Rebuilding the Herd: Why it could be years before things return to normalcy

It could be several years before pasture conditions return to normal, allowing the beef herd to start rebuilding.

Lance Zimmerman, the Senior Beef Analyst at Rabobank says feed supplies are tight and cattle inventories remain low; so much that high cattle prices are still not enough to cover feed bills. He says one of the most important factors to rebuilding the herd will be better calf prices, which have only recovered 55 percent of the full decline seen last year.

Zimmerman recently sat down with the Oklahoma Farm Report to discuss his research and said getting moisture in the Southern Plains will be crucial.

“We need to see moisture conditions just come and replenish what we lost, but have some staying power so that when we look across those prairies, they’re healthy, green and vibrant again. When we look at our hay stocks, we have an ample supply to get us through a winter and then a little margin on the sides. That’s going to take a couple of years and that’s really one of the aspects that the paper focuses on. Let’s turn the tide on the heiffer numbers, let’s turn the tide on the cowherd slaughter that we’ve seen over the last several years. Let’s get the green grass replenished and then we can start talking about a healthy, robust expansion again, but we’re probably still two years away before we can see that happen,” said Zimmerman.

Zimmerman says even if demand holds steady, declining supplies will mean beef prices will go up and so will the cost to consumers.

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