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The Weekly News Source for Wyoming's Ranchers, Farmers and AgriBusiness Community

Crystal Ball

by Wyoming Livestock Roundup

Often during this time of the year, livestock producers and others in agriculture are looking for their crystal ball to tell what the markets and weather will be this spring. For me, once I’ve found the crystal ball, I start looking for the silver bullet that will make everything good.

Then, as soon as I come to my senses, I start looking for good solid information out there to plan for the rest of the winter and upcoming spring.

The big question for now is, “Do I have enough hay to last until green grass?” 

Recent hay price studies show the average cost of hay can range from four to 15 cents per pound of dry matter (grass), which is usually more than double the cost for the same amount of nutrients from existing pasture grass. 

Then the next question is, “What kind and how much protein will I also need?”

The problem is really a balancing act to get livestock through the winter. Good information, along with a little luck, will help producers through the last winter months.

We’re all looking at sheep producers and their record prices for lamb, saying, “Good for you, way to go, it’s your turn.” What happened for the sheep producers with the high demand for their lamb products only shows that consumers are smart. Along with the Lamb Checkoff and other forward-thinking lamb groups, lamb producers were ready to take advantage of current market opportunities. Times have been hard for sheep producers as they have faced – and continue to face – some hard issues, especially trade issues. But, the price outlook is good.

Beef producers in the Intermountain West are at the mercy of the weather. Up until recently, it has been an open winter with not too many cold snaps for most of the area. 

Demand for beef, both at the meat counter and exports to other countries, is strong. We can only hope meatpackers can keep a strong labor force to provide for the demand. Similar to sheep producers, beef producers need mandatory price and market transparency reporting which are essential to fair markets. 

Because of the current low prices beef producers are getting in the hills and the high profits meatpackers are getting, there is a lot of finger-pointing going on. I hope with the numbers of cattle going down and demand staying strong, producer prices will become stronger.

A report by the North American Meat Institute told members of a U.S. House Judiciary Subcommittee last week that data released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) showed in 2021 beef packers’ share of the consumer dollar was 22.2 percent, lower than the beef producer share. I find this hard to believe. 

Our current administration can’t just blame meat and oil prices on inflation – they have to look at their own policies as well.

I sure hope there will not be a war in the Ukraine, as it is a major oil and grain exporter. Ukraine is a major global grain producer, providing some 16 percent of the world’s corn exports and 12 percent of the world’s wheat exports. 

Under our current administration’s oil policies, the U.S. now purchases around the same amount of oil from Russia as is purchased from Saudi Arabia. In truth, we are paying for the Russian buildup next to Ukraine. That’s not the way it should be, is it?  

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