Feb. 8, 2016
More feeder cattle…but where are they?
by Derrell S. Peel, Oklahoma State University Extension livestock marketing specialist
The annual cattle report estimated that total cattle inventories in the U.S. were up 3.2 percent year over year at 92.0 million head. From various inventories categories we can calculate an estimated supply of feeder cattle outside of feedlots. For Jan. 1, 2016, this estimate is 25.9 million head, up 5.3 percent from one year ago. This is a 1.31 million head increase in the estimated feeder supply. This compares to the 2.3 percent year over year increase in the 2015 calf crop, up 780 thousand head. The ratio of the estimated feeder supply to the 2015 calf crop is 75.5 percent, up slightly from last year and indicates some increase in carryover of feeder cattle from 2015 into 2016. That leads to the question of where those cattle are.
In general, the states that typically have large feeder supplies on Jan. 1 got bigger with these numbers. The exception was Texas, which has the largest estimated feeder supply among states but was down 3.4 percent on Jan. 1, from one year ago. Other major feeder supply states, in rank order including Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, Missouri, California, Iowa and South Dakota all have more than one million head of feeders and all increased from 2015 levels. Increased feeder supplies in those states accounted for 59 percent of the total increase in U.S. feeder supplies. Feeder supplies were also up significantly in Colorado, Kentucky and Tennessee.
A bit of a surprise was the sharp increase in feeder supplies in Montana, typically a state with little carryover of feeder cattle through the winter. The estimated feeder supply in Montana was up 139 thousand head, resulting in the highest feeder supply in the state since 2010. The ratio of feeder supply to calf crop in Montana, which has averaged 32 percent the last ten years, is estimated at 37.2 percent for 2016. Additionally, Montana, which typically has a small cattle on feed inventory, posted a 75 percent year over year increase in cattle on feed to the highest level since 2004. Similarly, South Dakota, the seventh largest cattle feeding state, posted the highest Jan. 1 on feed total in data back to 1965. Missouri, though a small feedlot state, also posted the highest on-feed total since 2000.
In summary, the biggest increases in feeder supplies were in the Plains states from South Dakota south through Oklahoma plus Colorado and Iowa. Kentucky and Tennessee also had sharp increases in Jan. 1 estimated feeder supplies. Kansas stands out with notable increases in both feedlot inventory and estimated feeder supplies. For several months there has been concern that reduced feedlot placements was resulting in a buildup of feeder supplies in the country. The estimated feeder supplies do indicate some increase in carryover feeder cattle from 2015. Most of these are in places that often have large supplies of stocker or backgrounding cattle but also higher feeder and/or feedlot inventories in less typical places, such as Montana.
The question of how many of those carryover feeder cattle are big feeders that will need to be marketed soon in 2016 is less clear. The Jan. 1 inventory of steers over 500 pounds was up 4.4 percent. However, that total includes the Jan. 1 inventory of steers on feed which was up 3.1 percent. Feedlot placements of cattle over 800 pounds has been up has been up 6.2 percent the last four months despite overall feedlot placements being down 4.7 percent over the period, compared to a year earlier. The implication is that many of the big steers are already in feedlots. The 2016 estimated feeder supply included a Jan. 1 inventory of calves under 500 pounds that was up 3.3 percent year over year. The overall implication is that, while there are more feeder cattle on the ground in 2016, it does not appear that immediately available supplies of heavy feeder cattle are likely to be especially burdensome to feeder markets.
Three keys to planning the spring breeding season
by Glenn Selk, Oklahoma State University Emeritus Extension animal scientist
Three key management concepts can help commercial cow calf operations improve the productivity of their cow herds. However, planning and preparation must take place well in advance of the spring breeding season. The key areas to consider include: 1) assess the bull power; 2) immunize the replacement heifers properly; and 3) breed the replacement heifers ahead of the cows.
Lets examine each one briefly in more detail.
Do you have enough bulls to meet the needs of the cow herd? Very young, 12-month to 15-month old bulls should be placed with 10 – 15 females. Two year-old bulls can be placed with 18 – 24 females and experienced bulls should be able to breed 25 – 30 females or even a few more if in small breeding pastures. Have the bulls recently passed a breeding soundness examination? Arrange with your veterinarian a time to check the bulls for breeding soundness. Research has indicated that one of every six bulls will be questionable or unsatisfactory upon examination. It is important to find sub-fertile bulls in plenty of time to allow for the replacement bulls to be located and purchased for the upcoming breeding season. New bulls should be brought to their new environment about a month prior to breeding. This gives them an opportunity to become adapted to their new environment before the critical start of a breeding season.
Immunize the heifers:
Yearling replacement heifers should be immunized for respiratory diseases such as infectious bovine rhinotracheitis (IBR) and bovine viral diarrhea (BVD). Discuss with your veterinarian the type and the timing of the vaccinations. If you choose to give the heifers a modified live vaccine for long-lasting protection against these viruses, heifers should receive this vaccination at least one month before the start of the breeding season. This would also be good time to include other reproductive disease protection that may be recommended by your veterinarian. Examples of other diseases that should be considered include leptospirosis and campylobacter (sometimes called vibriosis).
Breed the heifers ahead of the mature cows:
Yearling replacement heifers should be mated with bulls or bred artificially about 3 weeks to a month before the start of the breeding season for the mature cows. Breeding the heifers early is important for two reasons. Two-year old first calf cows normally take longer to return to heat cycles after calving than do older cows. Therefore, if they calve early, then when they rebreed they are in synchrony with the rest of the cows in the herd as they deliver their second calf. In addition, the manager can watch the heifers more closely early in the calving season and give them additional attention as they are the females most likely to need assistance at calving time.
Naturally, there are other health, nutritional, and management chores that must be attended to during the time prior to breeding, but using these three concepts would aid greatly in improving the productivity of many Oklahoma commercial cow calf herds.
“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.
Feb. 8, 2016