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Silver Lining Appears For Cattle Producers
STARKVILLE -- After two years of nothing but bad news and no hope for relief in sight, cattle producers are finally seeing some positive signs that tomorrow will be better.
Dr. Charlie Forrest, extension agricultural economist at Mississippi State University, said the national cattle herd shrunk this year for the first time since 1990.
"All cattle and calves in the United States on July 1 totalled 112 million head, down 1 percent from a year ago," Forrest said. "Although 1 percent may not sound like much, it is the first decline in the July number since the U.S. herd began to expand in 1990."
Forrest said the number of cows going to slaughter is 25 percent ahead of a year ago. Additionally, the number of heifers held for replacement is down 4 percent.
The economist said the cattle market probably has reached the bottom -- barring any major drought.
"Fed cattle prices are improving because of tight supplies," Forrest said. "As those prices improve and if we have a good national corn crop, feeder cattle prices also should improve."
Jim Newsome, executive director of the Mississippi Cattlemen's Association, said producers are beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel.
"We may see prices improve this fall. Since prices normally drop in the fall, any improvement is a very positive sign for next spring," Newsome said.
While feed costs have been at all-time highs, cattle numbers have been down in feed yards.
"Typically, lightweight calves normally bring higher prices per pound, but while feed costs have been high, heavy calves have brought higher prices per pound," Newsome said.
Gale Chrestman, area livestock agent at Verona, said most local beef farmers are culling deeper into their herds than normal or completely selling out before winter.
"When prices were better, producers would hold on to some of the older cows for one more calf. This year, that might not be feasible," Chrestman said.
Chrestman said much of North Mississippi missed the early hay cutting, which may make supplies short this winter.
Newsome expressed frustration that more cattle producers have not taken advantage of health and marketing programs designed to help cattle bring a premium.
"Southeast Pride and the Integrated Resource Management programs have succeeded in helping participants produce quality animals and therefore receive better prices," Newsome said.
The IRM program promotes effective production practices, identifies inefficiencies and recommends corrective actions for cattle producers.
Southeast Pride, formerly called MIMS -- Maximum Immunity, Minimum Stress, promotes better health management and provides a special marketing opportunity through exclusive sales.