Aug. 7, 2017
2017 cattle slaughter up but increasing slower than last year
by Derrell S. Peel, Oklahoma State University Extension livestock marketing specialist
Total cattle slaughter is up 5.9 percent year over year for the year to date. This follows a 6.4 percent year over year increase in 2016. However, steer slaughter (which makes up more than half of cattle slaughter) is growing more slowly in 2017 and is up 3.5 percent so far this year compared to 2016. The year to date increase is declining as weekly steer slaughter has averaged just 1.1 percent year over year increases since late April. Steer slaughter peaked seasonally in June and will trend lower week to week for the remainder of the year. On July 1, the number of steers in feedlots was 1.4 percent above last year and is projected to keep steer slaughter growth relatively low for the remainder of the year. Total annual steer slaughter may be limited to less than a two percent year over year increase in 2017.
Heifer slaughter is up 10.5 percent so far in 2017. This compares to a 4.7 percent year over year increase in 2016. The July 1 heifer on feed inventory was 10.6 percent higher than one year earlier. Heifer slaughter is likely to remain elevated for the rest of 2017. Increased heifer slaughter and heifer on-feed inventories likely indicate a slower pace of heifer retention in 2017. However, average steer to heifer slaughter ratios are still very large compared to historical averages. It will be some months before heifer slaughter increases to typical levels compared to steer slaughter. Seasonally, heifer slaughter decreases from a spring peak to lower summer levels before increasing slightly through the third quarter.
So far in 2017, beef cow slaughter is running 10.4 percent above 2016 levels. This follows a 13.7 percent year over year increase in 2016. Although increased beef cow slaughter is consistent with slower herd growth, it does not indicate herd liquidation or even zero herd growth. If beef cow slaughter continues at the current pace (as projected) through the end of the year, net culling for the beef herd will still be under nine percent and less than the long term average culling rate. The sharp increase in beef cow slaughter in 2016 and 2017 is mostly the result of very low culling during herd expansion since 2014. More cows in the herd plus previously delayed culling means that a substantial increase in beef cow slaughter is inevitable. By 2018, herd culling rates may return to typical levels. Beef cow slaughter typically increases sharply in the fourth quarter to a seasonal peak but is projected to maintain the current year over year levels for the remainder of the year. Dairy cow slaughter has increased recently bringing the current year to date level up to 3.0 percent above last year. This follows a 1.0 percent year over year decrease in 2016.
Total cattle slaughter in 2017 is projected to increase 4.5 to 5.0 percent year over year. Cattle slaughter will likely increase another 3.5 to 4.0 percent in 2018 with larger feeder supplies; less heifer retention; and increased cow culling all pushing slaughter higher through 2018.
Late summer temperatures shorten gestation length of fall-calvers
by Glenn Selk, Oklahoma State University Emeritus Extension animal scientist
Each year in August, it is time for an important reminder. Fall-calving season is here. In fact, the start of the fall calving season often begins before some producers expect it. The target date for the beginning of fall calving very often is Sept. 1. Most printed gestation tables predict that calving will take place 283 days (some 285 days) after artificial insemination or natural breeding. Cows and heifers that gestate in hot weather will often calve a few days earlier than expected.
Oklahoma State University physiologists studied early fall (August) and late fall (October) calving cows. Data from two successive years were combined for 60 Angus X Hereford crossbred cows. The “early” and “late” fall calving cows had been artificially inseminated in early November or early January, respectively. Semen from the same sire was used for all cows. All cows were exposed to a single cleanup bull for 35 days at 4 days after the AI season. The weather prior to calving was significantly different for late pregnancy in the two groups. The average maximum temperature the week before calving was 93 degrees F. for the “early” fall group. The average maximum temperature the week before parturition in the “late” calving group was 66 degrees F. There was a 100 percent survival rate for calves in both groups and both groups of cows had very high re-breeding rates (90 percent and 92 percent, respectively).
The average gestation length for the “early” cows was 6 days shorter (279 days) as compared to the “late” cows (285 days) in year 1. The average gestation length for the “early” cows was 4 days shorter (278 days) as compared to the “late” cows (282 days) in year 2. Keep in mind that the gestation lengths listed are AVERAGE. This means that about half of the cows calved earlier than that. Records from millions of Holstein dairy cows across the entire United States report a similar pattern (Norman, et al.2009 J. Dairy Sci; 92:5). Holsteins bred in January and February (calving in October and November) averaged 2 days longer gestation than did Holstein cows bred in October (calving in July and August). Many of these would be in Northern climates with less heat stress and more moderate temperatures in the summer months. Here in the Southern Plains, late summer heat is more intense and persistent. Therefore, producers with early fall-calving cows should expect calves to start coming several days ahead of the “textbook gestation table” dates. They should begin their routine heifer and cow checks at least a week to 10 days ahead of the expected first calving date. Source: Kastner, Wettemann, and co-workers. 2004 OSU Animal Science Research Report
Cow-Calf Corner is a weekly newsletter from the Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Agency.