketing prospects. So far today we’ve seen a significant drop in feeder futures due to the slow pace of marketing relative to placements in April. Now is a good time to lock in profit as we’ll probably continue to see some downward pressure on feeder prices in coming months.

For more information on hedging and options, check out the following publications.

Understanding and Using Cattle Basis in Managing Price Risk
Using Futures Markets to Manage Price Risk in Feeder Cattle Operations
Commodity Options as Price Insurance for Cattlemen