Livestock Marketing Information Center

Current Situation and Analysis
Last Updated: 10/18/2019
2019 Brings Setback in Cow-Calf Returns

Markets in 2019 have been a challenge for U.S. cow-calf producers. Mother Nature has impacted producers far and wide with blizzards at calving, flooding, and drought. Calf prices were pressured during the late Spring and early Summer months by surging corn prices. Recently, year-over-year corn prices have moderated significantly, but Omaha corn is still at $3.92 per bushel (18%) above a year ago. The negative cattle market impacts of the Kansas beef packing plant fire also have spilled-over to the feeder cattle and calf prices. Low cull cow prices have added to the financial struggles.

Early Fall Snowstorm Prompts Extra USDA Corn Crop Survey Work

Corn harvest stood at 22% complete as of October 13, according to USDA-National Agricultural Statistical Service (NASS). The average for this date in the prior five years was 36%, and a year ago 38% had been combined. Delayed harvesting is not a surprise given the lateness of planting this spring due to unusually rainy (and sometimes snowy), cool weather across the Midwest in May and June. The Illinois corn harvest was only 23% complete versus 70% a year ago.

What is ahead for Soybean Meal Costs

The primary ingredient providing the protein component in livestock feeds is soybean meal and the price outlook for this commodity is similar to corn, based on a smaller harvest this fall.  The USDA-NASS estimate of soybean production released earlier this month adjusted soybean production down 2% from the estimate made a month earlier.  This would result in soybean production declining 20% from 2018.  To make up for the shortfall in production, inventories on hand September 1 (which were record large) will be utilized to produce soybean meal to satisfy livestock feed and export needs.  Th