Nov. 30, 2015
Lots of moisture and a taste of winter
by Derrell S. Peel, Oklahoma State University Extension livestock marketing specialist
Thanksgiving week was wet across many parts of the country and included snow, freezing rain and rain. Oklahoma and Texas straddled the freezing line with a wide range of impacts in a region known for highly variable weather. South and east of the freezing line, Southeastern Oklahoma and northern Texas were the epicenter of heavy rain that totaled up to one foot in parts of the region. Flooding once again impacted an area that received record rainfall earlier in the year. The band of heavy rain extended from southwest Texas north and east through the Great Lakes, covering the central and eastern Corn Belt and more.
The moisture this week should remove lingering dry conditions in the heartland and the lower Mississippi valley. The northern Plains and Rocky Mountain regions also received significant moisture in the form of snow and freezing rain. As a result, the eastern three-quarters of the country are in very good shape as far as moisture is concerned; with no significant drought areas across most of the country. The far west and Pacific Northwest also received some moisture in the form of rain or snow at higher elevations. Severe drought conditions continue in the region but the recent moisture should slow or halt drought development in the region with mountain snowpack increasing the potential for improved conditions next spring.
The wet and freezing conditions are impacting cattle in the Southern Plains. Across much of Western Oklahoma, central Texas and the Texas and Oklahoma Panhandles, moisture arrived as freezing rain. Most cattle in the region did not have winter hair coats and the wet hides and cold temperatures that followed are having nutritional and performance impacts on both feedlot and grazing cattle. Depending on the weather that follows, the cold and/or muddy conditions across both the Southern Plains and Midwest feedlot regions may temper fed cattle gains and weights in coming weeks.
The driest winter wheat areas of Oklahoma in the north-central part of the state received two to four inches of rain last week. This is the first widespread abundant moisture in the region this fall and, along with warmer temperatures forecast for later this week, should prompt rapid wheat growth. Though wheat forage has developed slower this fall than earlier projected, there may still be demand in December and perhaps after Jan. 1 for stocker cattle for wheat grazing; especially for producers looking at grazing out wheat due to low wheat prices. The cold, wet and muddy (flooded) conditions right now are creating nutritional and management headaches for stocker and cow-calf producers across the state and may impact the final couple of weeks of fall calf marketings in early December.
Is she good for another year?
by Glenn Selk, Oklahoma State University Emeritus Extension animal scientist
At cow culling time, producers often face some tough decisions. Optimum culling of the herd seems to require a sharp crystal ball that could see into the future. Will she keep enough body condition through the winter to rebreed next year? How old is the cow? Is her mouth sound so that she can harvest forage and be nutritionally strong enough to reproduce and raise a big calf? At what age do cows usually start to become less productive? Obviously there is no one set rule to determine when a cow is culled. Nonetheless, understanding “average trends” for cows can serve as guidelines and help cow calf producers cull the herd in a timely and effective manner.
There is great variability in the longevity of beef cows. Records kept by a large ranching operation in Florida in the 1980’s and published in the 33rd Annual Proceedings of the Beef Cattle Short Course by the University of Florida Animal Science Department, show how productivity changes over the life of the beef cows. These large data sets, (19500 cows, and 14000 cows in two separate years) compared the average percentage of cows determined to be pregnant based on their age in years.
This data would indicate that cows are consistent in the rebreeding performance through about 8 years of age. A small decline was noted as cows aged from 8 to 10 years of age. However, the most consistent decline in reproductive performance was noted after cows were 10 years of age. A steeper decline in reproductive performance was found as they became 12 years of age. In other words, start to watch for reasons to cull a cow at about age 8. By the time she is 10, look at her very closely and consider culling; as she reaches her 12th year, plan to cull her before she gets health problems or in very poor body condition.
“Cow/calf Corner” is a weekly newsletter edited by Dr. Glenn Selk, Extension cattle specialist emeritus at Oklahoma State University with contributions from additional OSU Extension specialists.