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FEEDER SUPPLY                         The stocker ratio is calculat-                     The Midwest Cattleman · February 25, 2021 · P10
      continued from page 3              ed as the feeder supply as a per-
                                         cent of previous year calf crop    west, Southwest and the South  dle of the country on their way
                                         and  is  0.737  or  73.7%  for  the   have low stocker ratios.  This in- to feedlots.
      er cattle outside of feedlots (in   U.S. in this report.  This means   dicates the general flow of stock-
      stocker or backgrounding pro-      that after replacement  heifers,   er and feeder cattle to the mid-
      grams) plus unweaned suckling      veal slaughter and feedlot place-
      calves.                            ment of calves are accounted for,
         The estimated feeder sup-       73.7% of last year’s calf crop is
      ply for January 1, 2021 is 25.66   still available as feeder supply.
      million head, fractionally lower      The January Cattle report
      year-over-year  (Table  1).    The   also provides detailed informa-
      fact that the 2020 calf crop was   tion for all states.   (This is the
      down 1.3 percent year-over-year,   only time such information is
      but the estimated feeder supply    available; The July cattle report
      was only down 0.2 percent com-     is national level only.)   Table 1
      pared to last year indicates that   shows estimated feeder sup-
      a larger proportion of calves and   plies and stocker ratios for the
      yearlings were carried over from   top ten states and for regions
      2020 into 2021.  This is consis-   of the U.S.  Feeder supplies are
      tent with the fact that total feed-  largest in Texas, Oklahoma and
      lot placements were down 4.1       Kansas.  These three states (des-
      percent in 2020.                   ignated the Southern Plains) ac-
         Feeder cattle supplies are      count for over 28% of total feed-
      starting the year relatively large   er supplies. The Northern Plains
      but are expected to decrease as    and  Midwest  regions  also  have
      2021 progresses.   However, the    large inventories of feeder cattle.
      cattle on feed inventory on Jan-      States with stocker ratios well
      uary 1 (14.71 million head) is a   over the U.S. average of 73.7%
      record 57.3 percent of the feeder   indicate net inflows of cattle
      cattle supply.  This means there   for stocker and backgrounding
      are less than two head of feeder   operations.    The  highest  stock-
      cattle available outside feedlots   er ratios  are found in  Kansas,
      for every animal currently on      Iowa, Oklahoma and Nebraska.
      feed.    This ratio has averaged   By contrast, some states keep
      53.3 percent in the last decade    only small percentages of their
      and is up from less than 40 per-   calf crops and are net exporters
      cent three  decades ago.    This   to stocker states.  Montana has
      indicates that cattle are being    lowest stocker ratio of any state
      used much more intensively         at 34.8%.  The northern and
      over time.                         southern Rockies, the North-

      BEEF COW                           any state, losing 112,000 head of  numbers.  That certainly could    LIFE
      continued from page 3              beef cows (−14.5%). New Mexico  change in 2021, as some of the        continued from page 5
      inventory was not whether the  and Utah combined for a drop  areas adding beef cows could run              A group of cattlemen gath-
      national number would decline,  of 30,000 head (−3.6%), while  low on grass and hay supplies if  ered at the local feed store last
      but rather how large the de- numbers were unchanged in Ar- drought conditions there were  week, and we were all bemoan-
      cline would be in certain states  izona. Iowa suffered a decrease  to persist or worsen through the  ing  the  trials  and  tribulations
      that were dealing with a severe  of 15,000 head (−1.7%).              spring and summer.                experienced in this extended
      drought for much of the second     Cattle movement in drought           As uncertainty related to the  period  of  snow  and  freezing
      half of 2020.                         Most of the states who gained   pandemic  recovery  continues  weather. Some were telling of
         Did producers with trouble      beef cows were not those show-     to plague cattle markets, it is  all the baby calves that were
      sourcing enough grass send cows    ing no drought effects, but rath-  expected that cow-calf returns,  scattered around the insides of
      to slaughter markets, or did they   er those located just outside     while improving this year ver- their homes, thawing out from
      move into other geographical       some of the hardest-hit areas.     sus last year, will not reach a  near-death, while others were
      areas that could provide enough       Texas and Oklahoma posted       level that will reverse the inven- sharing their heroic tales of res-
      forage? It appears that the latter   a combined increase of 195,000   tory cycle soon.                  cuing  calves  from  frozen  ponds
      was the more popular choice, as    head, even though areas of           This likely will keep invento- or creeks.
      many states on the periphery of    drought concern existed within     ry numbers declining and place       I started complaining about
      the worst drought effects showed   both states. In fact, both Texas   cattle prices on an increasing  the number of short-eared calves
      some of the largest increases in   and Oklahoma posted hay stock      trajectory for the next few years.  I’d have to sell this fall, when
      beef cow numbers.                  levels as of Dec. 1 that were      The magnitude of those price  one of my neighbors observed
         To begin 2021, the worst        more than 5% below the average     increases will heavily depend  that, “Heck, your calves start out
      drought conditions were cen-       of the previous 10 years. Kansas   upon the strength of consumer  with about two more inches of
      tered in the southern Mountain     and Florida were the other two     beef demand both in the U.S.  ear than regular calves, so they
      States, affecting Colorado, New    states to show notable increases   and abroad.                       ought to sell pretty, pretty good.”
      Mexico, Arizona and Utah. This     in beef cows.                        Brown is a livestock economist
      area has struggled with drought       It appears that while the       with the University of Missouri.
      for many months, and a look back   drought forced some movement       He grew up on a diversified farm
      to late summer also revealed se-   of beef cows away from the hard-   in northwest Missouri.
      vere-to-extreme drought condi-     est-hit areas, it has not yet forced
      tions in much of Iowa.             enough animals to slaughter to
         Colorado posted the largest     play a large role in the national
      decline in beef cow numbers of
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