Sort & Cull

It Got Hot Early

John Harrington
By  John Harrington , DTN Livestock Analyst

My brother once had a little league baseball coach that talked like a combination of Stengel and Berra. I suppose the team's unique inaptitude gave him good cause to tap their humorous fatalism.

One time in the bottom of the first, right before the game was called due to darkness and the 30-run rule, I heard him attempt to comfort his crying dugout by paraphrasing the great Yogi himself: "It just got late early."

To be sure, timing out of joint can really throw you for a loop. Take the current month of June that seems way too hot with the solstice still a short week away. Last year the entire summer recorded a mere handful of sweltering days in the 90s. Barely two sweaty weeks past Memorial Day, summer 2017 threatens to be a much more serious jalapeno.

Here's my top cattle market concerns and worries if air conditioners continue to roar like a squadron of B-52 bombers throughout the season:

1) Deteriorating pasture condition and forced liquidation: Although pasture ratings to-date look generally positive, serious drought conditions have already surfaced in North Dakota (53% below "fair"), South Dakota (45% below "fair") and parts of Montana (22% below "fair). Area sale barns have reported increased receipts this month thanks to ranchers critically short of grass.

2) Prematurely aggressive feedlot placement activity: While the first half of summer typically represents a slowing of feedlot placement, we could see an unusually large movement into yards this month and next if extreme weather conditions rob ranch country of its typical holding power. Watch the July 1 on-feed report (i.e., scheduled to be released on July 21) for the first reliable sign in this regard.

3) Reduced beef production potential linked to smaller carcass weights and death loss: Needless to say, the threat of extreme summer heat stands to significantly limit feedlot performance, ranging from reduced daily gain and dismal feed conversion to the extreme of animal mortality.

4) The early arrival of sluggish consumer demand typically tied to the dog days of summer: Coming out of the deep freeze of winter, consumers embrace the warming sun and hot grill filled with steaks like long lost friends. But it doesn't take long for excessive periods of heat to drive them into the deep, climate-controlled shade for cold plate of chicken salad.

5) Potential damage to corn yield, resulting in higher feed costs: Granted, we seem a long ways from this danger. Yet a warmer-than-normal June could be paving the way for a disastrously hot pollination period.

Besides the large area of grass in the Northern Plains already scorched, there's still plenty of time for wetter and cooler fronts to surface on weather maps in the weeks ahead and preempt many of these negative possibilities. After all, Yogi also said, "It ain't over 'til it's over."

Nevertheless, July and August rarely seem cooler than more typically mild June. Let's just hope that the substantial heat of early summer is not a steamy omen of blistering days to come.

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