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Beef Exports Bounce Back

Derrell S. Peel, Oklahoma State University Extension Livestock Marketing Specialist


The April trade data shows that beef exports for the month were up 22.1 percent year over year and up 18.0 percent compared to 2019.  Year to date total beef exports for the first four months of the year were up 7.9 percent year over year and 14.9 percent over the same period in 2019.


Beef exports to Asia (including Vietnam) account for 71.7 percent of total beef exports thus far in 2021.  Japan, while still the leading beef export market, is down 15.7 percent thus far in 2021 compared to last year but is up 3.3 percent over year-to-date 2019 levels.  Japan accounts for 24.6 percent of total exports, barely ahead of South Korea, which has a 24.0 percent share of beef exports thus far in 2021.  Beef exports to South Korea are up 17.0 percent year over year and up 25.4 percent over 2019 for the year to date.  Monthly beef exports to South Korea have exceeded exports to Japan in January, February and April this year. The combined China/Hong Kong market is the most rapidly growing beef export market, up 189.4 percent year over year and up 161.6 percent over 2019 for the year to date through April. The China/Hong Kong market represents 17.2 percent of total beef exports thus far in 2021, making it the number three beef export market.  Taiwan, the number six beef export market, is down 14.3 percent for the year to date compared to last year and down 4.6 percent from 2019. Taiwan represents 5.1 percent of total beef exports for the year to date.


Beef exports to Mexico remain sharply reduced since the pandemic began. Beef exports to Mexico began to drop in March of 2020 and after a brief recovery in November and December 2020 have continued at reduced levels. Year to date beef exports to Mexico are down 2.1 percent year over year but are down 23.6 percent compared to the same period in 2019.  Mexico remains the number four beef export market accounting for 10.4 percent of beef exports thus far in 2021.  Beef exports to Canada are down 13.5 percent year over year for the first four months of the year but are up 7.9 percent compared to 2019.  Canada ranks number five as a destination for U.S. beef exports with an 8.2 percent share of total exports thus far in 2021. The top six export markets represent 89.5 percent of total beef exports for the January through April period in 2021.  Smaller markets include the Philippines (1.3 percent of exports) and Indonesia, Guatemala, Vietnam, Chile, and the Netherlands, each with less than one percent shares, rounding out the top 12 beef export markets.


Beef exports, which have declined each of the past two years, are forecast to increase above 2019 and 2020 levels and possibly exceed the record 2018 level.  Beef exports represent a component of total beef demand in terms of quantity and value.  Moreover, beef exports represent a wide range of product types and qualities exported to various markets and augment domestic beef demand by providing markets for products less desired in the U.S.  Exporting products with lower U.S. demand allows domestic beef demand to focus on encouraging consumers to purchase more of the products they prefer more highly and thus maximizing domestic beef value.  All beef products produced will be consumed somewhere but it adds value both in the domestic and global market when we have a diverse portfolio of beef markets to market the wide range of beef products produced by the industry.

Cool Spring, Late Summer, High Fertilizer Prices

Paul Beck, Oklahoma State University Extension Beef Cattle Specialist


Even though we know what is going to happen to us in July and August, it is difficult not to complain about the unseasonably cool and wet spring we have had in Oklahoma. But, most of the grazeout wheat and annual ryegrass planted for spring pastures are played out, the wheat hay season is not going well, and our warm-season grasses haven’t really started growing yet.


On top of everything else, fertilizer has seen price increases reminding us of the price increases we saw in 2007 (and again in 2012). Earlier this spring retail diammonium phosphate (DAP) went up 22% in one month while urea went up 18%. As of the last week of May, the average retail price of urea was $523/ton (39% higher than last year), DAP was $652/ton (59% higher than last year), and potash was $443/ton (21% higher than last year).


When prices increased so rapidly earlier in May, one COOP manager I talked to said he had a shortage of fertilizer spreaders because everyone was trying to get their summer pastures fertilized before prices went even higher. While it is often a good idea to fertilize your bermudagrass and Old World Bluestem pastures in early May, this year it may have caused more problems than solutions.


