Current Edition

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Hope For Better Year

    We are about to the end of the year of 2012, and a lot of us are thinking it hasn’t gone fast enough to suit us with the ongoing drought. In the world of Wyoming agriculture, the three main topics this past year were drought, drought and drought. One of the reasons was that in 2011 we had record precipitation, and then in 2012, it was the driest year recorded in Wyoming. But you know, we lived through it, didn’t we? We were all happy with the leftover grass from 2011. 

Our thoughts and prayers go out to those who were victims from this past summer’s wildfires. It was really tough on them. It was a little touch and go on Dec. 20, with the end of the Mayan calendar, but we limped through that too. 

Sheep producers were hit hard this past year following record high prices in 2011, but many say that should get better in the next year. We hope to call this year’s drought a one year drought, too. For the most part, cattle prices stayed high, but so did farm and ranch input prices. The cost of ranching and farming were as high as the past summer’s temperatures. 

On a positive side, cull cow and bull prices just got higher as the year went on. Facts from a recent column of Tim Petry, livestock economist from North Dakota State University Extension, tell us that cull cow prices set a record high in 2012, as they did in 2010 and 2011. He said, “This is a result of lower cow slaughter and strong demand for 90 percent lean, boneless beef.” He also said, “Cull cow prices are expected to stay strong in the coming year as consumers have a big appetite for hamburger, and the weak economy may even favor hamburger demand over the more expensive muscle cuts.” 

I find it enjoyable when I am in a grocery store to just watch those shopping at the meat counter, especially for beef. At first you realize that many don’t understand the different cuts of meat and that today’s prices do make a difference. You will see someone pickup a pack of steaks, look at the price and put it back down. Are we at that point in beef prices where the consumers will select cheaper meats like chicken or pork? It happened with lamb in the last year. We don’t want a prime steak to become specialty meat. The good part is that people will always buy hamburger. Cull cows and bulls are hamburger and that makes us happy. 

Some well-timed snows and rains leading into the summer will start the beef herd rebuilding, and this, in turn, will mean less culling of cows, which, in the short term, means less slaughter of cows. All of that says that prices should stay high. Petry said, “Even though beef cow slaughter in 2012 will be about equal to the previous five year average, the U.S. started the year with fewer beef cows than in any of the last five years.” 

2013 will be an interesting year, and the weather will dictate the results. Hang on and have a great New Year. There is always next year. 

Dennis