May 23, 2016
Cattle on feed and forage conditions
by Derrell S. Peel, Oklahoma State University Extension Livestock marketing specialist
Feedlot inventories on May 1 were 10.78 million head in feedlots over 1000 head capacity. This is up 1.3 percent from May 2015. Placements in April were 107.5 percent of year ago levels; the third straight monthly increase in feedlot placements. April marketings were 101.2 percent of last year. The contrast between last year and this year in the feedlot industry is telling. In 2016, it is clear that feedlots are building inventories; placing more cattle in the face of larger feeder cattle supplies. Marketings are also higher now and turnover rates have increased. One year ago, placements were low but feedlot inventories were steady because marketings were slow and feedlot turnover was sluggish.
Though feedlot inventories are now above year earlier levels and climbing, the industry is in better shape; leaner and more agile going into larger cattle supplies for the remainder of the year. Cattle slaughter is up 2.7 percent for the year to date but is up 4.4 percent year over year in the past six weeks. Seasonally, the largest cattle slaughter will occur in the next month but feedlots have pulled cattle ahead in April and May which will temper seasonal slaughter peaks in June. More importantly, aggressive feedlot marketings have brought carcass weights down dramatically. In the latest carcass data, steer carcass weights, at 862 pounds, dropped below year earlier levels for the first time since June, 2014. Overall cattle carcass weights, with steers, cows and bulls all down year over year, are below year earlier levels for the first time since the last week of 2013. Heifer carcass weights remain slightly above year ago levels but have also fallen sharply in the past few weeks.
Beef production is up three percent for the year to date and will increase in the second half of the year with increased cattle slaughter. Carcass weights are likely to show little if any year over year increase in the second half of the year and will moderate year over year increases in beef production. Beef production is estimated to be up roughly 4 percent in 2016 compared to 2015.
Emerging dry areas in the northern and southern plains in April have been almost entirely eliminated in the past month. Overall, pasture and range conditions in the U.S. include only eight percent poor to very poor conditions. Regionally, the west, including the Rocky Mountains, has 11.25 percent poor to very poor; the Great Plains has 6.7 percent poor to very poor; the Southern Plains is at 9.5 percent; and the southeast has 10.25 percent of pastures in poor to very poor condition. Though dry to moderate drought still covers much of the southwest, the area of extreme to exceptional drought in southern California has continued to shrink. El Niño is weakening and La Niña is expected to develop this fall and winter. This may have implications for winter and for 2016-2017 conditions. At this point, 2016 is largely in the bag from a forage standpoint. It could still get dry and impact conditions late in the summer but the majority of forage production is assured from current moisture conditions.
Watch for a lameness issue called corkscrew claw
by Glenn Selk, Oklahoma State University Emeritus Extension animal scientist
Recently a cattle producer asked about a lameness issue of a cow in his herd. There is no way to completely diagnose the problem via email. However, his question encouraged a reminder about a lameness problem that can be troublesome for other cattlemen.
Corkscrew claw is a defect that causes severe lameness in cattle and is most often observed in cattle 2 to 3 years of age or older. This is a condition that most commonly occurs in the hind legs. Corkscrew claw (also called screw claw) is a twisting of the toe in a way that places the side wall of the hoof in direct contact with ground. The condition often begins to show itself with toes pointing inward instead of forward and leads to lameness due to improper distribution of weight within the toe.
Corkscrew claw may be confused with founder. Have your veterinarian look at any cow or bull with poorly shaped or overgrown toes. A correct diagnosis could be important as to the culling of that particular animal or any of its offspring.
The genetic component of corkscrew claw seems to be a subject of some debate. One study in dairy cattle reported a low heritability of the condition. However, that same study noted that there was sizeable difference in breeds as to the incidence of screw claw. Beef cattle veterinarians occasionally report that the condition is much more prevalent in some herds and relationships can be traced back to a certain bull that was used in that herd. The American Association of Bovine Practioners Fact Sheet “An Approach to Corkscrew Claw” includes a bullet statement: “….Regarded as being a heritable trait. The use of animals as breeding stock showing characteristic signs of CC (corkscrew claw) at a young age should be discouraged…”
Although this condition may not be manifest in young cattle (when they are purchased for seedstock), it still makes good sense to watch for any signs of corkscrew claw when buying bulls, replacement heifers or replacement cows.. Culling cows or bulls that are diagnosed with this condition as well as their heifer offspring should reduce the incidence of the problem for your herd.
Cow-Calf Corner is a weekly newsletter by the Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Agency.