Bermudagrass and other warm-season perennials grow well when daytime temperatures are over 80°F, but do not start rapid growth until nighttime temperatures are higher than 60°F for a consecutive week. Fertilizing bermudagrass early will actually provide nutrients to cool-season annuals, many of which are short lived or low in nutritive quality like cheat, Japanese brome, or little barley. When the cool-season annual grassy weeds take up fertilizer they will outgrow the warm-season perennial grasses and shade them out, further slowing their growth and reducing early summer production.


With higher fertilizer prices, is it even worth fertilizing our introduced warm season grasses?


As a rule of thumb, for bermudagrass and other introduced warm-season perennials, each pound of N fertilizer will add about 30 to 40 pounds of forage production per acre, a boost which can double carrying capacity of your pastures.

  • Generally, a calf value to N cost ratio of 2.5 would indicate fertilization is potentially profitable.
  • With N fertilizer costing about $0.57/lb of actual N, if calves are sold next fall at an average price of $1.60/cwt the ratio is 2.8. So, if long term prices of fertilizer are increasing or prices of calves fall, adjustments in fertilization, addition of legumes, and changes in grazing management would be warranted.
  • If cow stocking rates currently in use are based on fertilized pastures, stocking rates will need to be reduced in unfertilized pastures or weaning weights and rebreeding percentage will suffer.


Another rule of thumb is that for each pound of actual nitrogen we can expect stocker calf gain per acre to increase by 1.5 to 2 pounds.

  • At the current price of urea ($0.57/pound of actual N) each additional pound gain from N fertilization will cost 30 to 40 cents, which will be profitable if the value of stocker gains are higher.


Stocking rates of growing cattle will need adjustments without fertilization or rates of gain will decrease, unless extra supplementation is provided.

  • All rules of thumb are based on soils with adequate phosphorus (P) and potassium (K). If additional P and K are needed costs will increase. Which goes back to the old recommendation, build up soil fertility (especially P and K) when cattle prices are high or fertilizer is cheap, then when things get sideways you can mine the excess that was built up.
  • This cannot be emphasized enough…soil test and use these recommendations to make the most effective decisions.

Internal Parasite Control

Dr. Rosslyn Biggs, Oklahoma State Extension Beef Cattle Veterinarian


Internal parasites cause a variety of clinical signs, including weight loss, diarrhea and death. Other, less obvious parasitic signs, (often referred to as subclinical signs), significantly impact producers. The subclinical signs may include things like decreased weaning weights and lower rates of reproduction.


Widespread use of anthelmintics (dewormers) has led to most cattle parasite control programs focusing on maximizing production rather than treating clinical disease. There are three anthelmintics classes available in the United States: the benzimidazoles, the macrocyclic lactones, and an imidazothiazole.


Due to the extensive use of anthelmintics, concern have been raised about the development of parasite resistance leading to loss of product effectiveness. Researchers at OSU are currently investigating Oklahoma cattle herds for parasite resistance.


Numerous factors relative to the use of anthelmintics are thought to have the potential to contribute to the development of resistance. One of the biggest factors is thought to be the treatment of all animals in a production system regardless of parasite load. Application of treatment at a time of year when larval numbers on pastures is low can also lead to a relative increase in resistant larvae on the pasture. Additionally, the weight of animals is often estimated leading to under dosing with inadequate concentrations of the drug reaching the parasite. Other groups of animals are often treated based on the average weight of the group which leads to roughly half of the population receiving less than the recommended dose. The delivery form of the anthelmintic can also impact the risk of resistance. Pour-on formulations are convenient and easy to use, but accurate dosing is difficult and pour-on formulations produce lower drug concentrations at the level of the parasite. Also, licking behavior has been shown to result in drug exposure of nematodes in non-treated cattle.


In order to address parasite resistance and maintain product efficacy, sustainable parasite control programs must be developed. Effective programs are built upon knowledge of parasite life cycles, sound grazing strategies, and proper product use. It’s important to note that sustainable parasite control aims to suppress parasite population below the threshold for economic loss, not completely eliminate parasite populations. Producers should work closely with their veterinarian to design an effective parasite control program.

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