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Farm Forum

We must make the most of fewer cattle. February placements on feed, for a big swath of the country, were the lowest since 1976. That’s when Professional Cattle Consultants (PCC) started collecting the data on new arrivals as a percent of capacity for clients in 14 states, say Shawn Walter and Ron Hale of PCC in their March newsletter.

That kind of news makes everybody in the beef industry stop and think-whether you are a cow-calf rancher looking for opportunities, a feeder filling pens, a packer filling hooks or a company selling widgets to producers.

How does this affect a program like the Certified Angus Beef (CAB)? Well, a supply shortage changes things for everyone, including the 15,000-plus licensees that sell our brand. They understand the four factors that shape their ability to supply a great eating experience for consumers.

1. Cattle numbers

2. Percentage of black-hided (Angus-type) cattle

3. CAB acceptance rates

4. Carcass utilization

Industry data suggests we’ll see about 25 million fed cattle in 2013, across the U.S. That still sounds like a lot, but keep in mind that a 1% decline takes out 250,000 cattle. To the CAB brand, that’s a loss of 10 million pounds of product to sell. The effort to make that up puts more pressure on finding ways to channel better genetics and management in the Angus-type population and marketing as many pounds of each carcass as possible.

So how are we doing? So far, so good. The percentage of black-hided cattle has remained steady at 62% (even though the percentage of non-eligible dairy steers in the fed mix is increasing). Our CAB acceptance rates are up 2 to 3 percentage points, at 25% to 26%, compared to 22% to 23% a year ago. Equally important, our licensed restaurants and retailers are finding ways to use more of the carcass with innovative new cuts and strategies. That is especially true for grind sales, and we find reasons for optimism in the export markets and their demand for cuts that are not as popular here.