Cattle Feeders May See Warmer, Wetter Winter

It looks like the major cattle-feeding regions of the US will see warmer-than-normal temperatures and more precipitation than normal.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s US Winter Outlook also said drought-stricken California and the Sierra Madres have an even greater chance of warm temperatures and an equal chance of being wetter than normal.

This year’s El Nino is among the strongest on record and is expected to influence weather and climate patterns this winter by affecting the position of the Pacific jet stream, NOAA said.

Other meteorologists have said the warmer Pacific Ocean also evaporates more water, which moves over the Southwestern US and into the Midwest.  As this warm, wet air meets the colder winter air of the Northern Hemisphere, it drops as either rain or snow.  Non-El Nino, or even La Nina years evaporate less water for less rain or snow.

But this year’s strong El Nino is not the only player in this winter’s forecast, said Mike Halpert, deputy director of NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center, in the NOAA forecast.  Cold air outbreaks and snow storms are likely since the forecast period is winter.  However, the frequency, number and intensity of these events cannot be predicted on a seasonal basis.




Other factors that often play a role in winter weather events include what is called “the Arctic Oscillation”, which is a climate pattern characterized by winds circulating counterclockwise around the Arctic at around 55 degrees N latitude.  The Arctic Oscillation has its largest variability during the cold season and influences the number of arctic air masses that move south.

Something called the “Madden-Julian Oscillation,” which is the largest element of the 30- to 90-day variability in the tropical atmosphere, also affects precipitation patterns over the winter.  Unlike El Nino, which doesn’t move much, this is a traveling pattern that moves eastward through the atmosphere above the warm parts of the Indian and Pacific oceans and affects rainfall in the Pacific Northwest.




NOAA expected some improvement of drought conditions in central and southern California by the end of January, although the drought would not be broken by then.  Additional relief was thought possible in February and March, but weather prognosticators stopped short of calling for an end to water shortages there.

Drought was expected to persist in the Pacific Northwest and Northern Rockies, and drought development was thought likely in Hawaii, parts of the Northern Plains and in the Northern Great Lakes.

Drought removal was expected across large parts of the Southwest, while improvement or removal also was thought likely in the Southern Plains.

While it’s good that drought improvement was predicted for California, one season of above-average rain and snow was thought unlikely to remove four years of drought.

“California would need close to twice its normal rainfall to get out of drought, and that’s unlikely,” Halpert said.




Cash fed cattle markets this week remain undeveloped with estimated showlists mixed to lower.  Bids of $125 per cwt on a live basis were heard, but asking prices were around $135 per cwt on a live basis, versus sales last week from $123 to $127.

On a dressed basis, cattle traded last week at $195 to $202.

Wholesale beef prices Thursday were higher but are losing early week momentum.  The USDA reported its choice cutout value at $211.22 per cwt, up $0.61 on the day, and its select cutout at $207.23, up $1.61.

The choice/select spread narrowed to $3.99 from $4.90 on Wednesday, and there were 119 loads of fabricated product moved into the spot market.

CME Feeder Cattle Index for the seven days ended Wednesday was $187.36 per cwt, up $1.01.  This compares with the Oct settlement Thursday of $189.97, down $1.02.