April 6, 2023
Egg prices have been trending downward in recent months but seasonal Easter demand has them on the rise, according to David Anderson, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service economist, Bryan-College Station.
The Consumer Price Index reported retail egg prices dropped from $4.82 per dozen to $4.21 per dozen between January and February. Prices continued to fall into early March, but the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported wholesale egg prices were making their annual climb with Easter approaching.
Egg demand historically peaks each year with traditions related to Easter like egg hunts and baking for holiday meals, and prices typically follow, Anderson said.
“We were seeing prices come down, I think, due in part to production levels improving and some reduced consumer demand because of high prices,” he said. “But recent price trends are likely related to that buildup to the Easter holiday.”
Avian influenza timeline
Egg prices over the past year have been historically high. The number of table egg-laying hens has generally declined over the last few years due to high production costs, including feed and low egg prices.
But since February of 2022, a highly pathogenic avian influenza led to the loss of 58.6 million poultry birds in 47 states, including more than 43 million laying hens.
The disease is believed to hit table egg-laying poultry flocks more frequently because egg-laying hens are in production much longer than broiler chickens, which increases their risk of exposure to the pathogen. Egg-laying operations produce both table eggs and those for hatching, either in broiler production to provide meat in grocery stores and restaurants, or to replenish laying hen numbers. For instance, in April 2019, the U.S. layer flock consisted of 406 million hens, with 344 million hens producing eggs bound for table use.
There were 327 million hens producing table eggs in the U.S. flock in December 2021, and the average cost for a dozen eggs was $1.79.
Avian influenza outbreaks were reported in poultry operations in seven states by February 2022, and prices were $2.05 per dozen by March. By April, 23 million commercial poultry birds, including laying hens, broilers, ducks and turkeys, had been lost from production in dozens of states, including Texas. The first case in Texas was reported by a commercial quail producer.
Replacing egg layers takes time, and commercial egg producers continued to replace lost birds as outbreaks continued to pop up across the country. The table egg-laying flock climbed to 309 million by December 2022 and recently reached 313 million hens. But, that is still 12 million fewer than in March of last year.
Avian influenza continues to be a concern as it circulates through wild bird populations, but commercial operations are not reporting losses at previous levels due to increased biosecurity procedures.
The previous peak price occurred in September 2015 – $2.97 per dozen – and was also attributable to an avian influenza outbreak in which more than 50 million commercial birds, including layers, broilers, turkeys and other poultry, were lost.
Market factors could lead to lower egg prices
Anderson said consumers should expect egg prices to fall after the Easter demand subsides. Supply and demand trends as well as expected feed cost declines in the future should fuel lower egg prices.
Egg producers are reporting fewer losses from the outbreak, so the table egg-laying flock should continue its return to normal levels, he said. If consumers continue to buy fewer eggs because of high prices, the increased supplies should cause the price for a dozen eggs to trend down.
Another factor that could weigh into future egg prices will be the expectation that the price of grains used in animal feed could decrease. Feed prices were exceptionally high over the past year like many agriculture necessities, including fertilizer, in response to multiple economic factors, from inflation to the war in Ukraine.
Anderson said the USDA prospective planting reports for corn was 92 million acres, and that good yields would be a positive signal for lower feed prices and livestock production.
“I think egg prices, the flock losses and recovery are a good representation of how long it can take to see the supply and demand side of agriculture to play out,” he said. “We’ve seen that happen with drought and other calamities, natural and manmade, but an egg growing into a layer that produces more eggs to become more egg layers, that’s not an overnight thing.”
AgriLife Extension district reporters compiled the following summaries:
Temperatures were up and down. Scattered rainfall ranged from 0.25-2 inches. Soil moisture was very short to adequate. Warmer conditions and sporadic rainfall continued to improve pastures, resulting in a stronger calf market. Winter grasses were growing, and warm-season grasses were responding slowly. Very little supplemental feeding was needed for livestock. Crops, rangelands and pastures were in very poor to excellent condition. Livestock were in fair condition. Heavy rainfall was still needed to fill lakes, stock tanks and rivers. Corn planting was near completion, and sorghum planting will follow. The last hard freeze affected wheat and oat fields. Wheat condition was declining sharply as it headed out. Leaf rust and Hessian fly were widespread and wheat chlorosis in fields was attributed to the combination of heavy larval feeding and dryness. Hessian fly damage was heavy enough to affect even the more tolerant wheat varieties. Reports indicated that insecticide seed treatments were providing some benefits in reducing damage. Cotton planting was expected to begin soon. Cotton acres were expected to be substantially down, in favor of increased corn plantings.
