As we start afresh into another new year, many of us have no qualms bidding goodbye to the last 12 months. After a tumultuous 2020, I think we were all looking forward to what 2021 would bring. But with supply chain issues, weather challenges and higher commodity prices, it was not necessarily the golden goose we had hoped for. However, although we still face many challenges, we must still put our hope on the new horizon. Resilience is key.
Disruptive weather patterns in 2021 brought considerable challenges to cow-calf producers. Many parts of the U.S. and Canada experienced severe drought conditions, with an estimated 25% of the U.S. beef cowherd experiencing drought conditions throughout most of 2021. In some areas, Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) land opened up, making more forage available but of low quality. Contrary to that, areas of the Southern Plains, for example, received an abundance of rain throughout the year. However, in both cases, forage quality is not where we would like it, making supplemental protein and key nutrients crucial for many herds. This La Niña weather pattern is projected to continue through the summer of 2022, then shift to an El Niño to potentially provide some needed drought relief.
Higher commodity prices and how quickly input costs rose through the year were eye-opening. During periods of such high cost, those of us in agriculture, specifically in the cattle industry, know we need to be smart and stretch the dollar as efficiently as we can. Even as input costs increase, the low cost per head per day advantage we see with CRYSTALYX® low-moisture blocks is incredibly beneficial. Through controlled and precise intake, nutrient delivery is still achieved, but potentially at a lower cost than grain or cube feeding. Using advanced technologies or tools to help improve the digestibility and utilization of the available forage is one way to optimize what we have without giving up performance. A tool available to do just that is the new CRYSTALYX® app, available free to download on your smart device. Not only does this app include product information, but it helps you select the formula that best fits your needs in an easy, step-by-step process. A solid supplement program like CRYSTALYX will carry you through without skimping on nutrition. This will have long-term effects on fetal programming and, therefore, calf growth and reproductive rates, proven through the CRYSTALYX® Blueprint® program.
Labor shortages and supply chain issues
Whether it is in your favorite restaurant, convenience store or on your own operation, we see labor shortages in all areas. On top of that, disruptions in the supply chain have been prevalent. From materials coming across the seas to get to the port to finding freight and costs, it has been an interesting time. When planning for 2022, we need to keep this in mind and continue to find ways to work through it. With CRYSTALYX supplements, labor is not an issue. These self-fed products will save you time by allowing cattle to access them 24/7 — a relief we all need in times like these. On the processing side, plants are mostly caught up, and labor is becoming more available again. It is estimated that slaughter capacity will increase over the next few years, and with cattle supplies declining due to recent cowherd liquidation, producer leverage should improve.
Beef demand and cattle prices
Global beef demand continues to rise. New opportunities overseas keep the export market strong, with U.S. beef and variety meat exports forecasting at an all-time high. Increased demand will support profitability for the whole industry. Cattle prices are expected to trend higher in 2022 throughout all segments.
As we find our feet in the new year, take time to reflect on 2021 and all we have learned. While it has not been easy, we must continue to move forward. During these challenging times, look toward the reliability of CRYSTALYX. Through controlled intake, low cost per head per day, labor savings and providing the nutrients cattle need during adverse conditions, this self-fed supplement is an easy choice to help get you through. Thank you for your business and for trusting us with your supplementation program, even during times of uncertainty. We look forward to maintaining and strengthening these relationships throughout 2022, continuing to support you into the future.