Feb. 1, 2021
Cattle inventories drift slightly lower
By Derrell S. Peel, Oklahoma State University Extension livestock marketing specialist
The inventory of all cattle and calves in the U.S. was 93.6 million head on Jan. 1, 2021, down fractionally from 93.8 million head one year ago. In the current cattle cycle, the all cattle inventory increased from a low of 88.2 million head in 2014 to a peak of 94.8 million head in 2019 and has declined a total of 1.% in the last two years.
The beef cow inventory was 31.16 million head on January 1, down 0.6 percent year over year. The inventory of beef replacement heifers was unchanged from last year at 5.81 million head. The number of beef replacement heifers expected to calve is estimated at 3.55 million head, up 1.3% from one year ago. Both the inventory of beef replacement heifers, at 18.7% of the beef cow herd, and the number of heifers calving are at a level that does not indicate either herd liquidation or expansion, though the levels could support limited herd expansion in the coming year. The number of dairy cows totaled 9.44 million head, up 1.1% year over year. Dairy replacement heifers totaled 4.61 million head, down 1.7% from one year ago. The 2020 calf crop was 35.14 million head, down 1.3% year over year.
The inventories of steers over 500 lbs. were down 0.8%; other heifers (not for beef or dairy replacements) were up 0.5% and the inventory of calves under 500 lbs. was down 0.8%. The total cattle on feed inventory was 14.71 million head, up 0.3% year over year. The sum of steers, other heifers and calves minus cattle on feed is the estimated feeder supply outside of feedlots as of Jan. 1, 2021. This total is 25.66 million head, down 0.2% compared to last year.
For the most part, Oklahoma countered the national trends. The total inventory of cattle and calves in the state was 5.30 million head, up 2.9% year over year. The beef cow inventory totaled 2.189 million head, up 3.8% from one year ago. Oklahoma is the number two state for beef cows behind Texas. Beef replacement heifers in Oklahoma totaled 410 thousand head, up 10.8% year over year and making Oklahoma the second ranked state for beef replacement heifers. The Oklahoma calf crop was 1.95 million head, 3.2% higher than one year ago. The estimated feeder supply in Oklahoma was calculated to be 2.135 million head, up 1.7% from last year.
The three southern plains states of Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas had a total estimated feeder supply of 7.245 million head, up 1.0% year over year. These three states account for 28.2% of the total feeder supply for the country. The three-state total number of cattle grazing small grains pasture in the southern plains was 1.73 million head, up 7.5% from one year ago.
Around the country, the most notable headline in the Cattle report was the 14.5% year-over-year decline in beef cows in Colorado along with a 16.1% decrease in beef replacement heifers in the state. The Colorado impacts highlight the severe drought conditions in the region and will be an important factor to watch in the coming weeks and months.
In general, U.S. cattle inventories show little direction and are more stable than anything. Market conditions, and perhaps drought, in the coming months will determine the direction of cattle numbers in 2021 and beyond.
The third stage of calving: Shedding of fetal membranes
By Glenn Selk, Oklahoma State University Emeritus Extension animal scientist
The process of “calving” or parturition in beef cattle is defined by three stages. Stage 1 occurs about four to 24 hours prior to calving. The major event during Stage 1 is the dilation of the cervix. Stage 2 occurs in about 30 minutes in adult cows and about one hour in first calf heifers (when all goes well) and is the time when the calf passes through the birth canal and is delivered into the world.
The third stage of calving is the shedding of the placenta or fetal membranes. In cattle this normally occurs in less than eight to 12 hours. The membranes are considered retained if after 12 hours they have not been shed. In some rare cases, the entire placenta is held in the uterus so there is no exposed portion. This condition may go unnoticed until the cow shows an abnormal uterine discharge or an odor characteristic of tissue degeneration.
The actual cause of a retained placenta is usually very difficult to pinpoint. Any time a cow calves prematurely, such as aborted fetus, delivering twins or triplets, induced calving, or premature delivery, the risk of a retained placenta is greatly increased. Vitamin and mineral deficiencies have also been linked to retained placentas. In dairy research, deficiencies of vitamins A and E have been implicated. Also, insufficient dietary intakes of the minerals selenium and copper have been suggested as causes of retained placentas. However, supplementation with any of the vitamins or minerals implicated has not been shown to completely eliminate the risk of a retained placenta.
Years ago it was considered necessary to remove the membranes by manually unbuttoning the attachments. However, research has shown that improper manual removal can be detrimental to uterine health and future conception rates. Therefore, manually pulling on the retained placenta is strongly discouraged. When a cow-calf operator notices a cow that “did not clean” in 12 hours after calving, close observation is suggested. If the cow shows any signs of ill health, such as droopy ears, lethargic behavior, or poor appetite, this may indicate that an infection of the uterus has begun. Contact your local large animal veterinarian for the proper management of the retained placenta. Prescribed administration of antibiotics usually will help against infection. Remember to follow the label recommended withdrawal date before marketing any cows that were treated with antibiotics.
More information about working with cows and heifers at calving time can be found at the Oklahoma State University Extension publication E-1006 “Calving Time Management for Beef Cows and Heifers”.