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News Update

August 2, 2011

Kansas Posts Fifth Hottest July on Record;
Some Areas Set Record Highs

For a time this summer, Kansas was a state divided; not in the political sense, but in terms of weather extremes, from rain and flooding in the northeast, to drought conditions through much of the southern and western portions of the state. And now the extreme heat has settled in statewide and drought conditions are spreading.

“Kansas recorded its fifth hottest July on record, with an average statewide temperature of 84.7° F (combined day and night). That’s 5.8° higher than usual,” said Mary Knapp, who serves as the state’s climatologist. “July rainfall across the state averaged 1.84 inches, which was just 55% of normal.”

The July heat did set a record in south central Kansas, which posted an average temperature of 88.5° F — 7° above average. The previous record of 87.8° was set during the Dust Bowl days of 1934, said Knapp, who runs the Kansas Weather Data Library (, based at Kansas State University (K-State). The library maintains weather records for the state.

With a July average rainfall of 0.77 inch (in.) or 22% of normal, south central Kansas also recorded the least amount of rainfall compared with other areas of the state.

Temperatures broke 100° in all areas of the state that have weather stations, with many approaching a record number of days above 100 for July.

And where was the temperature the hottest during July? Barber County in south central Kansas earned that distinction, with a reading of 116° F at Medicine Lodge on July 31. The previous record in Medicine Lodge was 114° set in 1985.

On July 26, the national U.S. Drought Monitor rated 70% of Kansas as “abnormally dry” to “exceptional drought,” with 12% of the state in the latter category.

The extreme heat and drought are taking a toll on crops and livestock and have prompted numerous disaster declarations by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

Thirty-eight percent of the state’s corn crop was rated poor to very poor for the week ended July 31, “as the extreme heat during the critical pollination stage has taken its toll in some areas,” according to a Kansas Agricultural Statistics (KAS) report issued Aug. 1. Twenty-eight percent of the crop was rated fair, and 34% rated good to excellent.

Kansas soybeans were rated 15% very poor, 24% poor, 32% fair, 25% good, and 4% excellent, KAS reported.

Subsoil moisture supplies were 44% very short, 29% short and 27% adequate.

Despite rain in some areas, range and pasture condition declined to 57% poor to very poor, 25% fair, 17% good, and 1% excellent, KAS stated. Feed grain supplies were rated 9% very short, 17% short, 71% adequate and 3% surplus.

Hay and forage supplies declined to 18% very short, 30% short, 50% adequate and 2% surplus.

The drought has taken a toll on stock water supplies, which declined to 45% short to very short, 54% adequate and 1% surplus.

“Cattle herds continue to be liquidated as feed availability becomes scarce despite relief from emergency grazing of Conservation Reserve Program ground,” KAS reported.

“The latest Drought Outlook indicated that drought conditions are expected to improve slightly in the western portions of the state in the coming months,” Knapp said. “The La Niña conditions have faded and the ENSO (El Niño Southern Oscillation), which refers to conditions in the Pacific Ocean, is officially in neutral conditions.”

La Niña, Knapp explained, is the phase of the ENSO weather phenomenon characterized by unusually cold ocean temperatures in the eastern equatorial Pacific Ocean, as compared with El Niño, which is characterized by unusually warm temperatures in the Equatorial Pacific.

La Niña tends to bring wetter than normal conditions across the Pacific Northwest and drier and warmer than normal conditions across much of the southern tier of the U.S.

Graves-Chapple Research Center
Set to Showcase Agricultural Research Aug. 23

From techniques to tackle resistant weeds to diagnosing and improving soil quality, researchers at Graves-Chapple Research Center will share the latest developments in agriculture at its 23rd annual Field Day Aug. 23. The Center, located three miles north of Corning, Mo., is one of 16 around the state at which the University of Missouri (MU) College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources conducts impactful research benefiting Missouri farmers.

