Nov. 6, 2017
Ample forage supporting Oklahoma cattle production
by Derrell S. Peel, Oklahoma State University Extension livestock marketing specialist
Despite lagging wheat planting and slow wheat pasture development thus far, forage conditions in Oklahoma are generally very good. In the last week of October, 83 percent of Oklahoma wheat acres were planted compared to a five-year average of 91 percent for this date. Wheat emergence was reported at 70 percent compared to 75 percent in the five-year average. However, wheat condition was reported at 47 percent good to excellent and another 46 percent fair. Seven percent of Oklahoma wheat was rated poor or very poor. Though little wheat is currently being grazing, wheat pasture will likely develop fairly quickly from this point.
The end of October brings the final estimates of range and pasture conditions for the season. Oklahoma pasture conditions were rated at 46 percent good to excellent, equal to one year ago, with 44 percent rated fair, up from 38 percent last year. Only ten percent of pastures were rated poor or very poor compared to 16 percent one year ago at this time. This year it’s quite common to see cows “belly-deep” in pasture at the end of the growing season. Abundant standing forage in pastures may help producers reduce hay needs and moderate cow costs this winter.
Unusually favorable growing conditions in the late summer and fall period boosted forage quantities and maintained quality above average. USDA-NASS increased Oklahoma hay production estimates in October significantly from the initial estimates in August. Other hay production was revised up by nearly 18 percent from the August estimates leading to a 2017 other hay production estimate of 5.0 million tons, down less than one percent from the 2016 level. Alfalfa hay production was increased by three percent over the August estimate to a 2017 total of 1.122 million tons, 40.6 percent higher than 2016. Combined 2017 alfalfa and other hay production in Oklahoma is now projected to be up 4.9 percent from 2016 levels. Combined with slightly higher May 1 hay stocks, total Oklahoma hay supplies for the 2017/2018 winter feeding season are up 4.6 percent compared to last winter.
Ample pasture and hay supplies are allowing flexibility for Oklahoma cattle producers. Anecdotal reports suggest that some calf weaning and marketing has been delayed because of the abundance of fall forage. However, combined Oklahoma feeder auction volumes for the past eight weeks have averaged 7.5 percent above last year. It does not appear there is any significant delay in calf marketings this fall. Despite the lack of wheat pasture, there are also indications that some stocker producers have “stockpiled” stockers on other forages until the wheat pasture is ready. The demand for stockers has held calf prices to limited seasonal declines before increasing this past week. After last week’s jump, Oklahoma calf prices are at the highest levels since June while heavy feeder cattle prices are at the highest levels since the end of 2015.
Body condition score at calving is the key to young cow success
by Glenn Selk, Oklahoma State University Emeritus Extension animal scientist
Most areas of Oklahoma have had adequate summer forage to allow pregnant replacement heifers to be in excellent body condition going into late fall and winter. Now producers are faced with the challenge of maintaining body condition on the replacement heifers through the calving season and into next spring. As the title of this article suggests, body condition score at calving is the key to success. Body condition (or amount of fatness) is evaluated by a scoring system that ranges from 1 (severely emaciated) to 9 (very obese). Examples of heifers too thin (BCS = 3) and good condition (BCS = 6) are pictured below.
Research data sets have shown conclusively that young cows that calve in thin body condition but regain weight and condition going into the breeding season do NOT rebreed at the same rate as those that calve in good condition and maintain that condition into the breeding season. The following table from Missouri researchers illustrates the number of days between calving to the return to heat cycles depending on body condition at calving and body condition change after calving.
Predicted number of days (d) from calving to first heat as affected by body condition score at calving and body condition score change after calving in first calf 2year-old beef cows. (Body condition score scale: 1 = emaciated; 9 = obese) Source: Lalman, et al. 1997
|Body Condition Score Change in 90 Days After Calving|
|BCS = 3||189 d||173 d||160 d||150 d||143 d||139 d||139 d|
|BCS = 4||161 d||145 d||131 d||121 d||115 d||111 d||111 d|
|BCS = 5||133 d||116 d||103 d||93 d||86 d||83 d||82 d|
|BCS = 5.5||118 d||102 d||89 d||79 d||72 d||69 d||66 d|
Notice that none of the averages for cows that calved in thin body condition were recycling in time to maintain a 12-month calving interval. Cows must be rebred by 85 days after calving to calve again at the same time next year. This data clearly points out that young cows that calve in thin body condition (BCS=3 or 4) cannot gain enough body condition after calving to achieve the same rebreeding performance as two-year-old cows that calve in moderate body condition (BCS = 5.5) and maintain or lose only a slight amount of condition.
The moral of the story is young cows must be in good (BCS = 5.5 or better) body condition at calving time to achieve acceptable rebreeding performance. These data illustrate the reason why many producers choose to breed yearling replacement heifers 3 to 4 weeks ahead of the mature cows, thus allowing them a better chance to rebreed on time for the next calf crop.
Make certain that the supplement program is adequate for your young cows to be in good body condition this spring. Now is the time of fall/winter where adjustments to body condition can be made more easily before harsh winter weather increases energy requirements on cattle.
Cow-Calf Corner is a newsletter from the Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Agency.