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Steve Kay, Contributing Columnist

Livestock Industry Opinions
Nov 4, 2016
Like many of you, I’ve eaten many diff e r e n t types of beef during my lifetime. The first was grass-fed beef from Hereford-Holstein crosses that my family raised on the South Island of New Zealand. Understandably, it counts as some of the best beef I’ve enjoyed.
Livestock Industry Opinions
Sep 2, 2016
Labor Day historically marks the start of the transition for beef from the summer grilling season to the Christmas holiday season. So it’s instructive to look back as well as forward to see how beef has performed and might fare the rest of the year. The latter will be crucial for the direction of live cattle prices the rest of the year.

Livestock Industry Opinions
Apr 4, 2016
The result was The Strategic Alliances Field Study, published in August 1993. This seminal work laid the foundation for the valuebased marketing of fed cattle. At the time though, such was the outrage at the suggestion of producers working with packers that one would have thought NCA had signed a pact with the Devil.
Livestock Industry Opinions
Jan 4, 2016
This past year taught the beef industry some painful lessons. Cattle feeders discovered that the money always runs out before the cattle. Risk managers realized that market volatility can wreck the best hedging plans. Cattle feeders and packers realized that the shrinking cash live cattle market demands urgent action or it will disappear.


Livestock Industry Opinions
Dec 4, 2015
I was talking with a California cattle feeder last week and asked him how he prices his cattle. “Off the Texas-Oklahoma-New Mexico market” was his reply. Then he added that the prior week, the price was based on cash or negotiated grid sales of less than 250 head.


Livestock Industry Opinions
Oct 30, 2015
Close your eyes and imagine this scene. Prehistoric man has just discovered how to make fire. As the flames flicker, he accidentally drops into the fire the raw meat of a creature he was gnawing on. It takes him a few minutes to retrieve the meat. Then he starts eating again and lets out a roar.


Livestock Industry Opinions
Oct 2, 2015
Cattle feeders came into 2015 knowing the year would be completely different from the previous 18 months. After all, it’s in the nature of cattle feeding to go from boom to bust in terms of feeding profits. But the speed with which this occurred took many by surprise.


Livestock Industry Opinions
Sep 4, 2015
USDA currently forecasts that beef production next year will total 24.835 billion pounds, up 4.5 percent or just over one billion pounds from this year. That’s quite a hefty year-on-year increase, which will bring the total back above the 2014 total. USDA also forecasts that exports next year will increase slightly and imports will decline sharply.


Livestock Industry Opinions
Jul 31, 2015
Back in the early 2000s , when the battle to introduce mandatory country of origin labeling (COOL) was raging, California rancher Carolyn Carey quietly took the issue into her own hands. Rather than supporting mandatory COOL, she introduced a “Born and Raised in the USA” program and label that was approved for most meat and poultry species.



Livestock Industry Opinions
May 29, 2015
All wealth to the industry comes from consumers so it’s important to monitor retail and foodservice beef sales. There are divergent feelings among analysts about whether beef demand has gotten stronger or weaker in the past year, and I’ll leave it to them to fight it out.


Livestock Industry Opinions
May 1, 2015
The grilling season has finally begun and the beef industry is cautiously optimistic that Americans will show their love of a good steak. But how much beef gets put on the grill this month will depend on two factors: how aggressively retailers want to build their beef sales; and what consumers are willing to keep paying for beef throughout the month.


