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Fall brings optimism for cattle, pastures
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- August and September are usually Mississippi's hottest, driest months, and when the cattle markets and pasture conditions are at their worst. But that is not the case this year.
An unusually wet summer for pastures and strong market prices are leaving cattle producers with fewer worries as winter approaches.
John Anderson, agricultural economist with Mississippi State University's Extension Service, said cattle market prices have been "fantastic" in recent months and that fed cattle prices have been at record or near-record levels for this time of year.
"Fed cattle prices were at a level never seen before in August -- running about $82 per hundredweight," Anderson said. "We thought the spring market was great, but there is tremendous strength in the cattle market right now."
Anderson said 650- and 850-pound feeder calves have been selling well, and prices on lighter weight calves have improved during the last couple of months. He credited mad cow disease, or bovine spongiform encephalopathy, in Canada for the positive U.S. cattle market.
"When BSE was detected in Canada, we closed our border to Canadian beef and so did other countries. As a result, we have had to rely more on our domestic supply to meet consumer demands. In addition, the situation has created more export opportunities for U.S. beef," Anderson said. "The supply and demand effects of the Canadian BSE situation happened dramatically and in a very short period of time. There are still tight restrictions on meat coming into the United States, and we are not importing any live cattle from Canada.
"We are seeing strong markets across the board, especially for this time of the year," he said. "We probably will see a slight seasonal break in prices, but not as much as we normally experience. The outlook is still very good. This fall should be a good time to sell heifers strictly from a price standpoint, but producers have other things to factor into their decisions, such as the availability of hay for this coming winter."
David Lang, MSU Extension associate professor for forage and pasture crops, said the wet summer has resulted in poor hay quality, but most pastures are in good condition. Grazing has been the best way to utilize forage this summer. However, recent cloudy days and saturated soils have hampered forage growth in some areas.
"Hay could be in short supply this winter. Wet soil conditions have prolonged hay drying, with much of it getting rained on after it was cut. Mold is a problem, and hay may be prone to catching on fire if the moisture level is greater than 22 to 25 percent," Lang said.
Growers should monitor internal bale temperature with a 12 to 24 inch thermometer. If the bale is greater than 160 degrees, leave it outside well away from storage facilities until the temperature drops to less than 150 degrees.
"Planting winter annuals will help provide winter grazing," Lang said. "If the wet conditions continue into the fall, we could have a second consecutive year of blast disease on early ryegrass.
Lang suggested planting ryegrass later to avoid blast or mixing ryegrass with other small grains such as oat, wheat or rye.
Contact: Dr. John Anderson, (662) 325-1788 or Dr. David Lang, (662) 325-8181