Farmer Focus: Bad news – we all think our beef is the best

We synchronised and bred about 450 autumn calvers recently. I have said it here before, but I think breeding cows is one of the most optimistic endeavours in agriculture.

I won’t market these calves until the spring of 2025. If that isn’t a bet on a better future, I don’t know what is.

I also spent a couple of days at the Kansas Livestock Association annual convention.

We were reminded the US beef market here is cyclical, and after drought and low prices, the market has reacted with drastic herd culling.

See also: 9 ways a farm is lifting beef cow efficiency

About the author

Daniel Mushrush
Livestock Farmer Focus writer
Daniel Mushrush is a third-generation Red Angus breeder in the Flint Hills in Kansas, US. The Mushrush family runs 800 pedigree registered Red Angus Cattle and 600 commercials across 4,856ha, selling 200 bulls a year and beef through Mushrush Family Meats.
Read more articles by Daniel Mushrush

A double hit of a packing house fire and Covid left a backlog of one million cattle, which was terrible for prices.

As a result, we are now nearing a million-head deficit and almost three million females have been slaughtered and made into hamburgers.

This year’s heifer crop is already on feed, and for many it’s too late to pull them back into breeding herds. The first chance we have at herd growth hasn’t been born yet.

One economist predicted prices would be higher than 2014. (And so will costs this time round, but it’s a start.)

Meat demand is the interesting part of the equation.

Analysts expect domestic demand to be hampered by price increases and a sluggish economy, but exports have been smashing records around the globe.

I’m sure it will ruffle some British feathers, but several in-depth surveys taken show US beef is considered the highest-quality, best-tasting and safest in the world.

Exports now account for £410 ($500) an animal, so these surveys are being met with results in the billions of dollars – although a significant chunk of this export premium is from China and the Pacific Rim countries, so there is uncertainty here.

Feed costs are still wildly out of control and drought is still rationing feed in some areas where no amount of money can help the situation.

Putin is still using oxygen, and interest rates are climbing higher, too. 

We are simply hoping we have cannibalised our breeding numbers so hard now that we have insulated ourselves from these external forces.

I hope 2023 is a great one for you all in the UK.