“We’d never been to $130 per live weight steer prices before October of last year. We made $140 a hundred weight for the first time in January of this year, and then we cleared $150 for the first time for slaughter steers in February.”
Those prices were enough to interest cattlemen in expanding their herds but Plain says cattlemen saving heifers and cows are why the high prices are continuing.
“Right now we’re seeing a reduction in heifer slaughter, a reduction in cow slaughter. That means less beef on the market and that’s part of the reason we’re setting these records for grocery store prices and for live prices for slaughter steers. It’s just less beef.”
Plain says the beef industry is at the start of a growth period. The question is how long will it last.
“Economics says it should last for awhile. On the other hand if we get dry weather this summer and short pastures, if you run out of grass it’s just tough to save heifers and expand the cow herd. But if we do get rain and a good hay crop and adequate pasture we’re probably going to save heifers for breeding all year long and they could do it again next year.”
Grain prices have dropped from the historic highs of a few years ago, which is also playing a role in the high price of cattle.
Because expanding cattle numbers is such a slow process, Plain expects live cattle prices and beef prices at the grocery store to remain high.
Source: NAFB News Service