Why Beef Prices Are About To Get Even Higher

MSN Money January 14 2014

As temperatures dipped to a record minus 25 degrees Fahrenheit, the crew at Dean Wang's ranch in Baker, Mont., increased alfalfa-hay rations to give his cattle more energy during the arctic blast.

"Cattle are requiring more feed in order to just maintain their body temperature, instead of putting that extra energy into gaining weight," said Wang, 46, who has about 850 cows that will calve this spring and 550 young cattle. "This year, everyone started feeding a little earlier than what they would have liked, because of the heavy snow and the cold."

The deep freeze that swept across the U.S. last week, disrupting travel and boosting fuel use, is compounding stress on a shrinking domestic beef industry already struggling with high costs and weather shocks. While crops from oranges to winter wheat avoided major damage, the cold slowed the growth of livestock and extended a rally in Chicago cattle futures to a record, signaling higher beef costs for restaurants including McDonalds and Texas Roadhouse.

The U.S. cattle herd contracted for six straight years to the smallest since 1952, government data show. A record drought in 2011 destroyed pastures in Texas, the top producing state, followed the next year by a surge in feed-grain prices during the worst Midwest dry spell since the 1930s. Fewer cattle will mean production in the $85 billion beef industry drops to a 20-year low in 2014, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said. Read More...

U.S. States Affected By Deadly Pig Virus Now At 20: USDA

Reuters December 13 2013

(Reuters) - Nebraska has become the latest U.S. state to be hit by a deadly pig virus, bringing the total number of states affected to 20, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said this week.

The Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea virus (PEDv) had never been reported in North America until May, when it was discovered in the United States.

The virus has fueled market concerns that U.S. hog supplies will decline steeply next spring and summer.

PEDv causes diarrhea, vomiting and severe dehydration. Hog epidemiologists have found that a large number of very young piglets infected with the virus die.

While the disease has tended not to kill older pigs, mortality among very young pigs infected on U.S. farms is commonly 50 percent, and can be as high as 100 percent, according to veterinarians and scientists studying the outbreak.

To date, more than 1,500 cases, each of which could represent thousands of infected animals, have been reported in 20 states across the Hog Belt. The states include such major pork producers as Iowa, North Carolina, Minnesota and Oklahoma.

As defined by the USDA, each diagnostic case could represent multiple animals at either a single farm site or several locations. The USDA's National Animal Health Laboratory Network released its latest pig virus data on Wednesday. Read More...