By Derrell Peel
Extreme cold temperatures and heavy snow will grip much of the eastern half of the country this week (the week of January 29th). From eastern Montana, across the Great Lakes and the Midwest to the east coast and the southeast, wind, snow and winter mix will likely impact cattle, travel and a host of markets in the coming days.
Beef markets will mostly be impacted by reduced feedlot performance and carcass weights; possible disruptions in movement of cattle to packing plants; and potential transportation delays of products through wholesale and retail markets. Production losses due to winter weather can reduce beef supplies and may have residual impacts for several weeks. Individual cattle producers, in feedlots and in the country, will face numerous management challenges and increased production costs. Beef demand may also be impacted as weather disrupts travel and business.
Additional data will help to determine the market impacts of severe winter weather. Although USDA Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) continued to release price reports during the shutdown, USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) and other agencies that provide agricultural data were closed. The opening of the federal government late last week will eventually lead to resumption of interrupted data flows. Among many repercussions of the federal government shutdown, agricultural data has been severely disrupted. Some reports will resume after a delay and some may be completely skipped. Numerous crop, livestock and trade reports were missed in January which are important for cattle and beef markets.
Missing from delayed or skipped January reports are the monthly crop production (including the December 1 hay stocks by state) and the annual crop production report that will confirm 2018 production of corn and other feed grains, soybeans and hay. The grain stocks report provides information about crop market conditions for the current marketing year. The winter wheat/canola seedings report will provide information about winter wheat pasture.
The January livestock trade data (for November) was not reported and will be important to close out 2018 livestock and meat import and export totals. Detailed weekly cattle slaughter data has not been reported since early December along with carcass weights by slaughter class. These are important to finalize 2018 beef production totals and also to assess the current status of cattle markets including weather impacts.
The January Cattle on Feed report was not released last Friday (and may be skipped entirely) and the very important annual Cattle report that was due to be released January 31 will undoubtedly be delayed. This crucial report will confirm cattle inventories as of January 1, 2019 and will provide indications of cattle herd dynamics in the coming year. It is critical that these and other data reports resume quickly.