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Farm News & Views - July 26, 2022

After hearing so many complaints about the high cost of food, I did some research at the Bureau of Labor Statistics website and found some interesting statistics. For example, from June of 2021, to June of 2022, the price of flour increased by almost 40%, while the price of bread was up only 12%. Although I’ve heard many complaints about the high cost of beef, and so have many cattle ranchers, I found that ground beef increased by 12% in June when compared to 2021, but beef roasts and steaks decreased by about a half percent during the same time period. Pork, with the exception of bacon and ham were also bargains, with very little inflation, while chicken, depending on what parts you bought, were up from 16% to 36%. You can go to this link for more information: https://www.bls.gov/regions/mid-atlantic/data/averageretailfoodandenergyprices_usandmidwest_table.htm

However, retail prices of beef are set to increase, as borne out by the July 2022 USDA Cattle Report, which confirmed that the cumulative effects of drought over the past two years have accelerated liquidation of the beef cattle herd. The July 1 inventory of all cattle and calves was 98.8 million head, that’s 2% less than a year ago. From the recent peak in 2018, the July beef cow inventory has declined by 6.3 percent, or a total of 2.05 million head, which is significant, because it takes much more time to ramp up beef production than it does to increase production with other livestock. For example, it takes a farmer who raises chickens 18 weeks to increase the number of chickens he sells to poultry processors. Pork producers can increase the number of breeding sows in their breeding herd within about 5 months. But a beef producer who decides to increase her herd will have to grow a heifer that she has retained for breeding to about 15 months of age. She then must breed the heifer, wait 9 months for it to calve and another six months before that calf will go to market. All told she will have waited for almost 2 years to get a return from that retained heifer.

Last month, the Food and Drug Administration announced that all livestock producers who administer injected antibiotics must have a veterinary prescription for those antibiotics by June of 2023. According to the FDA, their goal is to minimize a growing antimicrobial resistance issue in humans and animals. Veterinarians are advising livestock producers to establish a veterinary-client-patient relationship as soon as possible, so that a veterinarian will be familiar with the animals that producers are raising.

The International Union for the Conservation of Nature added the monarch butterfly to its “red list” of threatened species and considers the insect endangered. The group estimates that the population of monarch butterflies in North America has declined between 22% and 72% over the past 10 years. However, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service hasn’t listed monarch butterflies under the Endangered Species Act, but several environmental groups believe it should be listed.

Columnist Doug Larson wrote, “A weed is a plant that has mastered every survival skill except for learning to grow in rows."

Bob has been an agricultural educator and farm and ranch management consultant for over 40 years in southwest Colorado. He writes about agricultural issues from his farm near Cortez, and has helped to produce farm reports on KSJD for more than a dozen years.