At press time, prospects were continuing to brighten for the U.S. beef market. Cattle feeders were just coming off some of their meatiest margins of the past two years. And that, coupled with generally lush grass conditions across the country, had cow-calf producers feeling decidedly more upbeat about prospects for better fall calf prices.

In addition, planting season is ahead of schedule, with about 16% of planned corn acres for 2010 planted as of April 19, according to the CME Group estimate. That's roughly double last year's pace at that date.

On top of that, the National Restaurant Association's (NRA) latest Restaurant Performance Index, a monthly composite index that tracks the health and outlook of the U.S. restaurant industry, found optimism growing among its members. Characterizing the results as “definite signs of improvement,” the monthly tracking index logged in at its highest point since September 2007 and much improved from its fall 2008 bottom.

“According to the survey, 44% of the respondents expect that six months from now same-store sales will be higher than the previous year. The expectation for higher sales can be seen across the board, with most of the gains coming from sectors hit especially hard by the recession, such as the fine-dining concept,” reports the CME Group.

The loss of value in the middle meats (steak cuts) were a big drag on the beef complex in 2009, so an improvement in fine-dining sales should be a good barometer as to how middle-meat prices will fare in the coming months.

Grazing Bulletin Board

Are you looking for custom-grazing opportunities for your cattle, or do you have pasture available for such an enterprise? BEEF magazine is providing a free service called “Custom Grazing Bulletin Board” at beefmagazine.com. The site is a free listing service offered for producers seeking custom-grazing opportunities. If you have land available for custom grazing, send the following information for posting on the website by email to Wes Ishmael at wesleysink@aol.com, or by mail to BEEF magazine, 7900 International Drive, Suite 300, Minneapolis, MN 55425:

  • Name,

  • Town/State,

  • Contact phone number and/or e-mail,

  • Number of acres available/forage type,

  • Historic average stocking rate ? lbs./acre (if available),

  • Approximate turn-in and turn-out dates,

  • Historic average gains (if available),

  • Years of experience running stocker cattle.

If you'd like to check out the listings, go to beefmagazine.com and click on the “BEEF Custom Grazing Bulletin Board” button from the icon field in the right column.