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News and views on stocker segment issues from BEEF magazine.
August 8, 2006 A Prism Business Media Publication
ISSUE CONTENTS
Japan's Open, but...

Program Feeding Could Provide Drought Strategy

Shade Makes A Difference

Record Heat Continues

Wheatland Stocker Conference

Other Upcoming Events

Extreme Heat Slows Feeder-Cattle Marketing

Questions & Comments


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News
Japan's Open, but...
The first shipments of U.S. beef reportedly went to Japan last week. That following the July 27 announcement that Japan's ban on U.S. beef was lifted, at least for boneless beef from cattle 21 months old or younger.

There wasn't much pop in the market, though, for obvious reasons, including the fact that little volume is expected to move that direction anytime soon.

More than anything, U.S. producers rightfully have little confidence in the Japanese market remaining open without additional hiccups. Japan's Health Minister, Jiro Kawasaki, underscored that notion when he told the Japan Times July 28 that if any specified-risk materials (SRMs) are found in a shipment, the ban would be re-imposed.



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Stocker Management
Program Feeding Could Provide Drought Strategy
Though still a novel concept to most cow-calf producers, a growing number of stocker operators are utilizing program feeding to work their way around a lack of forage, and to improve the predictability of cattle performance.

In fact, barring lots of late-summer and early-fall rains, Dave Lalman, Oklahoma State University (OSU) Extension beef cattle specialist, sees program feeding as the primary opportunity for stocker operators in his neck of the woods.

"It's serious and getting more serious every day," Lalman says of his area's environmental conditions. "If an operator has the facilities, skill and ambition, it's another year -- like 1998 -- when feeding with corn and a supplement, or with corn and commodities, can achieve a respectable cost of gain."

In fact, at current prices, Lalman says, "We can develop a program ration for $110 to $120/ton, another $10/ton if you have someone else do the blending. That's 6¢/lb. for feed with conversions of 5:1 to 6:1."

For producers with little or no program-feeding experience, Lalman advises, "You have to go into it with the right mindset and understand the principle behind it. You're feeding a high-energy ration but only about two-thirds to three-quarters of what the cattle would eat ad libitum... It won't work on pasture because you have to control what the cattle consume.

"Program feeding is all about you deciding what you want the cattle to consume and to gain...You can't be sloppy. You have to feed every day at about the same time, and have the capacity to feed the right amount; you can't guess at it," he adds.

You can find a complete description of the practice, as well as sample rations, in the OSU Extension fact sheet CR-3025 at www.OSUextra.com.


Shade Makes A Difference
Shade may not be an issue for many cattle producers because it's already part of the pasture system, says Ohio State University's (OSU) Rory Lewandowski. But for those who may be in the position to decide if shade is or isn't provided to cattle, the possible advantages and disadvantages of shade must be considered, along with other methods that cattle might have to cope with heat stress, writes the Athens County Extension educator.

In a review of shade research in a recent OSU newsletter, Lewandowski shares the results of a 1970s OSU study that found, over a four-year period, that steers grazing summer pasture gained 19 lbs. more on average if they had access to shade than if they didn't. More specifically, if there were only 30 days when the temperature was 85ºF. or higher -- and when the temperature combined with humidity totaled 130 or more -- the gain advantage was only 4 lbs. In years when the threshold of 130 was met or surpassed 50-60 days, the advantage in gain was 27-30 lbs. if shade was available.

You can access Lewandowski's article at fairfield.osu.edu/ag/beef/beefJly26.html.



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Weather And Crops
Record Heat Continues
"Every summer seems hotter than the last, but few cattle producers can remember a year when so many areas were suffering from all-time record heat and drought conditions at the same time," say Ag Marketing Service analysts.

"Plains pastures are parched from North Dakota to south Texas and from the Rocky Mountains to the Mississippi River. Northern Plains ranchers are weaning calves a good 60 days early in an attempt to conserve enough grass to allow them to maintain their cow herds. These producers have spent generations improving the quality and performance of their cattle to ensure weaning weights well over 600 lbs. in a normal year. But normal years have become abnormal and many of this year's calves will be pulled off the cows weighing under 400 lbs.," the reporters say.

