Cattle Market Notes: Week Ending September 30, 2016

Cash Cattle:

Cash traded fed cattle were lower this week. The five-area fed steer price for the week of September 22 – September 29 averaged $103.36 for live sales, and $161.92 for dressed; respectively, down $3.27 and $5.98. Total volume sold was up 19,000 head from a week ago and up 40,000 head from last year.

Feeder steer cattle and calves were mostly lower across the U.S. this week. Oklahoma City 500-550 pound steers were down $11.00, averaging $138.39 while 750-800 pound steers were down $8.00 averaging $129.58. In Mississippi auctions, lighter weight feeders weighing 450-500 pounds were averaging $125.00, down $2.50 from a week ago, while heavy steers were averaging $103.00, down $7.00 from last week.

[ … For Livestock Prices and Production data and trends CLICK HERE … ]

Futures:

Live cattle futures and feeder futures were lower this week. October live cattle were down $8.43 on the week and $21.20 lower than a year ago at $98.90, while December live cattle were down $6.75 from last week and down $31.38 from a year ago at $100.13. Feeder cattle were lower this week with October futures down $9.38 from last Friday and down $52.70 from a year ago at $123.00 while November futures are down $10.30 on the week at $119.43. December corn futures are up $0.01 from a week ago at $3.36 while March futures are up $0.01.

Beef:                                                                                           

Wholesale boxed beef prices are higher compared to a week ago. Choice boxes averaged $188.63, up $2.15 from a week ago. Select boxes ended the week with an average of $179.20, down $0.27 from last week. The choice-select spread widened from $7.01 a week ago to $9.43 this week.

Note: all cattle and beef prices are quoted in dollars per hundredweight and corn prices are quoted in dollars per bushel, unless stated otherwise.

Cattle Market Notes: Week Ending September 23, 2016

Cash Cattle:

Cash traded fed cattle were lower this week. The five-area fed steer price for the week of September 15 – September 22 averaged $106.63 for live sales, and $167.90 for dressed; respectively, down $0.35 and $0.15. Total volume sold was down 12,000 head from a week ago and up 18,000 head from last year.

Feeder steer cattle and calves were mixed across the U.S. this week. Oklahoma City 500-550 pound steers were up $4.00, averaging $150 while 750-800 pound steers were up $1.00 averaging $138. In Mississippi auctions, lighter weight feeders weighing 450-500 pounds were averaging $127.50, down $2.50 from a week ago, while heavy steers were averaging $110.00, up $5.00 from last week.

[ … For Livestock Prices and Production data and trends CLICK HERE … ]

Futures:

Live cattle futures and feeder futures were lower this week. October live cattle were down $0.55 on the week and $26.38 lower than a year ago at $107.33, while December live cattle were down $1.18 from last week and down $30.13 from a year ago at $106.88. Feeder cattle were lower this week with October futures down $0.57 from last Friday and down $52.23 from a year ago at $132.38 while November futures are down $0.97 on the week at $129.73. December corn futures are up $0.10 from a week ago at $3.25 while March futures are up $0.11.

Beef:                                                                                           

Wholesale boxed beef prices are steady to slightly lower compared to a week ago. Choice boxes averaged $186.48, unchanged from a week ago. Select boxes ended the week with an average of $179.47, down $0.54 from last week. The choice-select spread widened from $6.47 a week ago to $7.01 this week.

September Cattle on Feed

The United States Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (USDA, NASS) released their monthly Cattle on Feed report Friday afternoon (September 23, 2016). Placements totaled 1.879 million head, an increase of 15.13% from August 2015, slightly above pre-report estimates of 13.1% while marketed in August totaled 1.868 million head, up 17.63% versus last year. The total number of cattle in feedlots with 1,000 head or larger capacity totaled 10.135 million head, up 1.49% versus a year ago and slightly higher than analysts’ expectations of a 1.2% increase.

Note: all cattle and beef prices are quoted in dollars per hundredweight and corn prices are quoted in dollars per bushel, unless stated otherwise.

