Plane crash mars NCBA’s 2014 convention opening
—CattleFax projections include improved weather conditions and record prices
Last week’s beef industry convention opened with many heavy hearts following a plane crash that took the lives of four National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) members.
Glenn Mull, 62, owner of Mull Farms and Feeding in Pawnee Rock, KS; his wife, Elaine, 63; their daughter Amy Harter, 40; and granddaughter Samantha Harter, 16, were killed on Monday when the Gulfstream 690C they were in crashed while preparing to land, said family friend Lori Gibson. Mull Farms and Feed also owned acreages in Oklahoma and Texas.
The tragedy changed the tone for many at the 2014 Cattle Industry Convention and NCBA Trade Show.
“It’s devastating. Just beyond description,” Mark Cooksey, Marketing Manager with Roto-Mix, told reporters. “They have been a big-time player in the industry for a long time.”
More than 6,200 cattlemen and women from across the country registered to attend the largest annual gathering for the beef industry, held at the Gaylord Opryland Resort Feb. 4- 7.
NCBA President Scott George said Nashville is always one of the best attended locations and this convention was no exception.
“Nashville is a legendary city known for its rural roots and country music scene and this week America’s cattlemen and women are taking the city by storm. We’re here to highlight some of the successes of the past year while also setting goals and priorities for what lies ahead,” George said on the opening convention day. “From today’s Cattlemen’s College sessions to the many other educational events that will take place over the next three days, cattlemen and women will have the opportunity to hear directly from the experts about how to sustain and improve their operations.”
This year’s trade show was not only larger, but also featured more educational and entertainment opportunities for attendees. On the trade show floor there were two education areas including a demonstration area with live animals to provide hands-on instruction. New this year was the NCBA Learning Lounge, which featured 30-minute educational sessions to give attendees valuable educational tips from industry experts in informal, face-to-face, technology-friendly classroom settings.
The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association’s Cattlemen’s College headlined convention activities on Feb. 3-4. Celebrating its 21st year, the program has established a reputation as one of the most thorough cattle producer education programs in the nation. The 2014 edition of Cattlemen’s College was sponsored by Zoetis and offered a wide range of informative, handson educational workshops designed for cattle operations of every size and sector.
Cattlemen’s College participants heard from an outstanding lineup of industry experts during the course of two jam-packed days. On Feb. 3, participants heard from Dr. Arne Anderson as he discussed the “dos” and “don’ts” of processing cattle through a chute, with emphasis placed on safety and efficiency for both the cowboys and the cattle.
Following this presentation, Dr. Jerry Lipsey and Dr. Kent Anderson shifted focus to the selection of herd replacements. Dr. Lipsey demonstrated how to select replacement heifers for longevity in a presentation, and Dr. Anderson discussed combining cowboy common sense for soundness and adaptability traits with the disciplined use of expected progeny differences (EPDs) for combinations of calving ease, growth, efficiency, carcass and maternal traits in selecting replacement bulls.
Monday evening, Cattlemen’s College participants visited with fellow cattlemen, as well as the afternoon’s speakers at a reception sponsored by Certified Angus Beef.
Cattlemen’s College classes started their last day back with a keynote address by Bob Langert, who is the corporate Vice President, and leads corporate social responsibility and sustainability for McDonald’s Corporation. Langert shared McDonald’s overall sustainable supply chain vision and beef’s role in the company’s plan. Langert also discussed how McDonald’s is working with various stakeholders, including all parts of the value chain, to collaborate on social and environmental opportunities and challenges as sustainability in the industry continues to evolve.
“If we don’t invest on sustainability, we’re not going to have all the customers we want in the future,” Langert said. “At McDonald’s we know what we’re good at, and we know what were not good at. What we’re good at is running restaurants, but we need to rely upon beef ranchers, processors, the industry to figure out what sustainability means. We’re just one part of the spoke. That’s what the global round table for sustainability is . Yeah, our voice is there, but so are all the others. Let’s come up with a definition of beef sustainability for all of us that’s based on science and going to help drive our businesses forward.”
