Ag leaders learn farm value from crop and meat exports

Duane Dailey

Ag lenders got an earful of farming during “emerging issues” at the University of Missouri last week.  New lenders received a week of learning. They were joined the last two days by their elders. Those days covered topics from farm policy to land values to commodity prices.

From an array of speakers came a big load. I came away optimistic; but, I’d spent a pessimistic week in sessions with MU ag specialists dealing with potential drought this summer.

The Extension meetings help beef farmers facing lack of hay, short pastures and reduced haymaking. That’s a downer.

The bankers heard the head of CattleFax, a top beef outlook group from Colorado. I’d heard CEO Randy Blach before and liked what I heard. He spoke last year and got top ratings. Joe Horner, MU Extension economist invited him back.

Blach speaks to many groups every year. So, he impressed me when I visited him after his speech. He recalled our talk last year. Then I’d told him about MU beef research at Thompson Farm, Spickard. He knew that work. Later he’d sent information on the value of feeding out quality beef cattle.

MU research shows how a high percentage of a calf crop can grade USDA Prime. Making Choice is the easier part. This year, the MU calves graded 100 percent Choice and Prime and collected grid premiums.

USDA Prime beef comes mainly from genetics for carcass quality.

Blach repeated his advice on seeking quality. But, he told more on how to profit in tough times. We won’t get once-in-a-lifetime beef profits seen in years following the 2011 drought.

Missouri cow-calf producers enrolled in the Show-Me-Select heifer program should feel good. Blach told the need for low-cost production. That means lowering losses from first-calf heifers and their calves dying at birth. MU protocols teach prebreeding tips that cut losses. Calving ease adds value.

I don’t think Blach played to his audience when he told Missouri’s advantages. We’re cow-calf country. We’re not far from feedlots and packers next door in Kansas.

Beef ranchers from eastern Kansas to Arizona face drastic dry weather. In normal years westerners need lots of acres per cow. “Here you have a cow per acre or two,” Blach told bankers. That cuts cost per calf.

On his Colorado ranch, Blach needs 14 acres per cow. He makes money on quality beef.

Beef producers in southeastern U.S. have long truck hauls to feedlots and packing plants out west.

Beef farmers and bankers hearing Blach feel better about our state.

More producers should adopt MU protocols that add value and cut costs.

Beef margins will be tight.

Blach stays high on our quality beef. We have something the whole world demands. As he said, people raised on rice-and-bean diets want red meat. As incomes rise, they pay more for prime beef.

Starting out, he talked about lower feed prices ahead. Also he bragged on CattleFax weather forecaster who’s been hitting it right for 18 months. Just ahead, he sees a great corn crop coming. More corn means cheaper feed for finishing cattle. More grain means lower prices which help beef margins.

In earlier talks, crop economists told bankers that grain farmers should check current corn prices. They said lock in some present good prices. Start with 20 percent then look again in July.

All speakers shook their heads on a factor more unpredictable than pop-up thunderstorms. Erratic tariff talk from Washington makes markets drop. Their hope for optimism comes for Trump learning how Midwest farms bring trade balance. U.S crops and meat bring dollars from the world.

Blach had said that export trade could mean $350 per calf, back here in Missouri. Trump understands how his tariff moves help his daughter’s companies. Surely he’ll learn the bigger help from farmers.

Economists count on calm coming back to trade. Volatility hurts.

Your outlook to or 511 W. Worley, Columbia, Mo., 65203.