September Cattle on Feed Report Recap

The United States Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (USDA, NASS) released their monthly Cattle on Feed report Friday afternoon (September 23, 2016). The report revealed that 10.135 million head of cattle were in U.S. feedlots with a capacity of 1,000 head or larger on September 1, 2016. Placements into feedlots during the month of August totaled 1.879 million head while marketings during the same month totaled 1.868 million head.

[ … For detailed numbers and charts CLICK HERE … ]

Placements totaled 1.879 million head, an increase of 15.13% from August 2015 and a 0.14% increase from the five-year average from 2011 to 2015. Market analyst expected placements to be up 13.10%, so the reported value came in slightly above expectations. This month’s numbers continue the trend of increasing heavy placements, with cattle larger than 800 pounds seeing a 21.2% year-over-year increase while cattle less than 600 pounds saw an 8.9% year-over-year decrease in placements. All other weight classes saw an increase in placements.

Cattle marketed in August totaled 1.868 million head, up 17.63% versus last year and up 1.98% compared to the average from 2011 to 2015. Pre-report expectations called for marketings to be 17.5% higher than the same period last year, so they came in right where analysts anticipated they would be.

The total number of cattle in feedlots with 1,000 head or larger capacity totaled 10.135 million head, up 1.49% versus September 1, 2015 and 0.50% lower than the five-year average.  Market analysts expected a 1.2% year-over-year increase in cattle inventories, so the reported value came in slightly above expected but still well within the range of analysts’ expectations.

Crop Market Update: September 19, 2016

Corn was down last week with Greenville cash corn currently trading $0.04 lower than a week ago and $0.36 lower than a year ago at $3.34/bu on Friday. December futures contracts are $0.04 lower on the week at $3.37/bu. Harvest is progressing well in Mississippi with 91% of the state’s corn crop harvested, slightly last year’s pace and ahead of the 5-year average of 90%. Nationally, about 9% of the U.S. corn crop is harvested, on pace with a year ago and ahead of the five year average of 12%. Favorable growing conditions have the U.S. corn crop looking good with 74% of the crop rated in good or excellent condition.

Soybean are trading lower this week, with Greenville soybeans trading $0.21 lower at $9.96/bu on Friday. A year ago, Greenville soybeans were trading for $9.16/bu. Nearby September soybean futures are trading $0.14 lower than a week ago. Mississippi’s soybean crop development is slightly behind the 5-year average as well as a year ago with 34% of the crop harvested compared to 43% a year ago and a five year average of 35%. Mississippi’s soybean crop condition remained steady with 70% of the state’s crop rated in good or excellent condition. The U.S. soybean crop is just starting to be harvested with 4% of the crop in the bins compared to a 5-year average of 5%. Nationally, the soybean crop looks good overall with 73% of the nation’s soybean crop rated in good or excellent condition.

December wheat futures are down $0.01 from a week ago at $4.03 while Greenville wheat prices are down $0.01 on the week at $3.64/bu on Friday. The U.S. winter wheat crop is starting to go into the ground with 17% planted, slightly ahead of last year and the 5-year average of 16%.

Cotton prices finished the week lower with South Delta cash prices trading $1.14/cwt lower than a week ago at $67.24/cwt and $7.94/cwt higher than a year ago. Nearby cotton futures are higher with October cotton futures closing at $67.74, down $1.14/cwt from last week. Mississippi producers currently have about 4% of the state’s cotton crop harvested, behind a year ago and the 5-year average of 6%. This week 60% of Mississippi’s cotton crop is rated in good or excellent condition while 48% of the U.S. crop is in good or excellent condition. Nationally, 6% of the cotton crop is harvested, slightly ahead of the 5-year average of 7%.

For more detail on crop futures and Mississippi local cash prices click here.

Cattle Market Notes: Week Ending September 16, 2016

Cash Cattle:

Cash traded fed cattle were higher this week. The five-area fed steer price for the week of September 2 – September 9 averaged $106.98 for live sales, and $168.05 for dressed; respectively, up $1.94 and $1.76. Total volume sold was up 76,000 head from a week ago and up 28,000 head from last year.