Tours begin at 8:30 a.m. and end around 12:15 p.m. After learning how to improve profitability while practicing sound environmental stewardship, attendees can enjoy a free lunch and ice cream.

Kevin Bradley, state extension weed scientist, will explain ways to address glyphosate-resistant weeds, a problem he says has gotten significantly worse during the last eight years. “It’s time to get serious about solving this problem,” Bradley said. “We can’t wait until after it emerges and hope to control the spread of persistent weeds such as water hemp.”

Wayne Flanary, MU extension agronomy specialist, will discuss how sulfur and zinc can improve yields and why fields may be especially deficient in these important minerals this year because of climatic conditions.

To better understand those conditions and prepare for them, MU climatologist Pat Guinan will share weather data from the past two decades and describe how farmers can use that data to make informed decisions on their farms. He’ll also explain how producers can improve a national precipitation database by joining the Community Collaborative Rain Hail and Snow Network (

Also included in the tours are talks on cover crops, soil conservation and winter pasture options, which new pests to watch for and how to deal with them effectively, phosphorus and nitrogen application strategies and research, and what’s happening in land markets this year.

For more information contact Jim Crawford at 660-744-6231 or For detailed directions and information visit:

The College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources is at the center of ensuring sustainability for future generations by infusing innovative research, creative collaboration and the most advanced science-based technology with confidence, creative thinking, conscience, and commitment to excellence.

Beef Cattle Short Course Focuses on Drought, Future Challenges for Industry

Even if rebuilding of the nation’s cattle herds were to begin today, it would be several years before inventory would reach a significant number, according to an economist.

“Even in best case scenario, we will not see additional beef on the table until 2015,” Brett Stuart, an economist with Cattle-Fax, told 1,450 attendees Monday at the 57th Annual Texas A&M Beef Cattle Short Course, sponsored by the Texas AgriLife Extension Service.

Drought throughout much of the southern U.S. continues to force deep herd reductions. And Stuart said steer and heifer slaughter numbers continue at a steady clip.

The volume of heifers that continue to go into feedlots indicates the beef industry is still “in a contraction phase,” he said.

If the beef cattle industry were to start the rebuilding phase today, Stuart said, the amount of time it takes to hold back heifers, have a calf, then make it to the feedlot before finally arriving at the retail meatcase would be several years.

However, there are some positive indications for Texas ranchers dealing with a historic drought statewide, he said.

“Supplies are going to be very tight for the next five plus years,” Stuarts said. “There are good days ahead; that’s the bottom line.”

He forecasts average fed steer prices at approximately $95 per hundredweight (cwt.) to $125 per cwt. through 2015, while 550-pound steers are projected to average in the $140-$170 hundredweight range “for the next several years for the foreseeable future.”

Though the Texas drought is taking a toll on ranchers, Stuart offered words of encouragement.

He said global meat production will need to double by 2050 to meet growing demand.

Typically, beef cattle markets hit highs during the months of April through May, then hit a low point during the fall season. However, with almost a one million head shortfall projected nationally, Stuart said producers may not see the typical season low point in market prices this fall.

Also helping higher cattle prices has been the overall strength of commodity prices, Stuart said.

“We have doubled the amount of volume in live cattle futures contracts,” he said.

“Commodities are very sexy to investors right now. There’s a lot of money in cattle futures right now.”

Stuart said institutional funds have to roll those funds in and out of expiring contracts, but warned it’s “easy to scare investment-class money out of our futures.”

“If you are using futures to manage your risk, you’ve got to be careful about which way the wind is blowing in Chicago,” he said. “They can get spooked very easy. You’ve got to be careful.”

Corn is another factor affecting cattle markets. Stuart said corn supplies used to be driven by livestock markets, “but it’s now driven by ethanol production (first) and livestock second.”

Additionally, cuts of beef have had changes in pricing.

“If someone would have told me we would have record high beef prices in the middle of a recession and high unemployment rate, I would have never believed it,” he said. “The average retail price of hamburger is $3.80 a pound. Round steak is $4.50 and ribeye is $5 (a pound). It’s a very different market we are operating in right now.”

