Continued growth in U.S. beef production will keep the focus on beef demand in 2019. Beef production is slowing but is forecast to increase 1.5-2.0 percent year over year in 2019 to 27.5 billion pounds. This follows a projected 3.3 percent year over year increase in 2018 beef production to a record level of 27.0 billion pounds.

Beef demand, including both domestic and international components, has played a key role in moving growing beef supplies through beef markets. Through 2018, total beef production has increased 14.2 percent (3.4 billion pounds) since the recent 2015 low. Strong beef demand has supported prices and margins at all levels of the beef and cattle industry as beef production expanded. Continued strong beef demand will be critical in 2019 as beef production pushes to new record levels.

There are, however, continuing and perhaps growing challenges and threats to beef demand in the coming year. In addition to record beef supplies, pork and poultry production will increase from record 2018 levels to new record production totals in 2019. Thus far, beef has maintained good demand relative to pork and poultry as indicated by the fact that beef retail prices are at near record ratios compared to retail pork and poultry prices. 

Beef trade has played a big role in moderating the domestic supply pressure from increased beef production. Beef exports are up 13.3 percent year over year through September. This follows year over year annual increases of 11.8 percent in 2017 and 12.8 percent in 2016. Beef imports have held steady in 2018, up just 0.4 percent so far this year. Total annual beef imports decreased 0.7 percent in 2017 following a 10.6 percent year over year decrease in 2016. 

Numerous factors could become a bigger threat to both domestic and international beef demand in 2019. The U.S. economy has supported beef demand thus far but recent stock market volatility highlights fragile macroeconomic conditions going forward. Rising interest rates and growing budget deficits will add to inflationary pressures and contribute to a stronger dollar. A rising dollar could add to export headwinds in the coming months. 

The uncertain global trade situation continues to hang over beef and other agricultural markets. There is general agreement that trade disruptions will likely reduce U.S. and global macroeconomic growth in 2019. While the beef industry has avoided most of the direct tariff impacts thus far, indirect tariff impacts will continue to grow unless the trade situation is resolved very soon. Consumers will see growing tariff impacts that may impact consumer spending and beef demand. Tariffs on consumer goods, especially if increased further, are likely to turn Dollar General into something like $1.20 General. Tariff driven price increases could push consumers to cheap and abundant pork and poultry at the expense of beef demand. 

Beef markets have largely been a case of “so far, so good” in 2018. I’m cautiously optimistic that this will continue in 2019 but the risks to beef demand will be higher in the coming year. 

 

Mineral feeding can reduce the risk of grass tetany next spring

Much of Oklahoma and the Southern Plains will have wheat pasture to utilize as winter feed for stocker cattle, replacement heifers, and in some cases for adult cows. At, and after calving time next January, February, and March “grass tetany” could occur in a few situations.

Grass tetany, caused by magnesium deficiency does not seem to be a major problem in Oklahoma although occasional cases are reported. It typically occurs in beef cows during early lactation and is more prevalent in older cows. The reason older cows are thought to be vulnerable is due to the fact that they are less able to mobilize magnesium reserves from the bones than are younger cows. Grass tetany most frequently occurs when cattle are grazing lush immature grasses or small grains pastures and tends to be more prevalent during periods of cloudy weather. Symptoms include incoordination, salivation, excitability (aggressive behavior towards humans) and, in final stages, tetany, convulsions and death.

It is known that factors other than simply the magnesium content of the forage can increase the probability of grass tetany. High levels of potassium in forages can decrease absorption of magnesium and most lush, immature forages are high in potassium. High levels of nitrogen fertilization have also been shown to increase the incidence of tetany although feeding protein supplements has not. Other factors such as the presence of certain organic acids in tetany-causing forages have been linked with tetany. It is likely that a combination of factors, all related to characteristics of lush forage are involved. 

When conditions for occurrence of tetany are suspected, cows should be provided mineral mixes containing 12 to 15 percent magnesium and be consumed at 3 to 4 ounces per day. It is best for the supplements to be started a couple of months ahead of the period of tetany danger so that proper intake can be established. Because tetany can also occur when calcium is low, calcium supplementation should also be included. Symptoms of tetany from deficiencies of both minerals are indistinguishable without blood tests and the treatment consists of intravenous injections of calcium and magnesium gluconate, which supplies both minerals.

Cows grazing lush small grain pastures should be fed mineral mixes containing both calcium and magnesium. Learn more about mineral nutrition of grazing cattle by downloading and reading the Oklahoma State University Extension Circular E-861 Vitamin and Mineral Nutrition of Grazing Cattle.

Extension Corner is provided by Payne County Extension educators Nathan Anderson, Agriculture Educator; Dea Rash, FCS Educator; Summer Leister, 4-H Youth Development; Keith Reed, Horticulture and Suzette Barta, Rural Development.