Feeder steer cattle and calves were mostly lower across the U.S. this week. Oklahoma City 500-550 pound steers were selling for $146 while 750-800 pound steers were averaging $136. In Mississippi auctions, lighter weight feeders weighing 450-500 pounds were averaging $130.00, down $5.00 from a week ago, while heavy steers were averaging $105.00, down $0.50 from last week.

[ … For Livestock Prices and Production data and trends CLICK HERE … ]

Futures:

Live cattle futures and feeder futures were higher this week. October live cattle were up $3.47 on the week and $28.05 lower than a year ago at $107.88, while December live cattle were up $2.90 from last week and down $30.33 from a year ago at $108.05. Feeder cattle were higher this week with October futures up $2.30 from last Friday and down $68.05 from a year ago at $132.95 while November futures are up $2.60 on the week at $130.70. December corn futures are down $0.15 from a week ago at $3.25 while March futures are down $0.15.

Beef:                                                                                           

Wholesale boxed beef prices are lower compared to a week ago. Choice boxes averaged $186.48, down $3.01 from a week ago. Select boxes ended the week with an average of $180.01, down $3.76 from last week. The choice-select spread widened from $5.72 a week ago to $5.72 this week.

Note: all cattle and beef prices are quoted in dollars per hundredweight and corn prices are quoted in dollars per bushel, unless stated otherwise.

Cattle Market Notes: Week Ending September 9, 2016

Cash Cattle:

Cash traded fed cattle were lower this week. The five-area fed steer price for the week of August 25-September 2 averaged $105.04 for live sales, and $166.29 for dressed; respectively, down $4.88 and $7.74. Total volume sold was down 76,000 head from a week ago and up 27,000 head from last year.

Feeder steer cattle and calves were mostly lower across the U.S. this week. Oklahoma City auctions were closed for the Labor day Holiday. Mississippi pasture conditions deteriorated slightly this week with 61% rated good or excellent, down 2% from a week ago.  In Mississippi auctions, lighter weight feeders weighing 450-500 pounds were averaging $135.00, down $2.00 from a week ago, while heavy steers were averaging $105.50, down $11.00 from last week.

[ … For Livestock Prices and Production data and trends CLICK HERE … ]

Futures:

Live cattle futures and feeder futures were mixed this week. October live cattle were up $2.88 on the week and $36.13 lower than a year ago at $104.40, while December live cattle were up $1.78 from last week and down $38.68 from a year ago at $105.15. Feeder cattle were lower this week with September futures down $1.30 from last Friday and down $68.05 from a year ago at $133.70 while October futures are down $1.67 on the week at $130.65. December corn futures are up $0.12 from a week ago at $3.40 while March futures are up $0.04.

Beef:                                                                                           

Wholesale boxed beef prices are lower compared to a week ago. Choice boxes averaged $189.49, down $6.18 from a week ago. Select boxes ended the week with an average of $183.77, down $5.99 from last week. The choice-select spread narrowed from $5.91 a week ago to $5.72 this week.

Note: all cattle and beef prices are quoted in dollars per hundredweight and corn prices are quoted in dollars per bushel, unless stated otherwise.

Update: What are our EEM graduates up to?

Well, we have a new boss here in the department and he asked me to update this previous blog post from early 2015 about what our EEM majors are doing after they graduate from our program. I spent a little time tracking some of them down and had some fun conversations – some I hadn’t spoken with for a few years so it was really nice to catch up!

