Cattle Market
By Brooke Brunsvig, Nutritional Consultant

I’ve been trying for a while now to wrap my head around the cattle market from various perspectives. I recall many a calf sale in the winter of ’22-’23 from which the seller left with a smirk on their face, but I wouldn’t say expecting that kind of sale to happen multiple years in a row. I also recall having many conversations with leery producers on the finishing side of the equation, and the story has only gotten wilder since then. I haven’t heard anyone really come to a consensus about what is happening, and more importantly, is likely to happen soon. There are numbers coming out our ears about lowest X since 19XX, but I want to focus on what I believe drives things most, females.

We have the smallest beef cow herd since 1961, the smallest beef replacement heifer total since 1950, and further the smallest bred beef heifer number recorded since 2001. Most of the decrease has been in the top ten cow states. This all tells us that, unlike during other droughts, cows have been slaughtered instead of moved around the country. From an Article in Beef Magazine by Krissa Welshans, ‘What’s in store for 2024?’, high prices happen a year to a year and a half before herd expansion begins because feeder cattle supplies hit their lowest levels when this happens. We haven’t started herd expansion yet, and analysts don’t think feeder prices will hit their highs until 2025.

I hope my insights help, or at least spark more thought. Please reach out to me or any of your local CFC personnel for a conversation or assistance in capitalizing on the market in any way we can. 

Continuous Corn Management
By Allen Johansen, Seed Lead

Research has indicated that maximizing corn yield potential in a continuous corn production system is challenging compared to systems with crop rotation. A six-year study by the University of Illinois identified a continuous corn yield reduction of 9 to 42 bushels per acre when compared to corn following soybeans. Below are a few things to take into consideration.

Management - Fields selected for continuous corn should have soils with good drainage, high water holding capacity, high fertility, little to no compaction problems, and low insect and disease pressure.

Residue - High-yielding corn can leave residue that can reduce emergence, seedling establishment, standability, and even yield potential of the next crop. High levels of corn residues can reduce soil temperatures, N availability, and favor the survival of some insects and diseases. To help control the residue farmers may need to use tillage or strip-till to breakdown the residue. Also adding attachments such as stalk chopping corn heads, straw choppers, or post-harvest shredding can be helpful.

Product Selection - Hybrids should be selected with strong ratings in emergence, seedling vigor, disease resistance, and root and stalk strength. Hybrids with higher emergence and seedling vigor ratings have a better chance of pushing through cool, wet, heavy residue. Prior year residue can contain pathogens for diseases such as northern corn leaf blight, gray leaf spot, Goss’s wilt, and Diplodia stalk rot; therefore, higher tolerance or resistance to these is beneficial for continuous corn production. The chances of feeding by corn rootworm and other pests during the growing season is higher with continuous corn. To help protect against these insects, products with multiple modes of insect trait protection for above and below ground insects may be an option.

Seed Treatments – When planting the seed, seedling pathogens and soil insects, such as wireworms, seed corn maggots and grubs can be a threat, especially when heavy residue is present. Seed treatments with fungicide and insecticide protection can help protect seedlings during emergence and early establishment. Another consideration is planting corn on corn acres last because residue is likely to keep the soil wetter and cooler.

If you haven’t locked in your 2024 seed selections, please reach out to one of our agronomists who would be happy to help you place the right products on the right acres!

Big Crop Long Tails
By Matt Morog, Grain Department Manager

It continues to feel like we are still in the beginning of a low-price cycle for grains. Unfortunately, the job of the market is to inflict as much pain and damage as possible on whoever is more vulnerable. The past three years it was the consumer and end user, and as the saying goes the cure for high prices is high prices. Now the market’s job is to wreak financial hardship on the grower. For old crop I don’t have a magic solution to unsold grain. Look at your finances and set some dates as to when you’ll make sales based on capital needs. The only bullish card we have is a weather event this spring/summer, but I’m concerned as to where that rally begins from. Three years ago, corn futures were hovering between $3.80-$3.40 from March to July of 2020. I think that the $3.50 futures area is going to act like a magnet attracting the market towards. Old crop soybeans are in much of the same camp. After two good South American crops world balance sheets are healthy. We are going to need a major US crop issue for us to right the ship.

Looking towards new crops I’d be looking at some average seasonal pricing to take the guesswork out of it. We offer in-house ASP contracts, and our grain team would be happy to explain in more detail. There are no gimmicks to them, and they are very easy to understand. We do offer more complex contracts, but for many, ASP contracts offer a solid foundation for grain marketing needs. New crop corn is still north of $4 for the time being. We’ll likely get some planting carrot, but in years where the expected carryout is growing that pricing surge, but from what starting point.