Following Cattlemen’s College, exciting keynote speeches at the general sessions, and a record-breaking trade show, convention goers had the opportunity to attend committee meetings and take part in the grassroots policy development.
“The grassroots policy process is the backbone and the strength of NCBA. It’s important our producer’s voice is heard and this week cattlemen will come together to discuss policy priorities that will lay the groundwork for the next year,” said George. “From cattle health and the environment, to marketing and tax policy issues, there will be many critical issues addressed this week.”
On Feb. 5, attendees gathered to hear CattleFax market analysts’ projections for the year ahead.
Creighton University Professor Emeritus Art Douglas told the audience he expects improved moisture conditions in the majority of the United States, including improvements of the drought-affected areas of the West Coast.
As precipitation returns back to more normal levels for the 2014 growing season, CattleFax predicts farmers in the U.S. should grow an adequate corn crop to build the carryover supply. The improved corn supplies should assure lower corn/input costs over the next 12-24 months, according to CattleFax Grain Market Analyst Mike Murphy.
“The lower input cost will have a direct correlation to improved feeder cattle and calf values in 2014 and with continued help from Mother Nature, we will be in better shape with regard to hay supply and prices moving forward,” Murphy said.
Brett Stuart with Cattle- Fax indicated that beef exports are expected to be near even in 2014 with record high prices being the limiting factor. At the same time, expectations are for beef imports to be near even, despite the need for 90 percent trim due to the expected lower non-fed slaughter rates in the U.S. The driving factor for stagnant imports is the growth of China’s demand for global beef which will continue to divert beef from Australia into the China market and away from the U.S. market.
CattleFax Senior Analyst Kevin Good indicated the combination of improved moisture conditions resulting in lower input costs and record high calf values should lead to beef cow herd expansion beginning in 2014.
Beef production in the U.S. will fall, with per-capita supply declining 4.5 percent. However, he said the pork and poultry supplies are expected to increase, leaving total meat supplies near even. CattleFax projects the Retail Beef Demand Index will improve by one percent due to continued modest economic growth.
“As we think about our consumers today, not only domestically but globally, they’re a lot more diverse than they have been in past,” Good said. “We’ve got different customers with different preferences and different pocketbooks.”
Good said because of the continued tighter feeder cattle supply, the margin segments of the beef production system, both feed yards and packers, will struggle with excess infrastructure. Look for continued closure of both packing and feeding facilities over the next 12-24 months.
Prices are expected to average $135 compared to $126 during 2013, an increase of seven percent.
Yearling prices are expected to average $168, an increase of 13 percent from the 2013 average of $146. According to Good, calf prices will average $193, up 13 percent from last year’s average of $168.
“After years of tightening supplies, the cow-calf sector will again remain in the driver’s seat during 2014,” Good said.
CattleFax CEO Randy Blach summarized the year ahead by saying almost all segments of the production chain will be profitable, although margin operators will continue to face challenges over the next few years.
Blach remains optimistic for the long-term cattle industry as the profit incentives will result in a larger U.S. cattle herd over the next five years, creating business opportunities for those willing to adapt to a dynamic and changing business environment.
“You can start to see the globalization of the protein markets from the 1990s on,” Blach said. “We have the most efficient production system in the world and we are the largest exporter of protein onto the global market.”
Ram Trucks promoted youth in agriculture and the National FFA Organization (FFA) with the first ever FFA Day at the convention on Feb. 6. The first 300 FFA members to register for convention were covered in partnership with Ram Trucks.
“This is a great partnership and an opportunity to showcase what America’s cattlemen and women stand for,” said George. “The student members of the FFA are the future leaders of our association and the cattle business. Bringing Ram Trucks and FFA youth together to the Cattle Industry Convention to network, learn and see the cattle industry in action is a great opportunity.”
This will be an annual opportunity during future Cattle Industry Conventions for all FFA members to attend. — Traci Eatherton, WLJ Editor