Many speculated how it could affect food prices, including the cattle industry. For cattle producers in Vermilion Parish, a rise in corn prices is not a shocking situation.
“Corn prices have actually been up for about six years now,” LSU AgCenter extension agent Andrew Granger said. “Traditionally corn was at $2.50 to $3 a bushel. For the past few years it has been $5 to $6 and even $7 a bushel.”
Some producers in the parish have adapted to the market.
“When corn is high,” Granger explained, “the people who feed our cattle want heavy cattle. So they want cattle that gain on grass as opposed to feed.”
That has added some time to the traditional process.
“So to take advantage of that situation, several producers have been keeping their calves,” Granger said. “The long tradition in this parish is to wean the calves and then selling. What some have been is weaning the calves, planting rye grass then grazing them all winter long. Instead of selling a 450-pound calf, they are selling a 750 or 800-pound calf in the spring.
“They are probably making more money than they would have before the high corn prices because of the cheaper gains on them with grass because the feed lots are willing to pay a higher price for heavy cattle.”
That process is called stockering.
“Several producers are doing that type of production,” Granger said. “In general we have seen that as corn prices have gone up, calves have gone down. But because of the short supply of cattle, with recent droughts in Texas and other parts, cattle numbers are way down.
“(Increased corn price) really has not been all that negative to (Vermilion Parish).”
There are things that could have a negative impact.
“If cattle numbers start to grow (in other parts of the country,” Granger said, “then it could have a negative effect on us.
“That would not be until a few years down the road if that happened.”
There is an increase in cattle production in Vermilion, though.
“We are actually seeing an increase,” Granger said. “The storms negatively impacted our cattle numbers. We probably lost a third of ours between the storms. We are starting to see some rebuilding and some confidence to put some cattle back into the areas that have the most risk.
“I think with the good prices we are seeing, it is encouraging some to take more of a risk.”
Granger said numbers are not back to pre-Hurricane Rita, when there were nearly 40,000. Today, the parish is about 10,000 off that mark.
“We’ve gained back some of those losses,” Granger said. “It’s good because it’s an important commodity in the parish.”