Cattle prices, numbers remain high; producers optimistic

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Published: May 23,2005

Starkville — Cattle producers are expanding their herds as prices remain strong during the first months of 2005.
John Anderson, an agricultural economist with Mississippi State University’s Extension Service, said cattle producers are expanding their herds rather than sending them to feed lots. Most expect prices to remain strong throughout the year.

“One factor that contributes to herd expansion when prices are high is the fact that there is more cash available from fewer cattle. Producers do not need to sell as many of their calves in order to meet their financial obligations,” Ander-son said. “This makes it economically feasible for them to hold back a few more heifers than they would if prices were lower.”

Prices reached a high level in February and then dipped.

“We thought those February prices were going to be our spring highs, but prices rebounded to reach even higher levels in April,” Anderson said. “Fed cattle prices peaked at $94 per hundredweight at the end of April, and have declined slightly in the following weeks. Steers in the 700 to 800 pound range are bringing good prices at about $1 per pound.”

Mississippi, U.S. herd sizes grow

Blair McKinley, Extension beef cattle specialist, said Mississippi’s herd size has increased along with the national numbers.

“Many producers had to feed hay longer than normal because wet, cool conditions delayed summer grasses,” he said. “Most cattle still came through the winter in good shape.”

McKinley said cattle producers’ biggest concerns are fuel and fertilizer prices, which are increasing the cost of production.

As a result, more attention will be placed on forage management.

Reducing production costs?

Richard Watson, Extension forage specialist, said fall and late winter are the best months for improving the condition of pasture grasses and reducing production costs.
Adequate stands of ryegrass and fescue in the fall will reduce the need for hay throughout the winter.

“Beginning in the fall, producers can plant clover with ryegrass. Clover seed will cost between $10 and $20 per acre depending on the variety. Clover will fix 80 to 200 pounds per acre of nitrogen into the soil and provide a good forage for livestock,” Watson said. “To add nitrogen fertilizer, the costs will run $40 to $80 per acre.”

Weed management issues

Watson said the time for weed control was in February.

“If flowers are visible, it’s too late,” he said. “This year, the weather may have given weeds an advantage as cool temperatures slowed the growth of better grasses and wet conditions prevented herbicide applications. Actively growing grasses will reduce weeds.”

By the time flowers appear, bush hogs are the best tools for managing weeds, not herbicides.

Linda Breazeale is a writer for MSU Ag Communications.

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