Animal Science: Today and Tomorrow
Dr. Tom Troxel Dr. Michael L. Looper
Department Mourns Loss of Long-Time Professor
The University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture Department of Animal Science recently said goodbye to a longtime member of the faculty. Dr. A. Hayden Brown Jr., 67, of Fayetteville, died May 26, 2014, in Washington Regional Medical Center in Fayetteville following a short illness.
He was born Oct. 13, 1946 in Cookeville, Tenn., to Mrs. Imogene (Jean) Flatt Brown of Cookeville and the late Avert Hayden Brown, Sr. He grew up on a farm run by his Ma and Pa Flatt (Carlie B. and Vella Rogers Flatt). He graduated from Cookeville High School in 1964 and from Tennessee Tech University in 1968 with a bachelor’s degree in animal science and began working for the Cooperative Extension Service, University of Tennessee, as an assistant extension agent in Jamestown, Tenn., from 1968-74. He earned M.S. (1974) and Ph.D. (1976) degrees in animal breeding and genetics from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. He and his wife, Helen, married on Sept. 9, 1977, and moved to Fayetteville.
He worked at the University of Arkansas, starting in 1977, serving as an assistant, associate, and full professor in the Department of Animal Science. A celebration of his life was held in Fayetteville on June 1 at the Pauline Whitaker Animal Science Center, University of Arkansas. Memorials may be sent to the Scholarship Fund, Department of Animal Science, University of Arkansas, 1120 W. Maple St., AFLS B114, Fayetteville, AR 72701.
Department Hosts Annual Judging Camp
The Department of Animal Science recently hosted its annual summer judging camp. Bringing together kids ranging in age from 9-18, from all across the state; the camp offers participants a chance to learn and prepare for the upcoming 4H and FFA state competitions.
Lasting three days, the camp teaches attendees to evaluate sheep, hogs and cattle; and how to formulate a set of reasons for ranking the animals in the order they chose. The camp also helps teach and improve public speaking and decision making skills.
Every year the camp ends with the campers participating in a judging competition. They evaluate several categories of the animals that they have learned about during the previous days; rank the animals then present their reasons for their choices. During the competition the campers are broken out into three groups: beginner, intermediate and advanced. Awards are presented in each group for highest points overall, reasons and in each individual category.
This year during the awards presentation, Bryan Kutz presented recognition awards to Joe Don Greenwood and Steve Jones. Both have been involved in the judging camp for many years and both are retiring this year.
This was the 14th time the Department has hosted the camp and the proceeds help with the Department’s Judging team’s traveling expenses.
Beef Cow Liquidation Halts
Total beef cow slaughter so far in 2014 is down 13% compared to last year, and is on pace to be down 300,000 to 400,000 head for the year. During spring and summer 2013, beef cow slaughter rates increased more in line with the seasonal trend, but this year it is clear that more producers are holding onto cows given the record-high calf prices and better pasture conditions for much of the country.
Beef cow slaughter rates have been flatter than normal from March through June, and the overall slaughter levels have been well below recent years. Last year, beef cow slaughter dropped off relatively significantly during the last five months of the year. As a result, this year’s beef cow slaughter will likely close the gap with last year somewhat during the last five months.
Remember, CattleFax expects total beef cow slaughter for 2014 to be down 11 to 13% compared to last year. Add to this the trend of a lower percentage of heifers compared to steers going into the slaughter mix, and it suggests the beef cowherd is in fact on target to be larger on January 1, 2015. This year will mark the third year in a row for declining beef cow slaughter, which will be down 1 million cows compared to what it was in 2011 (Source CattleFax).
Influencers on Feeder Cattle Futures
Due to tighter calf supplies and supportive demand from feedyards for replacements, feeder cattle futures have been trending significantly higher this year. The August feeder cattle futures prices have increased about 15% since April 1. With an increase of this magnitude, there is a natural desire to identify future price trends. Remember feeder cattle futures are strongly correlated with deferred live cattle futures due to the supply relationship: consumer demand for beef, demand for fed cattle drives feeder demand, etc. Feeder cattle and fed cattle prices movements are often in lockstep because of this relationship. Based on more than 40 years of data, the 2014 price relationship has only been stronger 16% of the time.
Corn futures prices can also influence feeder cattle futures, but the relationship between these two variables is not nearly as impressive. It takes a structural breakdown in the feeder cattle and fed cattle relationship for corn prices to become a more consistent factor. For instance, look at August feeder cattle and December live cattle futures. Several periods saw the price relationship deteriorate: 87-88, 99-00, 07-08, 11-12. In these years, tighter corn supplies created a stronger than usual feeder cattle to corn relationship. Analysis shows for these years, a 10% increase in corn price corresponded with a $51/cwt increase in feeder cattle futures prices. Therefore, focus on the corn market if the current relationship between feeder and live cattle weakens (Source CattleFax).