Higher beef prices are in sight
January 27, 2012
Historic drought conditions took a toll on the Texas cow herd in 2011 as more than 150,000 head left the state for greener pastures – three times more than the 45,000 recorded in 2010, according to Dr. David Anderson, Texas AgriLife Extension Service economist. He cited Texas Animal Health Commission out-shipment data, which is the number of animals receiving veterinary inspection certificates prior to interstate movement.

“Out-shipments are cattle moving out of state from Texas and they might also be called Texas’ cattle exports to other states,” Anderson said. “Reported out-shipments rose dramatically above 2010 in August-October. Total cattle reported shipped out of state in 2011 was 1.113 million head, 287,000 more than in 2010.”

The largest destination states for Texas breeding cattle were New Mexico, Nebraska, Florida, South Dakota and Kansas. “There may be no surprise in the states farther north, but Florida and New Mexico may be surprising to some,” Anderson said.

Nationally, beef cattle numbers continue to decline to historic levels. The U.S. Department of Agriculture reported inventory for all cattle and calves on January 1, 2012, totaled 90.8 million head, 2 percent below the 92.7 million a year before. It is the lowest January 1 inventory of all cattle and calves since the 88.1 million on hand in 1952, according to the USDA. Texas, the nation’s largest beef cow producing state, saw a decline in 2011, in the number of beef cows of 660,000, to 4.365 million head.

Cattle prices are predicted to continue to be at all-time highs. Retail beef prices are expected to remain high as well reflecting less supply, according to economists.The USDA report revealed the national 2011 calf crop was estimated at 35.3 million head, down 1 percent from 2010. USDA reports it’s the smallest calf crop since the 34.9 million born during 1950.

"Skyrocketing feed costs beginning in the fall of 2006 began a wave of herd culling as livestock producers nationwide tried to adjust to unprofitable conditions," Anderson said. "This herd liquidation was made even worse by the drought of 2011, the driest year on record in Texas."

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