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Cattle Producer Optimism

Texas A&M Beef Cattle Short Course attendees filled Rudder Theater on Aug. 7 to hear experts discuss the past, present and future of the beef cattle industry. (Texas A&M AgriLife photo by Michael Miller)


Optimism greeted beef cattle producers from around the country attending the Texas A&M Beef Cattle Short Course recently for two primary reasons — high cattle prices and continued consumer demand, despite the higher beef prices.

Unlike in previous decades, Americans today eat higher-grade beef and pay a premium for it. Beef cattle producers broke out their timelines at the Texas A&M Beef Cattle Short Course to see where their industry had been, where it is today and where it might be headed.

David Anderson, Ph.D., Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service livestock market specialist and professor in the Texas A&M College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Department of Agricultural Economics, set the mood for the first day of the Short Course with his analysis of today’s market and a forecast.

“We have a lot of reasons for optimism in the cattle market going forward,” Anderson said.

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The current cattle market

Three market issues will determine where the beef industry moves in the longer term — demand, drought and speed of rebuilding, Anderson said.

“We have a product people want to buy,” he said.

The combination of high consumer demand with the current tight beef supplies added up to Anderson’s prediction that high beef prices will continue.

Moving forward, Anderson said drought and feed costs will determine the speed of rebuilding the herd, affecting how soon the prices come back down. Record corn production this year combined with fewer cattle on feed could affect feed costs. The question is: Are the current beef prices high enough to start herd rebuilding?

The answer to that question seems to be no. Right now, there is little evidence of the herd rebuilding, he said. Beef heifers held back as cow replacements are the lowest in 50 years, and that number is not expected to increase significantly in 2024.

Anderson said producers are not holding heifers back yet, but they are sending fewer cows to slaughter, indicating the selloff is slowing down, “but we have not turned the corner yet.”

He predicted the industry could expect beef production to decrease by 6% in 2024 and to see even less production in 2025, which means there will continue to be tighter and tighter production for a product consumers like.

“And we’re producing the highest USDA quality graded beef in history,” Anderson said. “We are supplying exactly what consumers want. This is really a positive picture for the overall market going forward.”