You can see the previous list in last year’s blog post but here are what the graduates since then have been doing. We’ve had eight new graduates since the last post, and two I haven’t been able to get hold of. For the remaining six we have:

  • Recruiter for a staffing agency, Raleigh NC
  • Economic Development Program Manager at Mississippi Development Authority, Jackson MS
  • Legislative Assistant for Florida Crystals Corporation (producer of organic and low-environmental-impact sugar), Washington DC
  • Restaurant Manager, Starkville MS
  • AmeriCorps VISTA for the Center for Economic Education and Financial Literacy (here in our department)
  • Graduate school, joint JD & MA in Environment & Natural Resources, University of Wyoming

Besides these recent graduates, some of our earlier graduates from the EEM program who were mentioned in the previous post have changed jobs. They are now:

  • Peace Corps, Sustainable Ag Systems Extension Agent, Panama
  • Major Donor Manager, Republican National Committee, Washington DC
  • Speech Language Pathologist, Cumberland MD
  • Law School, Washington & Lee  U.
  • Unit Director, Boys & Girls Club, Starkville MS
  • Administrator, Fresh Thyme Farmers Market (natural & organic grocery store), Worthington OH

I should also point out that we had four Demmer Scholars who completed internships in Washington, DC this past summer. Three were current EEM students, one of whom will be working with the Foreign Ag Service in Washington, DC after graduating next spring. (Lesson: internships can lead to job opportunities!)

You can see our EEM graduates are spread out fairly well around the nation in a variety of endeavors. Also, it’s around that time of year when students in Dr. Little’s seminar class will be going around to their advisers asking questions like what job opportunities there are for our majors, whether internships are useful, how to be successful as an undergrad student, etc. I usually tell my advisees that economics is a way of thinking that helps you in any job in which critical, logical thinking is an important skill (and that’s important for many jobs as you can read about here!). But, if you want to actually do what most economists do, which is analyze data in order to answer important questions relevant to policy and to private decision-making, you’re going to want to consider going to graduate school to further develop your economic skills. Grad school isn’t for everyone – neither in terms of taste nor in terms of need – so our hope in the department is that we help our students develop economic thinking and knowledge and expose them to conducting economic analysis so that they can make great, best-informed decisions about their own futures, which can take any of numerous exciting routes. And maybe they have a little fun while in the program too…

Sorting Through Big Ag Data Part 2

  • Many are concerned with the privacy issues associated with precision agriculture data. These are real concerns.  I have worked with private farm data all my career, but precision maps are a particularly difficult kind of data to protect as geo-referenced maps can be quickly matched with other geo-located files and identities revealed.  Because of the size of data and for security reasons, I think we will see this data storied securely and rather than sharing data sets, and analysts will come to the data, run analysis, and walk away with results only.
  • Many producers will interact/share data with various machinery companies, input suppliers, consultants and others. Some will want to lock you into their system, and many producers are faced with the challenge of moving information such as a field boundary map or fertility prescription to various users.  Producers need a safe place to store this data, and seamless means to move this information to fertilizer applicators, USDA/FSA.  I am proud that Mississippi State University is a founding member of the Ag Data Coalition that involves farm organizations, agribusiness firms, and universities committed to helping producers control and utilize their data.  I encourage you to check it out at http://agdatacoalition.org/
  • Getting advice from a black box. It seems that almost every input supplier now has an app or software that is designed to help farmers make decisions.  In some cases, these are going to be really useful farm management tools.  There are some that impress me a lot. I also believe that some are way to entice farmers to give data to service provider or to make it difficult to leave a service provider.  I am also struck by the similarity of the sales pitches made by some big data based decision aids and that of the market advisory services that have a great sales pitch but when evaluated, have no better results than flipping a coin.
  • I just helped organize a conference on big ag data at the Agricultural and Applied Economics meetings. We had big name speakers from many disciplines speak.  In the end, there are limits on what one can learn from unstructured ag data that may not include some really important variables.  Using machine learning to find correlations among millions of records can lead to new discovery, but it can also find spurious correlations that may lead to bad decisions.  We will still need well designed statistical studies to answer some big questions about causation.
  • Big data begs several policy questions such as rural broadband access, funding for research on the topic, and the role of USDA data collection. I once worked at USDA and saw the hard work that goes into collecting agricultural data that is unbiased and statistically sound.  However, over my entire career I have watched as hundreds of ‘experts’ make a living claiming to know better than the USDA reports.   What you can’t find is a multitude of studies assessing the accuracy of these experts like one can find for the USDA reports.  I think we are beginning to see a new wave of ‘we know better than USDA’ business models that charge a fee and have not been verified to really be better.  Let the buyer beware, and let’s remember why USDA was asked to do these reports – to insure everybody in the ag sector had equal access to market information.

