Where’s the beef?

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Beef production nationwide is continuing to decline as a result of drought in many regions of the country, competition with grain production for land resources and the aging population of farmers. According to an article from Southeast Farm Press written by Donald Stotts at Oklahoma State University, beef production in 2012 decreased by approximately 1.1 percent compared to 2011.  Analysts expect 2013 production to fall an additional 4.8 percent followed by a decrease in 2014 of 4.5 percent or more. The actual reduction in numbers of livestock is even greater than these decreases, but they are offset by higher weights achieved by the cattle we do have. Our genetic improvements are helping to keep the reductions from being even higher.
Forecasters are able to predict production into the future with a good deal of certainty because of the long lead time to grow and breed replacement heifers in the herd, then raise their calves to a mature weight. This lead time can be as long as four years, and with no large stocks of heifers in the pipeline there will inevitably be a reduction in cattle numbers.
The good news for producers is that with decreased production, beef prices should remain firm or even increase as the economy begins to grow again. The bad news is that these high prices may cause consumers to consume less beef, beef exports to fall and imports to increase. If prices get too high consumers who reduce consumption may permanently switch much of their consumption to pork or poultry. While pork and poultry are important commodities in other areas of Kentucky and we wish those produces well, our primary meat production here in Marion County is beef and we need it to remain a competitively priced choice for consumers.
If producers have the pastures and hay available to keep or buy heifers to increase their herds they should do so. It is very tempting to take advantage of high prices and sell every young animal we can, but we need to remember that as the cows in the herd get older they will become less productive and as the cows in the herd are reduced with no replacements to take their place we will find ourselves in that three to four year window in our herds where production will fall substantially. The only alternative then will be to buy replacements but with the nationwide shortage of replacements, prices will likely increase to even higher levels. The wise thing may be to bite the bullet now and keep some heifers for the future.
We have had a number of calls regarding GAP Training required of producers by tobacco companies. We have set up a Tobacco Production and Gap Training class along with extension offices in Nelson and Washington County. We will have two classes on Feb. 27, at the Washington County Extension Office. Producers can attend at either 1 p.m. or 6 p.m. Attendance at either session will give producers the training and certificate necessary to sell their crop next winter.
We will be participating in a statewide forages meeting entitled “Pasture and Hay Improvement Strategies for 2013” to be held on Monday, Jan. 28, at 7 p.m. The meeting will be via the Internet and Dr. Garry Lacefield will be the featured speaker. We have facilities at the office where participants can watch and ask questions, or it can be watched from home using a high speed Internet connection (DSL line or faster) and Microsoft Lync. Call the office if you would like to view from home as I will have to get you a meeting link.
The Cattlemen’s Association will hold their regular monthly meeting at 6:30 p.m., Thursday, Jan. 24, at Floral Hall. The speaker will be Don Reynolds who is the 2013 President of the Kentucky Cattlemen’s Association. All members and anyone interested in becoming a member are invited to attend. Please call the extension office at (270) 692-2421 if you will be attending so we can get a meal count.
I have not had any volunteers yet for the Agriculture and Natural Resources Advisory Council. As I stated last week, the purpose of this council is to help review and guide extension programs in the subject area of agriculture and natural resources. If you have ideas about things we should be working on and want to be on this council please call me at the office. Areas of interest do not have to be farming related, they can be interest in gardening, wildlife or any other topic related to the broad area of agriculture and natural resources. Once formed I anticipate this council to meet quarterly with meetings alternating between daytime and evening so all will have an opportunity to attend at least some of the meetings. The extension office exists for the citizens of Marion County and it is my desire to put together programs of interest and benefit to as many people as possible.

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