Knowledge Exchange

Ag Economy


  • 2018 average prices for Choice Steers are estimated at $117/cwt., slightly below 2017. 2019 prices are forecast relatively flat at $117-122/cwt. However, many Northeast beef producers serve specialty markets and receive higher prices than national estimates.
  • Dairy cull cows have averaged $40-55/cwt. at auction depending on quality and grade. Bull calves are fetching extremely low prices or even nothing depending on the market. Cow and cull prices have fallen by at least 25 percent year-over-year, reflecting the reduced earning potential of the sector.
  • Harsh winter weather made for a challenging season with above-average losses, particularly in flooded regions of Nebraska. Still, beef supplies have been growing, due to strong prices.
  • Domestic and global demand for beef has been high. USDA reported a 10.3 percent increase in beef exports, particularly to Asia.
  • Despite increased exports, the U.S. has lost market share in Japan after stepping away from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement. US beef to Japan is subject to a 38.5 percent tariff compared to an 11 percent tariff incurred by TPP nations.
  • China is now the top global importer of beef, surpassing the U.S. last year. African swine fever has shifted Chinese consumers’ preferences from pork to beef, and the USDA is forecasting a 21 percent increase in Chinese beef imports in 2019.
  • Most other livestock product prices for 2018 averaged below prior year levels due to larger supplies. Eggs were an exception, which received relatively high prices in 2018, compared to year-earlier lows, but egg prices are expected to fall in 2019.
  • Recreational equine markets are supported principally by local recreational demand and non-farm income, and have been tracking upward along with the general economy.
  • Horse racing and breeding operations are doing better particularly in states like New York where purses have been supplemented from other gaming revenues.