Cow herd use of DDGS is impacting pricing

As I write this blog this week I’m sitting at the fairgrounds in Sioux Center, Iowa with approximately 225 pork producers doing PQA+ certification to be followed by my presentation on summer heat management and emergency ventilation issues. These producers are both contract growers and owners of pigs. The very large attendance at this meeting sponsored by the Farmers Coop Society demonstrates the importance of pork production to the region’s economy.

Animal agriculture is a major component of agriculture in the western corn belt. While the drought reduced crop yields in this region, the impacts will be really felt by cow-calf producers in a few weeks when pastures begin greening up. We’ve all been reading about the impact of the drought on cow-calf producers. The net effect is that the rebuilding phase of the cattle cycle isn’t occurring and suddenly pork loins in the meat case are priced as cheap or often cheaper than hamburger.

Last evening I sat at a reception with a cow-calf nutritionist for the University of Nebraska. She talked about the lack of feedstuffs for cow-calf producers in the heart of cattle-country in Nebraska. This lack of available feedstuffs is contributing to the high DDGS prices, especially from Nebraska plants. DDGS can be transported relatively long distances compared to prairie hay or even alfalfa hay. With limited feedstuffs this has become a hay-stretcher for many ranchers.

The problem is that cattle should be going to pasture in 4-6 weeks, easing the pressure on this feed ingredient. However, because of the drought producers are being advised to delay turn-out to pasture so that the grass has a chance to recover – assuming they get spring rains. If spring rains are delayed or are less than normal, producers will have to continue to buy feedstuffs for their cow herd or sell off part of the herd. If this happens the pressure on DDGS and other alternative ingredients will continue in many regions of the US.

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