For local farmers and ranchers, beef production is expected to increase in 2015 and 2016. The projections came during a Texas Farm Bureau meeting Thursday in Denison, where guest speaker Dan Childs gave a pricing forecast for local agriculture commodities.

For local farmers and ranchers, beef production is expected to increase in 2015 and 2016. The projections came during a Texas Farm Bureau meeting Thursday in Denison, where guest speaker Dan Childs gave a pricing forecast for local agriculture commodities.


Childs is an agriculture economist with the Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation, based out of Ardmore, Oklahoma. The foundation, a nonprofit organization, provides farm and ranch consultation, among other services.


"Nobody knows what the future is going to do, but we can look at historic relationships to make predictions," Childs said.


Grayson County Bureau board President Randy Watson said these forecasts are useful for farmers and ranchers as they plan for upcoming seasons. "It helps us plan for the future marketing and get our budget prepared," he said.


When much of the state was still in a period of drought, 2014 was a banner year for sectors of the beef industry, Childs said, focusing on cow-calf operations. The year was marked by high prices on calves and the retention of heifers for breeding rather than slaughter. Childs said this pattern indicates a focus on herd growth among ranchers.


This follows years of drought, which peaked in 2011. Due to extreme heat and low rainfall that year, low grass growth lead to an overstock of beef. The drought also hampered the production of corn, hay and other feed products, leading to a price increase.


Childs said this lead to a large-scale herd liquidation as many ranchers sought to reduce their costs. When this occurred in Texas, it caused a ripple effect.


"When Texas gets dry and sells, it has a big impact on the national industry," Childs said.


When this occurred, the number of cattle dropped significantly, while demand stayed high. It has taken several years for ranchers to catch back up to where they once were, Childs said, noting it takes two years for a cow to reach maturity, and another two before a cow is ready for slaughter.


"It takes nearly four years before we get steak to table from that one cow," he said.


For 2015, the weather has been a mixed blessing for agriculture, depending on who you ask. The heavy storms in May and June initially hindered corn planting and production, leading to a spike in prices in July, but Childs said since then the crops have rebounded and have been growing rapidly due to the moist soil.


"The jury is still out on what production will be, but it is looking favorable," Childs said.


Likewise, the storms caused a delay in much of the wheat production, causing some of the grain to sprout in the head. This makes the harvest not fit for human consumption, but it can still be used in animal feed.


Ultimately, Childs said he expects beef production to remain strong through the 2016. What this could lead to is a price drop in beef prices at the supermarket for consumers, with a noticeable drop expected as soon as next spring.