Sept. 23, 2019
A peak in feedlot inventories?
By Derrell S. Peel, Oklahoma State University Extension livestock marketing specialist
USDA reported Sept. 1 feedlot inventories at 10.98 million head, down 1.3 percent from one year ago. This is the first year over year decrease in monthly cattle on feed totals in 33 months, since December 2016. A larger than expected decrease in August placements, 91.0 percent of one year ago, pulled feedlot totals lower than expected. August placements dropped sharply partly in response to the market shocks resulting from the Tyson Finney County plant fire on Aug. 9, 2019. August marketings were as expected at 98.5 percent of last year. August had one less business day compared to 2018.
The September Cattle on Feed report highlights some regional differences in the current feedlot situation among the four largest feeding states. The September on-feed inventory in Texas was 101.9 percent of year earlier levels at 2.73 million head; with August placements up 4.8 percent year over year. Kansas had a Sept. 1 feedlot inventory 93 percent of one year ago at 2.34 million head; with August placements 85 percent of year earlier levels. Nebraska showed a September 1 on-feed inventory of 2.16 million head, 101 percent of last year; with August placements down 7.3 percent year over year. Colorado had 0.93 million head of feedlot cattle as of Sept. 1, 103.3 percent of last year with August placements 83 percent of year earlier levels.
Feedlot placements were down for the fourth consecutive month in August and total placements the last six months, capturing the bulk of current cattle on feed, are down 0.8 percent year over year. Meanwhile, monthly marketings for the past six months are up 1.0 percent year over year. Feedlots have continued to market cattle timely and maintain currentness.
Does this imply that monthly feedlot inventories have peaked cyclically? Probably not quite yet. The short term disruption of the plant fire in August and early September likely delayed some feedlot placements and a larger 2018 calf crop and generally good forage conditions in 2019 likely means that significant numbers of yearlings are still to be marketed in the fourth quarter. The estimated 2019 calf crop is equal to 2018 levels meaning that plenty of new-crop calves will be marketed this fall with feeder supplies ample through 2020. It will likely be a few more months before we will see sustained year over year decreases in feedlot inventories.
Feeder cattle prices in Oklahoma improved last week with nearby feeder futures rallying to fill the August down gap. The supportive cattle on feed report and growing demand for wheat stockers will likely add further market support in the near term, at least until larger runs of calves and yearlings show up in October. USDA-NASS reported seven percent of Oklahoma wheat planted as of Aug. 16. I have noticed numerous wheat fields emerged in the past week. Some wheat pasture will no doubt be ready for grazing by Nov. 1.
Mineral feeding can reduce the risk of grass tetany next spring
By Glenn Selk, Oklahoma State University Emeritus Extension animal scientist
Much of Oklahoma and the Southern Plains should have wheat pasture to utilize as winter feed for stocker cattle, replacement heifers, and in some cases for adult cows. At, and after calving time next January, February, and March “grass tetany” could occur in a few situations. Planning ahead now could reduce the risk of grass tetany during the spring calving season.
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 older cows are thought to be vulnerable is due to the fact that they 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 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 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. Learn more about mineral nutrition of grazing cattle by downloading and reading the Oklahoma State University Extension Circular E-861 Vitamin and Mineral Nutrition of Grazing Cattle.