Nov. 2, 2015
Oklahoma conditions improving
by Derrell S. Peel, Oklahoma State University Extension livestock marketing specialist
Drought conditions, which advanced sharply in the late summer and fall, have decreased significantly with recent rains in Oklahoma. The latest Drought Monitor, dated Oct. 27, showed only 2.79 percent of Oklahoma with drought rated at D2 and zero in D3 and D4, the worst drought categories. This was a significant improvement from the week prior.
Despite rains in other parts of the state, the north central region of the state, an important wheat production area, had gone nearly 50 consecutive days with less than one quarter inch of precipitation. This region received up to an inch of rain as part of statewide rain coverage late last week. Additional improvement in the reported drought conditions are expected this week. Last week’s crop progress report showed that 85 percent of Oklahoma wheat was planted with 62 percent emerged. Both of those figures are slightly lower than the five-year average for that date. Recent rains will result in rapid wheat development and some wheat will be ready for grazing soon.
In the final report for the growing season, Oklahoma range and pasture conditions are rated about average for this time of year compared to non-drought years; with 78 percent of pasture rated fair to excellent. In many cases, pastures still have some green and quality is good. Estimated 2015 total hay supplies in Oklahoma are 7.3 million tons, the third largest annual hay supply ever for the state, and the largest since 2007. It appears that Oklahoma is in good shape with respect to feed and forage supplies and is ready for winter.
Feeder and fed cattle markets are still recovering from the heavy weight market purge in October. Steer slaughter for the past four weeks is up nearly 8 percent from the same period one year ago, suggesting progress in cleaning up heavy weight fed cattle. However, carcass weights have not yet confirmed a peak and the latest steer carcass weights are another record at 930 pounds.
In Oklahoma, prices for feeder steers under 600 pounds have recovered 9 to 10 percent from the early October lows. Calf and stocker prices in November will be a balance between supply and demand conditions. On the demand side, additional general cattle market recovery is likely with stronger feedlot demand to replace inventories possible and stocker demand likely will be boosted by better wheat pasture conditions. Seasonally, the fall run of calves typically adds supply pressure to feeder markets. October auction market totals in Oklahoma were down 5.3 percent year over year, which may indicate that some feeder marketings were delayed during the market slump. Replacement heifer demand is an unknown that may temper seasonal feeder supplies. This complex set of supply and demand factors make it very challenging to anticipate feeder prices in the coming weeks. On balance, I would give slightly better odds for steady to somewhat higher prices through November but the downside risk remains.
Mineral program for cows on wheat pasture
by Glenn Selk, Oklahoma State University Emeritus Extension animal scientist
Some Oklahoma cow calf producers will use wheat pasture as a major source of winter feed for beef cows. If wheat pasture is the predominant feed in the diet of mature beef cows, providing an appropriate “wheat pasture” mineral mix will be helpful in preventing grass tetany at, or after the calving season begins.
Grass tetany, caused by magnesium deficiency does not seem to be a major problem in Oklahoma although occasional cases are reported. It typically occurs in beef cows during early lactation and is more prevalent in older cows. The reason is thought to be that older cows are less able to mobilize magnesium reserves from the bones than are younger cows. Grass tetany most frequently occurs when cattle are grazing lush immature grasses or small grains pastures and tends to be more prevalent during periods of cloudy weather. Symptoms include incoordination, salivation, excitability (aggressive behavior towards humans) and, in final stages, tetany, convulsions and death.
It is known that factors other than simply the magnesium content of the forage can increase the probability of grass tetany. High levels of potassium in forages can decrease absorption of magnesium and most lush, immature forages are high in potassium. High levels of nitrogen fertilization have also been shown to increase the incidence of tetany although feeding protein supplements has not. Other factors such as the presence of certain organic acids in tetany-causing forages have been linked with tetany. It is likely that a combination of factors, all related to characteristics of lush forage are involved.
When conditions for occurrence of tetany are suspected, cows should be provided mineral mixes containing 12 to 15 percent magnesium and be consumed at 3 to 4 ounces per day. It is best for the mineral supplements to be started a couple of months ahead of the period of tetany danger so that proper intake can be established. Because tetany can also occur when calcium is low, calcium supplementation (7 percent) should also be included. Symptoms of tetany from deficiencies of both minerals are indistinguishable without blood tests and the treatment consists of intravenous injections of calcium and magnesium gluconate, which supplies both minerals.
Cows grazing lush small grain pastures should be fed mineral mixes containing both calcium and magnesium. More information about mineral supplementation for grazing cattle can be found in the Oklahoma State University Extension Circular E-861, Vitamin and Mineral Nutrition of Grazing Cattle.
“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.