Livestock Industry Opinions
Apr 3, 2015
One look at annual cattle feeding returns since 1975 would make one wonder why anyone would want to feed cattle or own a feedlot. On the surface, the numbers suggest only 17 profitable years and 23 loss years. But the numbers (from the Livestock Marketing Information Center; LMIC) are averages based on a 750-pound steer fed on the Southern Plains.
Livestock Industry Opinions
Apr 3, 2015
One look at annual cattle feeding returns since 1975 would make one wonder why anyone would want to feed cattle or own a feedlot. On the surface, the numbers suggest only 17 profitable years and 23 loss years. But the numbers (from the Livestock Marketing Information Center; LMIC) are averages based on a 750-pound steer fed on the Southern Plains.
Livestock Industry Opinions
Mar 3, 2015
Cattle producers, from the ranch to the feedlot, continue to focus on producing the highest quality cattle they can. That’s because they know that producing the finest grain-fed beef in the world is the big advantage the U.S. has over every other beef producing nation.
Livestock Industry Opinions
Mar 3, 2015
Cattle producers, from the ranch to the feedlot, continue to focus on producing the highest quality cattle they can. That’s because they know that producing the finest grain-fed beef in the world is the big advantage the U.S. has over every other beef producing nation.
Livestock Industry Opinions
Jan 30, 2015
Beef remains Americans’ favorite meat. But they are eating less of it each year because of a shrinking supply. Conversely, people are eating more chicken because of an expanding supply. Meanwhile, beef and the way it is produced remains under intense public scrutiny and criticism while hardly a bad word is spoken about chicken.
Livestock Industry Opinions
Jan 30, 2015
Beef remains Americans’ favorite meat. But they are eating less of it each year because of a shrinking supply. Conversely, people are eating more chicken because of an expanding supply. Meanwhile, beef and the way it is produced remains under intense public scrutiny and criticism while hardly a bad word is spoken about chicken.
Livestock Industry Opinions
Jan 2, 2015
The beef industry never lacks for issues. This year will see further tortuous efforts to improve and expand the industry’s promotion and research program, known as the Beef Checkoff. It will see equally drawn-out efforts to change the country of origin labeling (COOL) law to bring the U.
Livestock Industry Opinions
Nov 28, 2014
Cattle feeders have done a masterful job this year of feeding cattle as long as possible, at the same time remaining fairly current in their marketings. The result has been record heavy steer and heifer carcasses and the percentage of cattle grading USDA Prime breaching 5 percent for the first time.
Livestock Industry Opinions
Oct 31, 2014
Not only do consumers have all these choices; they can read comprehensive nutrition labels to help them make sensible dietary choices. Moreover, they can expect to pay a reasonable price for most food products. I use “reasonable” in relation to food prices in other countries.
Livestock Industry Opinions
Aug 29, 2014
With this in mind, I want to pay tribute to the tens of thousands of families who are the backbone of the U.S. beef industry. Whether these families run cow/calf or stocker operations, own livestock barns or feedlots, each and every family is vital to the health and success of the entire industry.
Livestock Industry Opinions
Aug 1, 2014
Some combinations are obvious. Think cowboy hats and Merle Haggard, pickup trucks and goose neck trailers. So what about beef and red wine? This combo is such a natural that I’ve long wondered why the industries that make both products don’t make more of the way the two go together.
Livestock Industry Opinions
Jul 3, 2014
Old-timers must be shaking their heads in disbelief at the way calves and feeder cattle are trading. Even when I began covering the industry 28 years ago, I would not have believed the price of calves would by 2014 increase more than 3.5 times. On the other hand, the price of many other goods has probably increased by that much or more.
Cattle and Beef Industry News
May 30, 2014
Americans are still buying beef despite record high prices in grocery stores and restaurants. Foreign buyers are also involved by ordering more than last year, despite the price. All this is good news, as all wealth to the beef industry comes from consumers, whether at home or abroad.
Livestock Industry Opinions
May 2, 2014
Water and plants are vital to the well-being of American ag. Water in its various forms is needed to grow everything from pasture to feed crops to fruit and vegetables. It succors all kinds of plants that turn directly or indirectly into food for consumers at home and abroad.
Livestock Industry Opinions
Apr 4, 2014
What an incredible time to have young cattle to sell. As I write this, calves weighing 600 to 650 pounds are selling for $197 to $206 per cwt at Oklahoma City. Not far behind them are 650 to 700 pounders at $188-189, 700 to 750 pounders at $178- 187.50, 750 to 800 pounders at $174.
Livestock Industry Opinions
Jan 10, 2014
The U.S. cattle feeding industry has depended for years on Mexican feeder cattle to help fill its pens. Annual imports have averaged about one million head, although they have fluctuated dramatically at times, in large part due to drought. That’s why 2011 and 2012 saw more than 1.
Livestock Industry Opinions
Nov 29, 2013
It needed to. For years it had rested on the premise that beef was “King” and Americans would continue to gobble it up. But, beef demand began to decline because beef was too fatty and inconsistent in its eating quality. Fortunately, the industry responded to the alarm bells, although it took nearly 20 years to arrest that declining demand.
Livestock Industry Opinions
Aug 2, 2013
The numbers never did add up for Northern Beef Packers (NBP) in Aberdeen, SD. Around the time that plans for its new plant were getting off the ground, the national cattle herd had completed three years of extremely modest expansion and then returned to contraction mode.
