Cattle Industry Summer Conference Kicks Off in Reno
RENO, NEV. - The 2006 Cattle Industry Summer Conference got underway in Reno today, welcoming about 900 cattlemen from across the nation. The conference is hosted by the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA), the Cattlemen’s Beef Board, American National CattleWomen, Inc., the National Cattlemen’s Foundation and Cattle-Fax. The opening general session featured a cattle market overview and analysis from Randy Blach, executive vice president of Cattle-Fax. Based in Centennial, Colo., Cattle-Fax provides cattle and beef industry statistics, forecasts and economic analyses.
Blach provided cattlemen with a presentation that he termed a “report card” for the first half of 2006. He said that while the past six months have seen a great deal of volatility, cattle production, slaughter and prices have – on average – matched forecasts pretty closely. Blach said prices were softer than expected through March and April, but a solid recovery has brought average prices for the year back in line with projections.
Blach said drought and other factors have slowed, but not ended, the nation's cattle herd expansion. Heifer placements in feedlots are down, indicating a trend toward breeding stock replacement. While cow slaughter has increased, this is mainly due to drought conditions in some regions and the fact that cow slaughter was extraordinary low in 2005.
Turning to beef demand, Blach pointed out that even with retail prices slightly down from a year ago, domestic expenditures are still at a record high, averaging $75 more per person than in 2000. Blach said strong demand has been absolutely critical to the recent period of profitability.
“This is a take-home message that I really want to emphasize,” he said. “We just couldn’t have drawn it up any better.”
He added that even though domestic beef demand has been solid, regaining key export markets remains a critical issue for the U.S. cattle industry. The trade picture has already improved, as beef imports are down 7 percent from 2005 and exports are up by 75 percent. Just in the first half of 2006, this shift in net trade has been worth $3/cwt on fed cattle.
“That’s the difference between a market low of $75 and a market low of $78,” Blach said. “But it’s still very important to get major markets back like Japan and South Korea. We’re still losing $2 billion to $2.5 billion (annually) when these markets are closed.”
NCBA President Mike John urged attendees to share the knowledge they gain at the conference with their fellow cattlemen back home.
“When you share this kind of valuable information, you’ll be giving them plenty of reason to be at the Cattle Industry Summer Conference in the future,” he said.
Cattlemen’s Beef Board Chairman Jay O’Brien highlighted several accomplishments of the National Beef Checkoff Program, now in its 20th year. He said checkoff-funded research has not only fostered new product development, but also allowed the beef industry to share valuable information and findings with consumers.
O’Brien also surprised the audience with a segment from NBC’s Today Show, which had aired nationally just moments earlier. The footage featured noted chef Richard Chamberlain, co-author of the checkoff-funded Healthy Beef Cookbook, demonstrating innovative cooking methods for lean beef and discussing the culinary and nutritional attributes of beef.
O’Brien said the Healthy Beef Cookbook, created in cooperation with the American Dietetic Association, has been a tremendous success for the Beef Checkoff Program. With the Today Show being the nation’s highest-rated morning television program, he said this morning’s segment serves as a proud example of even better publicity and exposure than the industry can purchase through advertising.
Additional beef industry issues forums were held this morning on the recent Beef Quality Audit, market research efforts funded by the Beef Checkoff Program, and the impact of futures trading on the cattle market.
The Cattle Industry Summer Conference continues through Thursday, July 13. Committee meetings dominate Wednesday’s agenda, with meetings of the NCBA Board of Directors and the Cattlemen’s Beef Board set for Thursday morning.