Cattle prices trend lower; experts cite feed costs and extreme weather


By Kenny Wiley, The Eagle (TX)

Oct 7, 2019


Cattle prices in Texas and nationwide have dipped in recent weeks and months, causing negative impacts for cattle producers.


Prices for Texas feeder steers averaged $145 per hundredweight, depending on weight and quality, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. That price is about $5 per hundredweight lower than the same time last year and about $33 per hundredweight lower than the five-year average. Prices dipped even further in mid-May and mid-August this year.


David Anderson, an agricultural economics professor and AgriLife Extension economist at Texas A&M, said beef calves and cattle are Texas’ top agricultural commodity, generating annual sales of more than $10 billion in the state.


“In the big picture, cattle and calf prices have been declining, and they’ve been declining for several years because production’s been growing,” Anderson said. “The cattle industry is a cyclical industry, and we’ve been expanding our cow herd nationwide. We’ve been expanding beef production and we’re pretty close to record, all-time beef production.”


Anderson said drought conditions in large parts of Texas, flooding in the Midwest and a severe Aug. 9 fire at a meat-packing plant in Kansas are other factors that have contributed to lower cattle prices in recent weeks. The Tyson plant handled 6% of the nation’s fed cattle capacity and harvested about 6,000 cattle per day before the fire, according to reporting from the Wichita Eagle.


Anderson said due to drought conditions, producers cut herds earlier — and thinner — than is typical. He said some producers started shipping calves sooner.


Calf prices are generally lowest in the fall, as well, he said.


“A bunch of these things happened at about the same time and really coincided with a large supply time of year, which has forced prices low and has really gotten people’s attention,” he said...