Stuart said grocery outlets have more room for profit margin with poultry and other meats as opposed to beef.

“We have huge supplies of chicken,” he said. “They keep producing, but we can’t get them to pull back the lever of production. The average retail price (of beef) is two times that of chicken.”

As a result, consumers are able to purchase more chicken per pound at the grocery store than beef due to cheaper prices.

“Who gets the feature activity (in the grocery advertisements)? Is it beef, poultry, pork? Right now it’s poultry, since they can buy it cheap and raise prices.”

Restaurant activity continues to increase and Stuart said the restaurant performance index indicates half the beef goes through food service, indicating strength in beef consumption.

“In the last eight months, there’s been strong growth in restaurant index and that’s important in beef demand.”

Beef export demand continues to be steady and strengthening, further indicating a positive cattle market in the future, according to Stuart.

Meanwhile, drought was a popular topic throughout Monday’s cattleman’s college seminars, a feature of the annual short course.

“Drought is the top issue among beef cattle producers in Texas right now,” said Jason Cleere, AgriLife Extension beef cattle specialist and conference coordinator. “Many of the programs offered at this year’s beef short course focus on the historic dry conditions and how ranchers can best manage their operations and prepare for the challenges ahead.”

During Monday’s general session, Gary Smith, a former meat science professor at Texas A&M, was recognized for his work in meat research, leading meat judging teams and mentoring students throughout his career at Texas A&M.

The beef short course is held on the Texas A&M University campus at College Station. The event showcases the latest research and educational programs offered by AgriLife Extension, Texas AgriLife Research and the department of Animal Science at Texas A&M. The annual event is one of the largest beef education workshops in the country, attracting more than 1,400 cattle producers.

The short course continues through Wednesday.

Your National Beef Checkoff Program: 25 Years And Counting

It was 1986: A gallon of gas cost 89¢; a pound of ground beef cost about $1.29 at retail; a movie ticket was $3.71; the average price of the average monthly rent was $385; the average price of a home was $89,430; and the national Beef Checkoff Program went into effect at $1-per-head.

Fast forward to 2011: Today, a gallon of gas will set you back an average of $3.26; the average price for a pound of ground beef is $3.87; a movie ticket costs about $8.50; the average monthly rent is $812; the average price of a home is $303,713; and the $1-per-head national beef checkoff is wrapping up its first 25 years of serving as a catalyst to spur strong beef sales worldwide.

Today, beef is the No. 1 selling protein in restaurants, in particular, and in the United States, in general, with consumer spending on beef totaling $73.4 million in 2010. And more than 85% of consumers know the industry’s “Beef. It’s What’s for Dinner” slogan, currently serving as the base of the Beef Checkoff Program.

For certain, walking through the 25-year history of the beef industry will take you down some rocky roads, as well as highlight some clear paths to growth, all en route to a beef industry that you’ll be proud to pass on to the next generation.

Beef demand

Let’s start by talking about beef demand. While building demand for beef clearly is one of the goals of the checkoff, that goal often is misunderstood. That’s because beef demand is commonly confused with beef consumption, though the two are very different indeed. In fact, beef consumption actually can drop in concert with beef demand increasing, if consumers are willing to pay more for their favorite protein.

In reality, per capita consumption is best seen as a “disappearance” number. As agricultural economist Wayne Purcell explains: “Add beginning inventories and production to imports, then subtract ending inventories, exports and disappearance, and divide by population.” As a disappearance number, we “consumed” an estimated 59.7 pounds (lb.) of beef per capita in the U.S. in 2010, for example, because that is how much beef we had in the U.S. But that number has a lot to do with supply and availability — and little, if anything, to do with demand.

