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We Can Only Hope

Written by Dennis Sun

This past week most areas around Wyoming thawed out some and received some sunshine. The 2009 Christmas snowstorms seemed to be harder in the eastern part of the state, but the cold temperatures hit us all. One has to feel for those in North and South Dakota and Iowa, and especially North Dakota, because they really got hit all last winter, and now this.   
My family was fortunate – we spent the time between Christmas and New Year’s in the southeast part of the country, where all the locals were complaining of the cold and wind. We assured them they didn’t know what wind and cold was, and told them to quit complaining.
Now that we’re thawing out, people are asking each other about the forecast for beef and lamb this coming summer. I’m surely not the person to answer that question because I read the same information most of you do. Most of those in the know, if there is such a thing, say it all boils down to three issues – demand, demand and demand. Numbers, at least with beef, are way down, but weights are up in fed cattle so that seems to be a wash. It’s too bad cull cows and bulls weren’t as strong this last fall as they were two years ago, as that helped with numbers then and was a good source of money.  
Demand will not pick up until people around the country get jobs or get some cash in their pockets. Some say the national economy is picking up, but unemployment is still over 10 percent. That is really high, and keeping everyone away from the restaurants where a steak or a lamb chop is still king.  
I have read reports that say both dairy and beef cow slaughter will likely be lower in 2010, but that hamburger tends to sell well even in a weak economy, so cull cow and bull prices may have the most potential to show improvement. Analysts look for the national economy to pick up in the last half of 2010 and hopefully that would support the fed-cow market. If we don’t have a major drought in any of our beef and lamb producing areas we should see some increases in herd size.  
Let’s face it, the 2010 corn prices are going to have an affect on calf prices. We need either another record-breaking crop or reasonable corn prices to support beef and calf prices.
It sounds like the economies of countries overseas may grow faster than the U.S., and that should help meat exports. People from developing countries have gotten a taste of meat in their diets and now want meat as their protein source more often. A lot of countries overseas want meat cuts unpopular in our country and that really adds value to a carcass just like the value of hides and offal. That market is up a third from a year ago.  
Most everyone says 2011 will be better for beef and lamb, so keep supporting our beef and lamb checkoffs. They’re critical in a recovery and keep standing up to the animal rights groups.
Dennis