Grazing Opportunities Declining

Perhaps it’s just “that time” for feeder cattle to come to market in larger numbers, but declining grazing options may have just as much to do with decisions to sell feeders.

Monday’s USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service weekly crop conditions report showed a decline in pasture conditions and a lag in winter wheat planting and emergence.  What’s more, pasture and range conditions are declining in some key pasture states.

Nationally, pasture and range conditions listed as good or excellent by NASS as of Sunday were 43%.  This sounds good, but this is down three percentage points from a week earlier when it was 46%.

A year ago, in the first non-drought year if many for the Midwest and Plains states, pastures and ranges were reported as 49% good or excellent.

Such declines in pasture quality may not be a big deal if it were confined to non-cattle-feeding states, but it’s not.  Just comparing with a week earlier it’s easy to see declines.

Texas pastures and ranges this week were 27% good to excellent, versus a week ago when they were listed at 29%, a two-percentage-point drop in just one week.  Oklahoma pastures and ranges were listed at 48% good to excellent this week, the same as a week earlier, while Kansas dropped one percentage point to 53% good to excellent.

Missouri grasslands were rated 49% good to excellent as of Sunday, down from 53% a week earlier.  And Wyoming dropped four percentage points to 66% good to excellent from 70% a week earlier.

However, weekly crop conditions are judged subjectively, and market sources say university tests have shown lower feed value in recent pasture samples as ample rain brought rapid growth at the expense of nutrient density.

Market analysts also say this may help explain why the difference between average August feedlot placement weights and the 2009-2013 average.  The August difference was only about nine pounds, compared with 16 pounds in April through June and 15 pounds in July.  The analysts say actual pasture feed value could be declining faster than subjective evaluations would show.




But calves often transfer to wheat in the fall as pastures fade and the high-quality wheat forage becomes available.  However, the data suggest wheat pastures may not be ready.

Monday’s NASS report showed wheat planting was only four percentage points below the 2010-2014 average at 31% and 35%, respectively.  That’s not a lot, but the amount of emergence also is lagging, with just 7% emerged as of Sunday, compared with the 11% average.

Some key winter grazing states also are behind on emergence.  Texas, listed at 2% emerged, lags the five-year average of 9%, and Oklahoma, at 1% emerged, is behind the 7% average.

Individually, neither the decline in pasture or wheat ratings make a lot of difference, but collectively, they might add to the matrix of reasons for the rise in feedlot placements at lower weights.




No cash cattle trading was reported in the Plains states or Western Midwest Monday.  No bids or offers were reported, although bids were expected near $126 per cwt on a live basis and $200 to $201 dressed.  Asking prices could begin around $132 live and $210 dressed.

Cash cattle prices last week were down $6 to $7 per cwt with action in Iowa at $126 to $128 on a live basis with dressed action at $203 to $205.  Nebraska trades were reported at $129 to $130 live and $208 down to $202 dressed.  Trading also was reported in Kansas and Colorado and Texas at $128 to $130.  In all cases, the lower prices came later than the higher prices.

The USDA reported lower boxed beef prices again Monday with its choice cutout down $1.29 per cwt at $210.94 and select off $0.38 at $209.42 with 110 loads of fabricated product sold into the spot market.

The CME Feeder Cattle Index for the seven days ended Friday was $191.33 per cwt, down $3.48.  This compares with the Oct settlement Friday of $185.27, up $0.67.