Instead, beef demand is the set of quantities of beef that consumers will purchase at different prices. If, for example, we have a quantity of 59.7 lb. of beef per capita to sell, it is price that will adjust to clear the market — and the price that consumers are willing to pay will depend on how much consumers like the product offerings, as well as the price of other meats, and consumer income levels.

A correlation might help: Some years, a vehicle manufacturer builds too many pickups and, as the model year nears its end, they offer huge discounts to get them off the lots. All of the current year pickups will be sold, or consumed, but we certainly would not say the demand for that manufacturer’s pickups is robust when the prices have to be cut in half to get them sold. Similarly, if you are a purebred breeder and seller of bulls, is there not a problem with demand if the only way you can sell as many bulls as last year is at a 20% decline in price?

If we use consumption as a measure of demand, we ignore the desirability of what we offer — and we go, as we did for nearly 20 years, Purcell said, with an unacceptable product offering where up to 25% of the steaks and roasts from Choice beef were too tough to chew.

Demand will only be forthcoming, Purcell says, as we understand demand and offer consumers what they want in the form of a continuing series of new quality-controlled products. There simply has to be a consumer-level willingness to pay that supports and finances all this progressive change over time.

That’s where your Beef Checkoff Program comes in.

“So What has My Beef Checkoff Done For Me Lately?”

With that understanding of beef demand under your belt, you’ll quickly realize that your checkoff cannot single-handedly change a bad market, but instead is meant to act as a catalyst for other industry players to help sell beef.

With that said, producers and importers often ask what they get for their checkoff dollar, and that is one of the reasons that the checkoff reports results of individual programs on a regular basis to keep all checkoff investors informed. But with 25 years of success stories to tell, we’d like to go through some highlights in each program area — promotion, research, consumer information, industry information, and foreign marketing — more in-depth.

So, this series will take you through the success stories of your Beef Checkoff Program in its current form, beginning with promotion programs, including “Beef. It’s What’s For Dinner.” and its predecessors, starting with Promotion next week. Stay tuned.

NCBA’s Cattlemen to Cattlemen Returns with Special on Trade

National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) CEO Forrest Roberts said anyone who is interested in learning more about the beef industry’s efforts to expand trade opportunities should tune into NCBA’s Cattlemen to Cattlemen on Tues., Aug. 2. In addition to updates about the pending free trade agreements (FTAs) with Colombia, Panama and South Korea, the episode, which kicks off all new programs, will also feature a discussion among industry leaders about trade opportunities in key Asia-Pacific nations.

“Expanding trade opportunities for U.S. cattlemen is a top priority for NCBA,” said Roberts, who is currently attending the 2011 Cattle Industry Summer Conference in Kissimmee, Fla. “Whether we’re educating lawmakers in Washington about the importance of reducing trade barriers by passing the FTAs or working to reopen markets to U.S. beef, every day we are focused on increasing export opportunities for safe, wholesome U.S. beef. This special episode of NCBA’s Cattlemen to Cattlemen will give folks across the country an opportunity to learn firsthand what NCBA and other industry groups are doing each day to expand the presence of U.S. beef in the global marketplace.”

Roberts recently represented NCBA on a trade mission to China, Taiwan and Japan with leaders from the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF), the National Meat Association and the American Meat Institute (AMI). The leaders will discuss what they learned on the trip, sponsored by USMEF, during the Aug. 2 episode, which will air at 8:30 p.m. EDT on RFD-TV. The program will be re-broadcast on RFD-TV Wed., Aug. 3, at 10:30 a.m. EDT and Sat., Aug. 6, at 9 a.m. EDT. In addition, all episodes of NCBA’s Cattlemen to Cattlemen are available on the program’s website at The program is also on Facebook and can be followed on Twitter.

Premiering in February 2007, NCBA’s Cattlemen to Cattlemen is an award-winning program providing information on the U.S. beef cattle industry. Sponsors of the program include Purina Mills, John Deere, Igenity, Pfizer Animal Health, Merck Animal Health and Boehringer Ingelheim Vetmedica Inc.


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