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Weather challenges beef markets

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Watch each Friday for Doug Ferguson's Market Intel blog on Beef Producer and BEEF magazine.
Coldest weather on record, but even limited sales showed some trends. And some questions about cattle ID and the future

Before this week I did not think it was possible for it to get as cold as it did in my corner of Nebraska. My daughter is excited we had record lows because as she sees it, she lived through history. I have some difficulty adjusting my attitude to be as good as hers. Maybe our Canadian friends have rubbed off on her a bit. While we were all trying to get through this thing the Canadians played the world’s longest hockey game for charity, with the temp getting to -67 degrees F.

A group of people that I feel deserve some recognition are the sale barn cowboys. Most auctions were cancelled again this week. However, some places did open just for weigh cows and bulls, since the packers were needing stock. Most of these guys have stock at home to take care of before and after the sale. It makes for a long day when the weather is decent. It’s a really tough day in weather like we had.

With so many sales being cancelled again this week, and the runs being light at most places that did have sales I don’t have much market information this week. This week the markets were more consistent than last week and that helps to identify relationships between weights.

This week flyweight cattle were under-valued. The value of gain stayed mostly positive, or higher than the cost of gain up to five weights. From there on the VOG tapers off. Seven weights had a small spike in VOG. For that weight of animal at different auctions it was either just over or just under the COG.

This week some non-hormone treated cattle caught a $5 premium, and replacement quality heifers caught a premium of $5 to $12.

Weather, tech and more

This week got me thinking of several things. Electricity is not new. Cold weather is not new. Granted it has never been this cold before in Nebraska, so there is that, but we learned how easily the grid can fail. Here’s the interesting thing to me. In the past the media has been slanted in favor of clean, green, renewable energy and then this week they rushed to throw wind energy under the bus. Then they got upset there was not enough fuel at the back up generation plants. It was like this week was right out of Atlas Shrugged. That was supposed to be a fiction book but it seems more likely all the time Ayn Rand gave them the play book.

According to the media new technology and mismanagement let us down this week. I think the cattle industry needs to pay attention to this and rethink any effort for a mandatory identification system that will involve electronic identification tags. We just got confirmation it will fail. The political elites pushed for and passed regulation for renewable energy, and that let us down this week. If the same level of thinking is pushing for ID, its sure to have the same results if a crisis hits.

After this week I am certain an ID system that relies heavily on technology will fail us. If it is mandatory the smart people will still get paid at the end of the day even though it failed, but what about the rest of us? When it fails and screws up commerce and we are unable to buy, sell, or ship cattle what do we do then? How are we going to get paid?

Let's take this one step further. Unless your tongue was frozen to a fence post you heard Bill Gate’s comments about wealthy nations should switch to synthetic meat and using regulations to alter people’s behavior. Do we want an ID program that will rely on software when the most influential coder/software developer says things like that? Do we honestly have that much trust that things won’t be tampered with in a way that may dictate, or alter behavior, affecting where cattle can and cannot be shipped to? It may be time to hit the brakes and rethink this thing for awhile.

On a lighter note

I am going to lighten this up for the closing and share a funny story I was told at the parts counter this week. A cow calf producer had a handful of calves born this week. He brought them in the house to warm up, dry off and get going. They have those doggy gates in their house, so they put them in the laundry room and closed the doggy gates then went out to do chores. When they came back in the house the calves had broke out of the doggy gates and ran around the house.

Now the way I was told the story this guys wife is milking it for all its worth and she is getting new floors. My brain working the way it does had a question pop up. Are those new floors a farm expense or household expense? After all it was a farm decision that led to those floors being ruined. If the farm account pays for them, that winter calving just got even more costly.

After the weather we endured the last few weeks we must make money, or it was all for nothing. Remember Pro’s get paid to play which is black ink, amateurs pay to play, or red ink. Go pro!

The opinions expressed are not necessarily those of Farm Progress

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