Economist says the price outlook for cattle is promising, but a lot of “what-ifs” still at play

A livestock economist says even tighter beef supplies are coming.

University of Missouri’s Scott Brown says placements in December were down approximately 156,000 head, and when he looks at the by-weight category, about a third of the decline came in placements weighing less than 600 pounds.  “Which just reminds me that this is going to continue to reduce slaughter even more as we get further into 2023,” he says. 

He tells Brownfield that sets producers up for even higher prices this year, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll ramp up their herd expansion efforts.  Brown says weather remains a wild card.  “Grass is important in this conversation, but so is corn,” he says.  “What happens in the I-states in terms of spring weather and early-summer weather?  If we were to talk about corn prices moving down, that combination could really change the cost situation for inputs.”

Brown says he remains optimistic about where cattle prices are headed and encourages producers to consider risk management strategies. 

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