Livestock Industry Opinions
May 31, 2013
One weekend does not make a market. But the beef industry was hoping for a beef sales bonanza over the Memorial Day holiday. Alas, Mother Nature decided to rain on the beef parade. Instead of warm, sunny weather that would have encouraged more grilling, it was wet and cool in parts of the Midwest and Northeast.
Livestock Industry Opinions
May 3, 2013
Weather extremes have played a huge role in American life from the time the republic was founded. From earthquakes to hurricanes or tornadoes, cities and towns from coast to coast have felt the full force of nature and been reshaped by it. Weather has also been a huge influence in shaping agriculture and modern food production.
Livestock Industry Opinions
Mar 29, 2013
Batista’s optimism, and that of his family, transformed JBS from being a mid-sized beef processor in Brazil to being the world’s largest meat and poultry company. The company now harvests every commercial species of animal, including goats. Its global revenue in 2012 was 76 billion reais (roughly $38 billion), up 22.
Livestock Industry Opinions
Mar 1, 2013
I recently had the pleasure of enjoying a Prime rib dinner with Scott George and J.D Alexander, respectively the incoming and outgoing presidents of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA). We were attending the 10th annual Alberta Beef Industry Conference held at the majestic Banff Springs Hotel in the Canadian Rockies.
Livestock Industry Opinions
Feb 1, 2013
Plainview was the sixth largest plant on the Southern Plains and its idling causes 4,650 head of daily slaughter capacity to be lost to cattle feeders. But the market grossly over-reacted and Plainview’s absence will have little impact on Southern Plains’ live cattle prices this year.
Livestock Industry Opinions
Jan 4, 2013
It’s startling to realize that the U.S. has lost 14.5 million cattle since 1996. The beef industry has adjusted to the loss of these millions of cattle, notably by improving productivity per animal, better red meat yields and record heavy carcass weights for steers and heifers.
Livestock Industry Opinions
Dec 1, 2012
The U.S. faces a beef “deficit” in the coming year that will challenge every sector of the beef industry. I use the term “deficit” in that per capita beef consumption will decline relative to how much beef people would like to eat. USDA’s latest forecast is for available beef supplies in 2013 to be 54.
Livestock Industry Opinions
Nov 2, 2012
Much has already been written about the impact of the 2010-2011 Texas/Oklahoma-based drought and this year’s most widespread drought in 59-plus years. Drought has forced cow/calf operators to cull cows, retain fewer heifers than expected, and thus reduce their herds for another year.
Livestock Industry Opinions
Aug 10, 2012
Beef producers face the most widespread drought in their lifetimes. This means their drought management options are fewer than in years when droughts might have been just as severe but much more local. Take the historic Texas-Oklahoma drought that finally broke this spring.
Livestock Industry Opinions
Jul 6, 2012
We may be a ground beef nation but steaks still put the sizzle in wholesale beef prices and underpin fed cattle prices. That’s what occurred this spring, as beef cutout values responded to aggressive retail featuring of steak items for the Memorial Day weekend and throughout June.
Livestock Industry Opinions
Jun 1, 2012
Exports are a key contributor to the economic health of the U.S. beef industry. They allow the industry to maximize the value of certain cuts and by-products that have a much lower value at home. And they provide a counter-balance to the domestic market. The result is that exports boost cattle prices.
Livestock Industry Opinions
May 4, 2012
How much Americans spend on beef and how much they buy is how the industry determines domestic beef demand. Because all wealth to the industry comes from consumers, demand trumps everything else. This will be especially important the next two months as supplies of market-ready cattle start to increase seasonally.
Cattle and Beef Industry News
Mar 2, 2012
I ’ m a great fan of Costco, especially the way the warehouse chain sells beef. From the moment I see the giant “USDA Choice” banner above its fresh meat case, my pulse quickens as I anticipate finding a great beef deal. True to form, a visit last week produced not one but two terrific buys (although one wasn’t in the fresh case).
Cattle and Beef Industry News
Feb 3, 2012
Industry leaders have rightly focused on the shrinking U.S. cattle herd as one of the industry’s biggest issues. While a smaller herd means higher prices for cow/calf producers, it means small or negative margins for everyone else in the beef chain. And it’s not healthy for only one sector to be making money.
Cattle and Beef Industry News
Sep 30, 2011
This should be the best of times for beef producers. National herd numbers have fallen each of the past four years, yet domestic and global beef demand has improved steadily since the end of the 2008 recession. The U.S. has reclaimed its position as the world's leading beef exporter.
Livestock Industry Opinions
Jul 29, 2011
Although we export only 12-14 percent of our production, strong global demand has raised beef prices and has partially offset spluttering demand at home. Exports have significantly raised cattle values. The export boom is adding more than $200 per head to the value of fed cattle.
Livestock Industry Opinions
Dec 3, 2010
The continued strength of the feeder and fed cattle markets makes a mockery of claims that the market is broken. Just a month or so ago, some analysts were forecasting that fed cattle prices would fall to $90 per cwt. or go even lower. Yet cash prices topped $100 again the week before last and went even higher last week.
Livestock Industry Opinions
Oct 29, 2010
