For a good start, there’s the feed market. There are several factors explaining why corn prices are dropping. Spot futures prices have been cut nearly in half over a six-month period.

Cooper david
Managing Editor / Progressive Cattle

Cost of gains should be more advantageous, especially for the feeder industry. Beef producers will compete less with the ethanol industry on commodities, especially as the government reduces its fuel mandates.

The metrics for supply and demand are also providing a healthy tailwind for beef producers. Speakers at this year’s Range Beef Cow Symposium expect the upcoming Jan. 1, 2014 inventory count to show another 300,000-head drop in the beef cow herd – a loss of around 1 percent.

The herd decline dictates how much beef can be produced and supply figures to remain low for some time. Some estimates have beef production not recovering until 2017.

That will trigger higher prices for the foreseeable year, not only for five-weight cattle and feeder calves, but also fed cattle. Meanwhile, foreign buyers are still flocking to U.S. beef.


The amount of money per carcass that comes from exports is almost staggering, approaching nearly $300 per head this year.

And while it’s exciting to think of new global partners who are increasing the volume of beef demand, it’s the reliable connections built with our traditional partners in Asia, Mexico and that are building the demand for U.S. exports.

Wisdom would dictate that producers take advantage of this period of profitability and reinvest in the operations, the herd and the tools that have made this resurgence all possible.

In addition to reducing debt, operators could consider improving the genetics in their herd. They could make a few necessary changes to cattle-handling facilities. They might adopt new technologies that contain the promise of easier yet more efficient labor.

This is not to say that the coming year offers a guarantee of easy money and light work.

Market indicators show that this year pork could surpass beef as the second-most-consumed animal protein in the U.S. (Poultry still has a firm hold at No. 1.)

Because affordable feed will be just as beneficial to poultry and swine as it is for beef, you can be sure those industries will likewise push for more production.

The responsibility will then be twofold for the beef industry as it hits a critical point in 2014.

The first is to keep producing high-quality beef that customers are willing to pay a little more for, because they know it’s worth it.

But just as critical is to ensure the longevity of the industry and start now to rebuild and expand the herd. Each producer has to gauge that risk individually.

But as far as possibilities go, 2014 may be the open window ranchers have been waiting for.  end mark


David Cooper
Progressive Cattleman magazine