In dry parts where standing forage or hay can be found, it's getting too expensive to be considered a solution. And as some folks in the Dakotas told us last week, though feed is a problem, the driving force in some areas is a lack of water; ponds and dugouts gone dry or shallow and of harmfully poor quality. And with diesel at and over $3/gal., hauling feed in or finding cattle a temporary home is losing its appeal.

For the week ending July 31, the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) reports:
  • Corn -- 91% is at or beyond the silking stage, which is the same as last year and 9% ahead of average. 25% advanced to the Dough Stage, compared to 24% last year and 21% for the five-year average. 56% is rated Good or better, compared to 53% last year.

  • Soybeans -- Blooming has begun on 87% of the acreage, 2% behind last year, but 6% ahead of normal. Blooming was at or ahead of normal in all states but Indiana. 53% was setting pods, 1% ahead of last year and 12% ahead of normal. 53% is rated Good or better; 54% was at the same time last year.

  • Winter Wheat -- 91% of the acreage has been harvested. That's 3% ahead of last year and 4% ahead of the normal pace.

  • Spring Wheat -- 22% of the crop is in the bin, which is 15% ahead of last year and 16% ahead of the five-year average. 32% is rated Good or better, compared to 68% last year.

  • Barley -- Heading advanced to 96%, compared to 99% at this time last year and 98% for normal. 51% is rated Good or better, compared to 72% last year.

  • Sorghum -- 52% of the acreage is in the heading stage, which is 2% ahead of last year and 3% ahead of average. 23% was at or beyond turning color, 3% ahead of last year and 2% ahead of normal. 32% is ranked Good or better, compared to 48% last year.

  • Oats -- 55% of the acreage is harvested, which is 9% ahead of last year and 17% ahead of average. 31% is rated Good or better, compared to 61% last year.

  • Pasture -- 20% is rated Good and 3% is rated Excellent, compared to 34% and 5%, respectively last year. 24% is rated Poor and 24% is ranked Very Poor, compared to 18% and 10% respectively at the same time last year.
States with the worst pasture conditions -- at least 30% of the acreage rated poor or worse -- include: Alabama (82%); Arizona (81%); Arkansas (48%); Colorado (67%); Georgia (65%); Iowa (48%); Kansas (52%); ; Minnesota (65%); Mississippi (59%); Missouri (66%); Montana (39%); Nebraska (70%); New Mexico (57%); North Dakota (71%); Oklahoma (72%); South Carolina (31%); South Dakota (70%); Tennessee (39%); Texas (74%); Wisconsin (54%); and Wyoming (71%).

States with the lushest pasture conditions -- at least 40% rated good or better -- include: Florida (60%); Idaho (58%); Illinois (49%); Indiana (74%); Kentucky (63%); Maine (77%); Maryland (57%); Michigan (49%); Nevada (42%); New York (71%); North Carolina (53%); Ohio (71%); Pennsylvania (64%); Utah (51%); Virginia (45%); Washington (53%); and West Virginia (63%).


Events
Wheatland Stocker Conference
You've still got time to sign up for the Wheatland Stocker Conference August 18 at the Cherokee Strip Conference Center in Enid, OK. The 20th annual event features a Who's Who of industry leaders to discuss everything from the cattle cycle, to no-till and low-till farming, to the impact of industry transitions on the stocker business.

Speakers and topics include:
  • Paul Hitch, Hitch Enterprises, Guymon, OK; Mark Gardiner, Gardiner Angus Ranch, Ashland, KS; and Jackie Moore, Joplin Regional Stockyards, Joplin, MO; all addressing "Change and the stocker business."

  • Rep. Frank Lucas with a farm bill update.

  • Dan Thomson, DVM, Kansas State University, "Stocker cattle health."

  • Derrell Peel, Oklahoma State University, "Cattle cycle and stocker economics."

  • Craig Watz, FBI Special Agent, Kansas City, MO, will discuss food safety.

  • Roger Gribble, Area Agronomist, Enid, OK, "No-till, low-till and maintaining forage quality and quantity."
To sign up (registration is free, including lunch), call 580-237-7677. For more info, contact Greg Highfill at 580-237-7677 or Greg.Highfill@okstate.edu.


