Decisions, Decisions

Garth Ruff, Beef Cattle Field Specialist, OSU Extension

As I wrote this from the county fair office, it was hard to believe September was here. Every year it seams that August flies by even faster than the previous year. In the past month I’ve had the opportunity to visit with cattle producers from across Ohio on a variety of different topics. No matter where or who the conversation always trends towards a common theme: cattle prices.

Questions that have been asked 1) Should I retain heifers? 2)Should I sell cattle or feed them to market.

While our role isn’t to give marketing advice in Extension, here are some of the things we know. The 2023 feeder cattle market is at historic highs prices. The days with $2.50-plus feeder cattle have been few and far between in the past. Consider the value of this year’s calf crop when projecting fed cattle returns. Even with potential reduced feed costs, expect returns to be lower due to the cost of cattle going on feed.

If planning to feed cattle this winter do yourself a favor and complete a profit projection sheet. Many of the nutritionist across the state have them and that’s a quick easy exercise to aid in the decision about retaining ownership.

What else do we know? Fed cattle prices are also very good. Live cattle have broken the $2.00/lb mark a few different weeks at Ohio auction markets. While there is seasonality to premiums and discounts on the grid, the premiums we have seen at times in the past year have been rather large.

We also know that risk protection if feeding any number of cattle at all is a viable and important tool. Although it may not be next week or next year, at some point the market will soften. Consider reaching out to crop insurance agencies or agricultural lenders to learn more about how Livestock Risk Protection can be a tool in your toolbox.

What is less certain? The 2023 corn crop and subsequent corn price. I’ve seen a variety of yield projections across the country. We’ll know more about feed cost once harvest starts.

So, to answer the above questions it depends on the goals of an operation and how sharp the pencil is a figuring feed cost while managing risk.

During my August travels I had the opportunity to attend the annual meeting for the National Association of County Agricultural Agents. While there, Dean Kreager of Licking County and I spoke about the Steer Pool at the Hartford Fair. We discussed the mechanics of the program and learning opportunities that it provides to youth and that it could be a model for other counties interested in a similar program.

Upon immediate return from the conference, Dean and I evaluated the carcasses of the 2023 Steer Pool. This year 33 steers were shown and there were 10 carcasses that graded Low Prime or Prime, and all but one steer had Low Choice marbling or better. While I’ve enjoyed judging several live and carcass shows over the past several years, the results of the 2023 Hartford Steer Pool got me excited about the future of the beef industry.

Not only were there several first-time exhibitors who got to experience raising a steer for the first time while gaining some knowledge about beef production, economics, and beef quality, but the cattle were exceptional as a group. Kudos to all involved.

Lastly, don’t forget to get those Replacement Female sale consignments turned in by October 1.