U.S. plains feedlot cattle suffer in blizzard

Reuters / Cattle in the vast U.S. High Plains region were stressed by this week’s severe blizzard, leading to big weight losses and boosting Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME) live cattle futures prices, feeders and livestock experts said on Feb. 27.

The storm dumped up to 20 inches of wet snow in some areas, accompanied by winds approaching 80 miles per hour.

“The cattle we weighed yesterday were 70 to 100 pounds lighter than they would have been before the storm. There is no question there will be a tremendous amount of tonnage lost over the next month,” said Johnny Trotter, president of Bar-G Feedyard in Hereford, Texas.

Hereford is about 40 miles south of Amarillo, Texas, in the heart of the Texas Panhandle. It is the largest cattle-feeding and beef-processing region in the United States and the area hit hardest by the blizzard, referred to as Rocky by some media.

“We’re just now getting reports in, they’ve been busy feeding but so far we’re hearing about a 20- to 40-pound loss on average, depending on the extent of the storm,” said Jim Brett Campbell, spokesman for the Texas Cattle Feeders Association.

“We’ll have a better idea at the end of the week, when the show lists come in.”

“Feedlot cattle are all outdoors, they can take a cold and dry snow but this snow was cold and wet. They burn more energy to stay warm rather than put on weight,” said Ron Plain, professor of agricultural economics at the University of Missouri in Columbia, Missouri.

“They don’t feel like moving around or feel like eating, they’re just more uncomfortable in a wet snow rather than a dry snow,” he said.

The storm also slowed the number of cattle moving to processing plants.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture said the number of cattle slaughtered in the United States on Tuesday was an estimated 102,000 head, down from 121,000 a week ago and down from 125,000 a year ago. (Editing by Maureen Bavdek and Andrew Hay)

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