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Cattle industry flying blind

Photo by Anna Hastert
The government is back to work, but what is the real situation on how quickly they can recover from the month long shutdown and begin to serve their constituents again?

In point is the livestock industry that has been flying blind since before Christmas.

Normally around this time, attention would be focused on the monthly Cattle on Feed report, typically published by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). However, due to the ongoing government shutdown, that report along with several others have been either postponed or will be nixed all together.

Oklahoma State University Extension Livestock Market Economist Dr. Derrell Peel, in a recent conversation with Radio Oklahoma Ag Network Farm Director Ron Hays, said when industry stakeholders can expect to get the flow of data back on track is anyone’s guess right now.

“It’s speculation on my part. Nobody can say anything because we don’t know when this thing going to be over,” Peel remarked. “My guess is that we will just not get the January Cattle on Feed report. They’re going to be terribly backlogged when they get back on track, so they’re going to be looking for things they can just skip. My bigger concern would be with the Total Cattle Inventory Report.”

This highly anticipated report comes only once a year and Peel says the information it contains gives the industry its one critical chance to confirm the progress made during the previous year and helps to set expectations for the year ahead. In addition, it is the only report that offers a state-by-state breakdown of the numbers along with some other valuable insights that can be derived from that information.

Based on what he does know and can deduce from the information that is available, Peel contends like last year – the industry is still in expansion albeit much slower. As beef production continues to grow, he says the key to sustaining current price levels has been, and will continue to be demand. As long as demand stays robust, the industry should be in good shape for the foreseeable future, according to Peel. However, fresh data from the USDA will be needed before anyone can make that call for certain.

“It’s such an important report. I think they will do it, but it will be significantly late even if we get the doors back open tomorrow,” he reiterated, though cautiously optimistic. “It does look positive so far. There are things you can be nervous about in terms of both global markets and domestic markets – but at this point in time we look pretty good.”