COLLEGE STATION – Both experts and producers spoke positively about the future of the cattle business while attending the 56th annual Texas A&M Beef Cattle Short Course in College Station this week.
"We’ve got a lot of optimism in our business with fewer numbers of cattle across the United States, increasing demand and rainfall," said Dr. Jason Cleere, Texas AgriLife Extension Service beef cattle specialist and short course coordinator. "Cattle prices should be good in the coming year."
After a historic drought in 2009 that decimated Texas agriculture, beef cattle producers and experts were optimistic about the opportunities for the beef industry. More than 1,350 are attending the beef short course, the largest beef educational event in the U.S. that concludes Wednesday. Attendees have come to the Texas A&M campus in College Station from Texas, U.S. and internationally, Cleere said.
Jim Schwertner, CEO of Capitol Land & Livestock and Texas A&M System Regent, was upbeat addressing attendees during the general session Monday.
"I think we are at a turning point in our industry," he said.
When looking at McDonalds or other beef eateries, he said "go to any of these restaurants and if they're full, we’re doing good."
"I think we’re on the cusp of having one of the best cattle markets ever," he said.
The economic data indicate just that, according to one economist. Randy Blach, CEO of CattleFax, said "I’ve got a pretty positive message for you today. It’s a pretty optimistic picture."
U.S. cattle inventory is one of the smallest since 1959, he said.
"The key of it is are we going to respond to it in the next four to five years?" he said. "You have to ask yourself, 'am I running as many cattle that I can carry? Am I carrying enough cows with enough grazing capability that I have?'"
In his cattle market outlook, Blach sees several years of potential profitability. Production costs are expected to "remain in check" but he said demand growth for beef will be slow as the overall economy will continue to recover.
"But we’re starting to see some stability (with the economy) and that’s the first thing we need to see," he said.
The opening of more global markets, such as China and Japan, will help fuel cattle prices further, he said.
Blach forecasts $3 per hundredweight to $5 per hundredweight more for fed calf prices going forward in the coming months, about $50 more per head on average.
While rainfall this year has been welcomed by Texas cattle producers, experts were quick to warn ranchers not to get carried away with overstocking pastures with cattle that have been through long periods of dry weather. Allowing ample time for recovery and managing new growth of forage can help protect further damage to a pasture.
"You’ve got to take some and leave some," said Joe Paschal, AgriLife Extension beef cattle specialist from Corpus Christi, during the basic ranch management session.
To monitor a pasture that has either improved grasses or native forage, he advised producers to use a yard stick to measure the best spots with grass and see how much has been clipped by cattle. When a pasture drops from 12 inches of growth to 6 inches of growth, Paschal said it’s time to move those cattle out and into another pasture, allowing enough time for that pasture to recover.
"Timing of grazing is very important," he said. "Knowing the different stages of growth, such as dormant, early, middle and late growth helps in developing a grazing strategy."
Meanwhile, the 2010 Texas A&M Beef Cattle Short Course was dedicated to Dr. Stephen Hammack, professor emeritus and AgriLife Extension beef cattle specialist at Stephenville. Hammack retired in 2003, but came back to work on a part-time basis, said Dr. Larry Boleman, associate vice chancellor for outreach and strategic initiatives with Texas A&M AgriLife.
"He’s probably written more papers from an Extension standpoint in the animal science group than anybody," Boleman said presenting the award to Hammack. "When you talk about genetics, breeding, he’s done an outstanding job in that respect. But he’s also a ‘Johnny on the spot’ to help out with all of the educational events through the years."
To follow blog posts from the event, visit http://agrilifeweb.tamu.edu/beefshortcourse/ .
Editor’s note: A video accompanying this report can be found at http://agnews.tamu.edu/showstory.php?id=2057 .