The week was warm and windy, with a few storms moving through the district. Rain totals were a trace up to 2 inches in places. The rest of the week was dry, allowing producers a chance to finish planting corn and sorghum into good moisture. Wheat pastures and fields looked good in some parts of the district, while other areas reported dry conditions and dying wheat. Winter pastures were coming on strong and providing some decent grazing. Warm-season pastures were trying to get started, and some native and introduced grasses were greening up and growing. Cattle body condition improved daily with the flush of grass.
Windy and dry conditions continued. The district was behind on spring rainfall and only received 1 inch of rain for March compared to the 2.5-inch average. Rain was in the forecast. Soil moisture was adequate, but a soaking rain would improve conditions. Corn looked good, but some fields were suffering drought stress. About 30% of rice and cotton were planted. Some rice and cotton were starting to come up. Cotton planting continued through the week with favorable forecasts. Windy conditions were tough on emerging cotton seedlings. Grain sorghum planting will finish soon. There were reports of downy mildew in grain sorghum. Some pastures and rangeland were in good to excellent condition with a generous green up. Other pastures were slow to progress due to low moisture. Hay pastures were being fertilized. Some ryegrass was being harvested for hay. Homeowners were calling AgriLife Extension offices asking for solutions to forest tent caterpillar outbreaks.
Pastures and hay meadows were looking better after recent rains and warmer weather. Marion County reported up to 3 inches of rain. Grasses hit hard by frost began to bounce back, but consistent warmer weather would help growth. Pasture and rangeland conditions were fair to good. Subsoil and topsoil conditions were adequate. Livestock were doing fair to good with some supplementation taking place.
Conditions were very dry and windy, with moderate temperatures. Subsoil and topsoil moisture levels were mostly very short to short, with a few counties reporting adequate topsoil moisture. Pasture and rangeland continued to vary from very poor to fair across the district. Irrigation increased this week as producers prepared fields for upcoming plantings or attempted to keep their wheat alive. Dryland crops were suffering from the lack of moisture. Many producers were trying to decide what they were going to plant and whether they would plant dry and hope for rain. Cattle were in good condition and grazing on wheat fields and pastures with available growth. A few producers applied some preemergent herbicides when winds died down.
Conditions in the region remained dry and windy. The overall topsoil and subsoil moisture was very short to short. Temperatures continued to increase daily, and soil moisture levels continued to decline. Exceptionally low humidity and dry, windy conditions caused wildfire concerns. Pastures and rangelands were not showing signs of green-up due to drought. The lack of rainfall was also taking a toll on the wheat crop. Dryland wheat showed a noticeable decline, and irrigated wheat barely held on. Winter wheat and oat conditions were considered very poor to fair. Planted grain cover crops effectively minimized topsoil erosion during elevated wind speeds. Livestock were in fair condition, with ranchers feeding supplements and hay daily, but hay supplies were dwindling quickly. Some producers culled herds and tried to hold on to what was left. The overall condition of pasture and rangeland was very poor to poor.
Topsoil and subsoil moisture were adequate. Pasture and rangeland conditions were fair to good, but conditions were looking better with all the recent rain. Most counties have received consistent moisture, and pastures continued to green up with warmer temperatures. Farmers were trying to get corn planted in between rainfall events. Wheat and oat conditions were holding steady. Wheat had multiple nodes visible above the soil surface and was progressing. Livestock were in good condition. Hay feeding slowed down a bit as grazing improved.
