Jan. 30, 2017
Feedlot placements jump in December
by Derrell S. Peel, Extension livestock marketing specialist
Strong feedlot demand for feeder cattle helps explain the strong feeder price rally at the end of 2016. December feedlot placements were 117.6 percent of last year, significantly larger than expected. This follows a 15 percent year over year increase in placements in November. December feedlot marketings were 106.8 percent of one year ago; close to expectations. The Jan. 1 on-feed inventory was fractionally above one year ago at 100.3 percent of last year.
For all of 2016, feedlot placements were up 5.8 percent with fourth quarter placements up a strong 7.3 percent year over year. However, marketings increased even more sharply with twelve month total marketings up 6.2 percent year over year. Fourth quarter marketings were up an impressive 9.2 percent from 2015 levels.
December placements were up the most in the southern plains with Texas up 23 percent and Oklahoma up 54 percent year over year. Strong monthly placements were noted in most major feeding states including Nebraska (up 15 percent); Kansas (up 18 percent); Colorado (up 13 percent; and Iowa (up 16 percent), all compared to one year ago. Lower placements were noted in Washington, Idaho and South Dakota where winter weather likely was a factor in restricting December placements.
December placements were concentrated at lighter weights. Placements weighing 700-800 pounds were up 26.1 percent year over year and placements weighing 600-700 pounds were up 26.8 percent compared to last year. Under 600 pound placements were up 16.0 percent while over 800 pound placements were up only 4.5 percent compared to one year ago. Most of the increased placements will be marketed in the last half of the second quarter and in the third quarter of 2017. There is ample opportunity yet for winter weather to impact production and further delay the timing of these cattle.
Lighter weight December placements may be due in part to the likelihood that heifers accounted for more relatively more placements compared to steers. The quarterly breakdown of steers and heifers on feed in the latest report showed that the January 1 inventory of steers on feed were 2.0 percent less than last year while the inventory of heifers on feed was 5.0 percent larger year over year. This reflects both aggressive steer marketing in 2016 as well as a slowdown in heifer retention last year. Steer slaughter was up 7.6 percent year over year in 2016 and was up 8.7 percent in the fourth quarter of the year. Heifers on feed January 1 were up despite an increase in heifer slaughter in 2016, up 4.7 percent for the year, and up a whopping 11.4 percent in the fourth quarter.
Strong fed cattle prices out of the chute in 2017 are in part due to aggressive fed marketing at the end of 2016, compounded by winter weather. Current fed cattle prices are a bit stronger than expected and may be the seasonal high prices coming a bit earlier than expected. The larger placements imply that supply pressure will build into the middle and later part of the year. The challenge will be for feedlots to continue marketing aggressively to minimize the supply pressure while we see how beef demand adjusts to continued retail price decreases in the coming months.
Signs of impending calving in cows or heifers
by Glenn Selk, Oklahoma State University Cattle Emeritus Extension animal scientist
As the spring calving season begins, the cows will show typical signs that will indicate parturition, or calving, is imminent. Changes that are gradually seen are udder development, or making bag and the relaxation and swelling of the vulva. These indicate the cow is due to calve in the near future.
There is much difference between individuals in the development of these signs and certainly, age is a factor. The first calf heifer, particularly if she has the genetic makeup for heavy milking, develops udder for a very long time, sometimes for two or three weeks before parturition. The swelling and relaxation of the vulva can be highly variable too. Most people notice that Brahman influence cattle seem to change in this area much more than cattle from other breeds.
Typically, in the immediate 2 weeks preceding calving, the udder is filling, and one of the things that might be seen is the loss of the cervical plug. This is a very thick tenacious, mucous material hanging from the vulva. It may be seen pooling behind the cow when she is lying down. Some people mistakenly think this happens immediately before calving, but in fact this can be seen weeks before parturition and therefore is only another sign that the calving season is here. The immediate signs that usually occur within 24 hours of calving would be relaxation of the pelvic ligaments and strutting of the teats. A protein hormone called “relaxin” is produced by structures on the ovary and is highest in concentration the last 24 hours prior to calving. This hormone causes the softening of the collagen in the pelvic ligaments and the cervix.
Due to this surge of relaxin, and the relaxation of the pelvic ligaments, a subtle, but noticeable sunken depression can be seen in front of the pin bones. These can be fairly dependable for the owner that watches his cows several times a day during the calving season. The casual observer who is knowledgeable of the signs but sees the herd infrequently may have difficulty accurately predicting calving time from these signs. The relaxation of the pelvic ligaments really cannot be observed in fat cows, (body condition score 7 or greater). However, relaxation of the ligaments can be seen very clearly in thin or moderate body condition cows and can be a clue of parturition within the next 12 – 24 hours.
These changes are signs the producer or herdsman can use to more closely pinpoint calving time. Strutting of the teats is not really very dependable. Some heavy-milking cows will have strutting of the teats as much as two or three days before calving, and on the other hand, a thin, poor-milking cow may calve without strutting of the teats.
Another thing that might be seen in the immediate 12 hours before calving would be variable behavior, such as a cow that does not come up to eat, or a cow that isolates herself into a particular corner of the pasture. However, most of them have few behavioral changes until the parturition process starts. Sources: Effect of Relaxin on Parturition in Ruminants, L.L Anderson, Iowa State University Leaflet A.S. R1465 and Calving Time Management of Beef Cows and Heifers, Oklahoma State University Extension Circular E-1006.
Cow-Calf Corner is a weekly newsletter by the Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Agency. More information is available at sunup.okstate.edu/category/ccc.