Other Upcoming Events
Sept. 28 -- Kansas State University (KSU) Beef Stocker Conference, KSU Beef Stocker Unit, Manhattan, KS. For more info, call 785-532-1267.


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Markets
Extreme Heat Slows Feeder-Cattle Marketing
"Auction receipts were light throughout the Plains as triple-digit temperatures made the transporting and handling of cattle too dangerous to their health, not to mention the health of the handlers," say Ag Marketing Service (AMS) reporters. "Many of these auctions continue to anticipate big runs, but each week the heat forces sellers to keep the cattle at home, despite the lack of forage."

So it goes as record heat continues to scorch much of the nation, forcing more cows to town, earlier weaning and plenty of head-scratching about if and when to buy and sell.

For all of that, maybe in part because of the lighter volume, feeder and stocker cattle sold evenly unsteady to as much as $2/cwt. higher last week compared to the previous one, according to AMS.

"The demand for both feeders and stockers continues to hold up remarkably well with the availability of true yearling feeders currently very tight, plus few of the calves being bought will actually be stockers," say the AMS folks. "Inexpensive feedstuffs are becoming more popular to grow calves than pasture grazing, especially in the Midwest where corn by-products are readily available from an increasing number of ethanol plants," (see the article, "Program Feeding Could Provide Drought Strategy," elsewhere in this issue).

Fed cattle ended the week mostly $1-$1.50 higher on a live basis at $79-$82.

The summary below reflects the week ended Aug. 4 for Medium and Large 1 -- 500- to 550-lb., 600- to 650-lb., and 700- to 750-lb. feeder heifers and steers (unless otherwise noted). The list is arranged in descending order by auction volume and represents sales reported in the weekly USDA National Feeder and Stocker Cattle Summary:

Summary Table
State Volume Steers Heifers
Calf Weight 500-550 lbs. 600-650 lbs. 700-750 lbs. 500-550 lbs. 600-650 lbs. 700-750 lbs.
OK 31,600 $124.58 $120.61 $117.34 $114.89 $111.67 $108.17
TX 29,000 $116.42 $115.44 $107.85 $110.09 $108.86 $99.77
MO 14,900 $132.07 $125.62 $114.80 $122.28 $112.26 $106.70
AL 12,500 $111-121 $106-1124 $103.50-106 $107-115 $101-108 **
KY* 11,700 $115-125 $108-118 $102-1125 $107-117 $99-1093 $94-1045
AR 10,000 $118.41 $112.17 $106.48 $109.46 104.72 $97.63
KS 9,900 $132.86 $124.92 $118.08 $120.84 $113.22 $110.38
GA* 9,300 $102-124 $98-114 $96-104 $95-114 $91-104 $90-994
TN* 8,300 $116.50 $110.73 $103.466 $108.27 $101.22 $94.93
FL* 7,600 $100-115 $95-108 $94-1074 $94-109 $90-101 $91-954
MS* 7,600 $110-1201 $100-1103 $92-1005 $100-1101 $90-1003 **
NE 7,500 $135.21 $127.15 $119.82 $127.30 $117.284 $117.39
Carolinas* 7,300 $102-122 $90-116.503 $90-1055 $94-113.50 $85-1063 $82-965
SD 6,600 ** $122.194 $123.07 ** $119.854 $109.20
LAND 3,800 $108-119 $110-1153 ** $101-1131 $98-1132 **
NM* 2,800 ** ** ** $107.64 ** **
WA* 1,700 ** ** $98.336 ** $102.114 $98.52
VA 1,200 $128.852 $119.29 $111.90 $112.162 $104.24 **

* Plus 2
** None reported at this weight or near weight
(***) Steers and bulls
NDNo Description
1500-600 lbs.
2550-600 lbs.
3600-700 lbs.
4650-700 lbs.
5700-800 lbs.
6750-800 lbs.
7800-850 lbs.


Contact
Questions & Comments
Please send questions to:

Wes Ishmael, Contributing Editor, BEEF Stocker Trends, at wesleysink@aol.com

Joe Roybal, Editor, BEEF magazine, at jroybal@beef-mag.com



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