Forecasting requires short memory

We humans wonder about the future — ours and everyone else’s. The hunger for a glimpse of what might/possibly/probably happen sends people to all kinds of prognosticators. Those eager to attempt answers to questions about the future have been around for a gazillion years.

Fortune tellers with crystal balls, palm readers and numerous other “advisers” ply their trade, even today.

Usually, a person visits one of these folks in search of advice on a personal problem. Boy friend/girlfriend, problems with work — come to mind. There’s much more, though.

At the horse races, a person can purchase a tout sheet that supposedly gives information about each horse in every race along with betting advice. Sports books allow people to gamble on all kinds of sports in addition to horse racing.

A new twist for this year’s Super Bowl had a sea turtle choosing a winner (he chose the Pittsburgh Steelers) along with an Orangutan doing the same (he chose the Green Bay Packers). I wonder how many believers followed the turtle’s or orangutan’s advice.

The most ubiquitous prognosticator in our country is the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). I think those people sit in their little cubicles and call agriculturists all day every day, asking for information, and then they put it into forecasting charts. I was shocked to learn those people actually get PAID to do that. What a deal.

I think they probably could use some competition. After all, they post everything they learn online. So I figure I might as well start my prognostication business. I’ll call it “Price’s Livestock Outlook.” If my predictions are wrong I’ll just not mention them later. That’s what they all do.

Right now it’s easy, at least for the short term. As of January 11, 2011, all — that’s every last one — of the values for beef cattle, on the hoof or as beef, were at historic highs.

For example, In 2005 (the oldest records I could find) feeder steers sold in the range of $88 per hundredweight. January 11th this year they brought in the $106/cwt range while on February 10th 5-weight steers (weighing about 500 pounds) sold for about $130/cwt.

Fresh beef retail value was 364.3 cents/pound in 2005 and 425.5 cents/pound January 11th.

In addition, the farmers’ share of the price which was 46.9 percent in 2005 was at 48.9 percent last month.

The USDA people point out that the decision to keep heifers as replacement cows is quite difficult when those heifers can bring so much money as feeders.

Maybe it’s a bubble that will burst. Without question corn-based ethanol production (with the feds’ help — 45 cents-per-gallon tax credit and a 54 cents-per-gallon tariff on imported fuel ethanol) will make corn for feeding cattle more expensive.

So my first Livestock Outlook advice is: Save those heifers, plant more corn and, while you’re at it purchase some sheep. They’re high, too.

If I’m right I’ll certainly point it out, but if I’m wrong it won’t be mentioned again. By the way, I work cheap.