Cattle Market Notes: Week Ending September 2, 2016

Cash Cattle:

Cash traded fed cattle were lower this week. The five-area fed steer price for the week of August 25-September 2 averaged $109.92 for live sales, and $174.03 for dressed; respectively, down $4.89 and $6.35. Total volume sold was up 4,000 head from a week ago and up 48,000 head from last year.

Feeder steer cattle and calves were mostly lower across the U.S. this week. Oklahoma City 500-550 pound steers were $7.00 lower while heavier 750-800 pound steers were $2.00 lower. Mississippi pasture conditions were steady this week with 63% rated good or excellent, unchanged from a week ago.  In Mississippi auctions, lighter weight feeders weighing 450-500 pounds were averaging $137.00, down $13.00 from a week ago, while heavy steers were averaging $116.50, down $4.00 from last week.

[ … For Livestock Prices and Production data and trends CLICK HERE … ]

Futures:

Live cattle futures and feeder futures were lower this week. October live cattle were down $4.68 on the week and $39.00 lower than a year ago at $101.53, while December live cattle were down $4.72 from last week and down $39.50 from a year ago at $103.38. Feeder cattle were lower this week with September futures down $5.10 from last Friday and down $66.15 from a year ago at $135.00 while October futures are down $3.78 on the week at $132.33. December corn futures are up $0.03 from a week ago at $3.28 while March futures are up $0.04.

Beef:                                                                                           

Wholesale boxed beef prices are lower compared to a week ago. Choice boxes averaged $195.67, down $4.67 from a week ago. Select boxes ended the week with an average of $189.76, down $4.04 from last week. The choice-select spread narrowed from $6.54 a week ago to $5.91 this week.

Note: all cattle and beef prices are quoted in dollars per hundredweight and corn prices are quoted in dollars per bushel, unless stated otherwise.

Sorting Through Big Ag Data Part 1

Today, one of the biggest buzz phrases in agriculture is ‘big ag data.’  While precision agriculture has been around for some time, it’s important to recognize that the data produced by agricultural equipment, field sensors, and various other technologies may pose a variety of opportunities but may also disrupt some long-standing relationships as well.  I have had the opportunity to engage this topic in recent years by writing a soon to be released white paper as well as being a Board member of the Ag Data Coalition, which is bringing together industry, farm groups, and Universities, to develop producer controlled data storage.

  • Your farm data has value to you, but don’t buy all the hype. Your data has value to you if it helps you make decisions that make you more money. But remember, this will be true only if it really is better than what you already knew.  For example, does a variable rate technology map make a difference is a very uniform field?  Probably not.  Another possibility is if you get information faster. But again, is there a critical decision that makes use of the timelier data?
  • Many talk of the 4 V’s of big data – volume, velocity, variety, and veracity. Volume because of the sheer quantity of data being generated by our farms.  Velocity, reflecting the speed at which data arrives. Variety reflecting the wide array of data – images, sensor readings, numerical data etc.  Finally, veracity reflecting that much of the data produced is of poor quality due to a lack of calibration or some other reason.  Bad data= bad decisions.
  • Your farm data has value to others. Machinery companies can learn how to build a better combine, a seed dealer can learn how a variety performs in actual field conditions, or a company can use your neighbor’s data to benchmark your farm against peers.  However, Terry Griffin of Kansas State points out that data is not like most goods.  If I use a gallon of gas, you can’t have it.  It’s gone.  But I can use my farm data and I can give it or sell it to others and they can use it too.  I think we are beginning to see that it is often not individual data but aggregated data that may be what has the greatest value anyway.
  • The question of data ownership is a murky legal territory. What is paramount for producers to understand is that data contract and the associated fine print are important.  In many ways this is what determines who has access to your farms data.  I recommend you check out the Ag data transparency evaluator at http://www.fb.org/agdatatransparent/  Rather than ownership perhaps the useful concern is who has access to my data.