Harrington's Sort & Cull

All Dressed Up With No Place to Grow

John Harrington
By  John Harrington , DTN Livestock Analyst

The cattle business is not for the attention deficit. Never has been, never will be.

To be sure, never is a long time. I should probably tip my hat to the proven ability of science and technology to constantly redefine the unimaginable.

We've already seen odd stories of laboratory cowboys mixing up edible protein in test tubes. Maybe the future contains a revolutionary chapter where significant herd expansion takes no more advanced thought and planning than a short day at the office.

Yet as long as commercial beef production essentially remains an outdoor sport, the practical distance between retained heifers and a larger meat case offering at Wal-Mart is about three years (if everything goes right).

If you think the slow march of bovine biology is a no-brainer, try explaining the stubbornly plodding pace to a young, urban-based reporter who flatters his multitasking abilities more than your alleged experience.

"So you're saying that consumers will benefit from record corn production in terms of lower beef prices?" one such wired journalist quizzed me this week.

"Well, perhaps eventually," I repeated with exaggerated enunciation. "But recall what I said about the extended process required. Once ranchers actually make the agonizing decision to hold heifers back, the calves must be grown and conditioned until they can be bred the following summer. These bred yearling heifers will now move from fall to winter pasture, preparing to calve in the spring. Approximately 18 months later, this first generation of herd expansion could start moving from feedlot to packing house and begin increasing the total beef supply available to consumers."

"I'm sorry," my overstimulated interviewer confessed. "Between texting, streaming a YouTube video on my tablet, and checking the rush hour traffic and weather apps, I missed some of that. Let's cut to the chase. What's the earliest consumers can expect some price relief based on greater beef supplies alone?"

"Maybe the second half of 2016," I cautiously answered. "At least if the creek don't rise."

"You've got to be kidding," he huffed into his smartphone. "Then why are we even talking?"

Finally, a sensible question.

For more of John's commentary, visit http://feelofthemarket.com/…



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Walter Smith
11/19/2013 | 8:35 AM CST
Another fine example of the "instant gratification generation"