Most counties were experiencing extreme drought. Topsoil and subsoil moisture was very short to short. Daytime temperatures were in the upper 70s-80s with overnight temperatures in the mid-30s-50s. Precipitation was very scattered and light, and conditions were very windy. Several extremely windy days kept farmers out of the fields. Wind erosion continued to plague fields with no cover crop. Producers finished planting corn but were having a difficult time with emergence in some locations due to cooler soil temperatures. Some freeze damage was reported on various plants, mostly ornamental and decorative plants with wheat showing frost damage in low-lying areas. Pre-irrigation continued in cotton fields. Trees were beginning to break bud, and mesquite was showing signs of budding soon. Rangeland and pasture conditions were poor. Spring weeds were flourishing due to the winter moisture and recent snowfall. Ranchers continued to provide supplemental feed to livestock, which were in mostly poor condition. Area beef cattle producers continued spring branding season. Lambing was complete, and kidding of goats continued. Brush encroachment continued to be a problem on ranches.
Scattered rain delivered up to 2 inches, but all areas needed more rain. Temperatures were below normal early in the week and warmed up later. There were a few windy days. Spring gardeners were busy planting, and producers were busy preparing fields for spring planting. The soil moisture was good enough to plow, but more will be needed to plant. Producers were preparing to plant hay grazer. Small grain conditions continued to deteriorate. Irrigated wheat looked good but continued to receive water. Dryland wheat was moisture-stressed and maturing quickly. Wheat was starting to go to boot stage for those planning to harvest. Cool nights were making coastal Bermuda grass fields slow to come out of dormancy. Corn emerged but was off to a slow start due to dry conditions and cloudy, cool days. Most sorghum was planted, but germination and emergence were questionable under dry conditions. Mesquites and pecans budded out, and pecan trees were slowly breaking winter dormancy. Pastures were beginning to green up with weed growth, but grasses were slow to grow. Most pastures and rangelands continued to decline, and some pastures were bare. There was still good grazing for livestock in some areas. Some stock tanks were full, but a majority were half full. Cows were calving. Supplemental livestock feeding slowly decreased where cool season grasses and weeds were growing. The cattle markets were excellent. Prices were steady or higher for all classes. Stocker steer, pairs and bred cow prices were steady, and some classes of heifers were $8-$10 higher per hundredweight.
Temperatures were up and down. Most areas needed rain, and soil moisture levels were very short to adequate. Farmers were planting rice and trying to beat the rain in the forecast. Timely rains improved pasture and rangeland conditions, with most areas reporting poor to excellent conditions. Steady calf and replacement cow/heifer prices reflected cattle producers’ optimism. Ryegrass was being grazed with some stands almost ready to graze. Summer forages were emerging and growing. Weeds were prevalent. Corn was 100% emerged and growing. Cotton planting was beginning and should increase over the next few weeks.
Last week’s cold front produced isolated showers with reports of just under 1 inch. Temperatures were rising. Fieldwork continued. Corn and sorghum crops were planted and emerged. Early planted grain corn came up thick and healthy. Rangeland was in very poor to poor condition. Pastures and hay meadows were green from early spring rains but overgrazing hurt overall conditions. Grasses were starting to wilt during hot afternoons. Livestock body condition remained 3-4. Livestock markets were high. Fertilization and weed control were ongoing. Producers continued to haul livestock off and hopes for spring rains were dwindling. Mesquite trees were leafing out. Shearing season continued. Livestock and wildlife were in good condition and continued to receive supplementation.
Temperatures were mild, and some areas received rain that delayed field activity. Pasture and range conditions continued to decline due to lack of moisture. Ranchers were planting sunflower food plots for wildlife. Ranchers began selling fall calves due to forage shortages and hot conditions. Most row crops were planted, but some remained empty due to inadequate moisture. Corn and grain sorghum fields had emerged but were progressing slowly. Farmers were slow to plant cotton due to weather conditions. Some cotton was being watered for emergence. Strawberry harvest was moving along slowly, and spinach was still being harvested. Onion harvest continued. Harvesting of sugarcane, citrus and vegetables stopped for a few days. Winter wheat was 100% headed. Supplemental feeding continued for livestock, and some producers were bringing in water. Local beef cattle markets continued to offer above-average volumes and report higher prices for all classes of cattle. Hay prices were high due to increased demand and a shortage of hay, and feed prices increased at local feed stores due to higher demand. Some producers expected to cut hay soon. Fields were relatively clean of weed pressure.
Source: Texas A&M AgriLife Today
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