Here's a simple question to start. Why do you think live cattle prices shot above $100 the week before last? I'm sure you know the reasons, but let me offer another. Packers are throwing money at cattle feeders in a brazen attempt to bribe them into opposing the proposed Grain Inspection Packers and Stockyards Administration (GIPSA) rule.
Livestock Industry Opinions
Oct 1, 2010
The Great Recession might be over, but that's little comfort for the millions of Americans still out of work or working reduced hours. In fact, our nation of conspicuous spenders has become one of extremely cautious spenders, and this new attitude continues to show up in food spending.
Livestock Industry Opinions
Sep 3, 2010
Livestock producers have long had an ambivalent attitude about meat packers. They complain that packers make profits at their expense. Yet when producers own meat companies, the results have often been disastrous. Producers have discovered that operating a successful meat plant or company has unique challenges not understood by outsiders.
Livestock Industry Opinions
Jun 4, 2010
When I think of Greece, I think of lamb, from kebabs to kleftiko.I dont think of beef because the country produces only 56,000 metric tons (MT) of beef per year. Yet Greece is currently having a big impact on the U.S., the largest beef producer in the world (12.
Livestock Industry Opinions
Apr 30, 2010
“Tough news if you’re a meat lover,” said the headline on my Internet news page last Monday. Oh no, I thought, not another negative story about how eating meat is bad for you and the planet. Turns out I was wrong, but the reasons for the headline are what’s got everyone in the industry buzzing right now.
Livestock Industry Opinions
Apr 2, 2010
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack Is in Japan this week to promote U.S. farm exports to that country. Beef is to be featured prominently, both in the promotions and in private discussions with Japanese government officials. Both countries realize that Japans age limit on U.
Livestock Industry Opinions
Jan 29, 2010
Money talks, but apparently not loud enough to get the Obama administration to take a fresh approach to getting Japan to relax its restrictions on U.S. beef imports. Perhaps it is because the beef industry hasnt screamed enough about how much money the industry is losing because of the severely limited access to the Japanese market.
Livestock Industry Opinions
Dec 31, 2009
Why is it that packers disclose so much information about their business, but beef cattle producers so little? The contrast has fascinated me ever since I started surveying the industry’s largest packers, cattle feeders and cow/calf producers back in the late 1980s. Packers were initially reluctant to provide slaughter capacity or annual slaughter or sales data. But they soon realized
Livestock Industry Opinions
Dec 4, 2009
The authors did not cite meatpacking, but they could have. In 1988, the top three packers (IBP, ConAgra and Excel) shared 67.1 percent of fed steer and heifer slaughter, according to my data. Their market share climbed as high as 73.8 percent in 2001, but then declined and has remained below 70 percent ever since.
Cattle Market & Farm Reports, Editorials
Nov 6, 2009
Cattle feeders and packers are learning how to live with market volatility of historic proportions. It wasn’t so many years ago that most commodity futures prices were only allowed to rise or fall by a maximum 150 points per trading session. Any moves up or down the limit in the futures market caused shockwaves throughout the cash markets for livestock and meat.
Livestock Industry Opinions
Nov 6, 2009
Next time you pull your boots on, reflect for a moment about how the leather business affects the price of cattle. You might be surprised at how much. That's because hides, which are turned into all types of leather, make up two-thirds of the value of all the byproducts that come from each animal.
Livestock Industry Opinions
Nov 6, 2009
US Premium Beef (USPB) remains a remarkable model of how beef producers can work with, not against, packers and put more money in their pockets. USPB began operations in 1997 with a minority ownership in then Farmland National Beef and has gone from strength to strength.
Livestock Industry Opinions
Nov 6, 2009
The U.S.s shrinking cattle population is becoming a huge concern for the beef industry. The main reason for the declining numbers is lack of profitability. Cattle feeders in particular have lost billions of dollars in equity in the past two years. The main reason for this is high input costs and weak beef demand due to the recession.
Livestock Industry Opinions
Nov 6, 2009
Go into any supermarket and youll find that most poultry items are branded with a company name. These include Tyson, Perdue and Pilgrims, which is soon to be majority-owned by JBS. Branded beef is much harder to find. There are niche brands such as Harris, Maverick, Lauras Lean and Coleman.
Livestock Industry Opinions
Jul 31, 2009
Memo to federal food safety officials: Want to protect consumers by eliminating E.coli O157:H7 from the food supply? Then invest in the commercial use of a vaccine for cattle. Then make its use mandatory, but pay most of the vaccines cost to cattle producers for the first few years.
Livestock Industry Opinions
May 29, 2009
Paris is a long way culturally and geographically from Amarillo or Omaha. But a meeting in the French capital last week could have an important bearing on the profitability of the U.S. beef industry for the next year or so. Paris played host to the annual meeting of the World Organization for Animal Health (commonly known as OIE).
Cattle and Beef Industry News
Feb 27, 2009
Supporters of mandator y Country of Origin Labeling (mCOOL) and opponents of further consolidation of the beef processing sector sure have a lot to cheer about. The mCOOL boosters now have the ear of our new Agriculture secretary, who has asked the meat industry to voluntarily adopt three practices stricter than those laid out in USDAs final rule.


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