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Cows Head To Sales Earlier Than Normal
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Mississippi's cattle producers are making their annual fall pilgrimages to markets earlier than normal as the drought leaves them little choice.
Charlie Forrest, marketing specialist with Mississippi State University's Extension Service, said market activity is running about a month ahead of schedule. Producers traditionally cull cattle between late September and October to reduce the number of mouths to feed in the winter.
"The drought will increase marketing and put downward pressure on prices in the short term," Forrest said. "Prices have moved about $4 to $5 per hundredweight lower in recent weeks, but they are still good compared to the five-year average."
The current average price of 400 to 500 pound steers is $95 per hundredweight, compared to $85 a year ago and the five-year average of $77.
Forrest said prices have been improving in the last two years because the national herd size has decreased and beef demand has improved.
"The current liquidation phase of this cycle began in 1996 when the total U.S. numbers were 103.5 million head. The number declined to 98 million as of Jan. 1, 2000," he said.
Normally, as prices improve, producers begin rebuilding their herds. Forrest said the drought will delay expansion plans and continue the sell-off phase longer than normal, especially in the Southeast and Texas.
"Even though cattle numbers are down, we will set a record for beef production in 2000 because more heifers than normal have gone into the feedlots during this phase of the cattle cycle," Forrest said.
Webb Flowers, a beef producer in Oktibbeha County, said there is plenty of incentive for selling cattle this fall.
"This is a good time to do more than cull. This is the third year of drought conditions and finally prices are at a level to reward us for selling off cattle," Flowers said.
"We're in a profitable cycle right now, so we need to take advantage of these prices," Flowers said. "We can't take good genetics and herd health for granted. Like with any business, we need to keep good records on the cost of production and pay attention to marketing strategies as well."