Dec. 21, 2020
Cattle numbers will be supportive in 2021
By Derrell S. Peel, Oklahoma State University Extension livestock marketing specialist
The December Cattle on Feed report showed that we are back where we started one year ago with Dec. 1 feedlot inventories just equal to last year. November placements were down 8.9% from one year ago. November marketings were 98% of last year. The report was well anticipated with no surprises, though the low placements in this report will likely be viewed as mildly bullish.
Feedlot dynamics have made it a challenge to determine exactly what is going on in fed cattle markets. Monthly feedlot placements have varied from 23% down year over year in March to 11% higher year over year in July, to 11% below one year ago in October. For the January to November period, total placements are down 4.4% year over year. In the last six months, which would include the majority of current feedlot inventories, placements are 0.5% above the same period last year.
Feedlot marketings have been likewise very volatile this year with monthly marketings varying from 13% above last year in March to 27% below last year in May and back to 6% higher year over year in September. For the year to date through November, total marketings are down 3.1% year over year. In the last six months, feedlot marketings are just fractionally higher than the same period last year.
Flows of cattle through feedlots should begin to show more consistent tightening in 2021. The beef cowherd was at a peak in January 2019 and led to a 2019 calf crop that was down 0.7% from the 2018 peak calf crop. The estimated feeder cattle supply on Jan. 1, 2020, was down 0.4% from 2019 levels. The estimated 2020 calf crop in the July Cattle report is down another 0.7% from 2019. The July estimate of feeder cattle supplies was up slightly but was likely pushed higher due to the intra-year dynamics of feedlot placements. Current estimates suggest that the total calf crop in 2020 is 513,000 head smaller than the peak in 2018.
Herd dynamics can also impact short term cattle slaughter and beef production. Herd liquidation will maintain higher slaughter rates for a time, even as cattle numbers are declining. Total female slaughter (heifers plus cows) is an aggregate indication of herd dynamics. For example, in 2016, active herd expansion resulted in female slaughter of 43.6%, the lowest level since 1973. By 2019, female slaughter was at 49.1% of total slaughter reflected as a 1.0% liquidation of cows as of Jan. 1, 2020.
So far in 2020, weekly average female slaughter percentage has equaled last year suggesting modest additional herd liquidation. Year-to-date heifer slaughter is down 3.7% year-over-year and total cow slaughter is down 1.3%, with dairy cow slaughter down 5.3% and beef cow slaughter up 2.7% so far this year.
Total cattle slaughter is down 2.8% thus far in 2020 and is expected to decline again in 2021. With herd inventories continuing to drift lower, total cattle numbers should be generally supportive of cattle prices in 2021.
Prepare a “calving kit” before spring calving season begins
By Glenn Selk, Oklahoma State University Emeritus Extension animal scientist
Before the hustle and bustle of the spring calving season, now is a good time to put together the supplies and equipment that will be needed to assist heifers and cows that need help at calving time.
Hopefully someone in the operation has already done a “walk-through” of pens, chutes, and calving stalls. Make sure that all are clean dry, strong, safe, and functioning correctly. This is a lot easier to do on a sunny afternoon than a dark night when you need them.
Protocol: Before calving season starts develop a plan of what to do, when to do it, who to call for help (along with phone numbers), and how to know when you need help. Make sure all family members or helpers are familiar with the plan. It may help to write it out and post copies in convenient places. Talk to your local veterinarian about your protocol and incorporate his/her suggestions. Below is an example of a “Calving Protocol” that could be laminated and hung in the barn or calving shed.
Note: This is just an example. You may wish to include other important steps in the protocol. Encourage everyone that will be watching and helping cows and heifers this calving season to read Oklahoma State University Extension Circular E-1006, “Calving Time Management for Beef Cows and Heifers”.
Lubrication: Many lubricants have been used and one of the best lubricants is probably the simplest — non detergent dish soap and warm water.
Supplies: The stockmen should always have in their medicine chest the following — disposable obstetrical sleeves, non- irritant antiseptic, lubricant, obstetrical chains (60 inch and/or two 30 inch chains), two obstetrical handles, mechanical calf pullers. Also have a tincture of iodine solution that can be used to treat navels of newborns shortly after birth. Don’t forget the simple things like a good flashlight and extra batteries and some old towels or a roll of paper towels.
It may be helpful for you to have all these things and other items you may want to include packed into a 5 gallon bucket to make up a “calving kit” so you can grab everything at once. Place that bucket in a location that can be found and reached by everyone in the operation.
Who to call:
Countryside Large Animal Clinic 400-123-1234
Dr. Jones cell phone 400-321-4321
Dad’s cell phone 400-999-0000
Billy Ray’s cell phone 400-777-1111
Watch heifers 1 hour after water bag or baby calf feet appear
Watch cows 30 min after water bag or baby calf feet appear
Find calving kit on North wall of calving barn
Use plenty of lube or soap and water
Determine that cervix is dilated and calf is coming head and both front feet first. Call for help if something is unusual.
Don’t pull until cervix is completely dilated
Apply ¼ turn as hips go through pelvic bone
Backwards calf must be delivered within 4 minutes after calf’s tail appears
Briskly tickle nostril of calf with stiff straw to start breathing
Clean chains and handles and replace calving kit
Just how do Santa’s reindeer get the job done?
Glenn Selk, Oklahoma State University Emeritus Extension Animal Scientist
Have you ever wondered how Santa’s reindeer can make that monumental journey on Christmas Eve? Let’s look into some key facts about reindeer that may help us understand how they get Ole St. Nick on his appointed rounds over the world.
First of all, historians report that reindeer have been domesticated by humans for over 5000 years. Since Santa himself is no spring chicken, we can assume that they have worked together for quite awhile. They should not have any trouble finding their way around. There is no need to worry about them getting lost.
We do know that reindeer are ruminants. They are like cattle in this regard. They have four compartments to their stomach. Of course Santa gets them filled up with hay and moss before he leaves the North Pole, so they should have plenty of feed stored in the four compartments to make it all around the globe. Also, cattle nutritionists have known for years that hay digests more slowly than grain, therefore the big meal that the reindeer eat before the journey should last even longer. Or just like your mom says “It’ll stick to their ribs!”
As for drinking water that should be no problem whatsoever. In their homeland the water is all frozen so they are used to getting the moisture they need by eating snow. So as the sleigh is parked on snowy rooftops in cold weather cities, the reindeer can take on the moisture they need if they get thirsty.
How do they keep warm while flying around on Christmas Eve? The reindeer coat is made of two layers; an outer layer of bristles and an inner layer of dense fur. The fur that they have is very thick and can hold a lot of air. The “blanket” of insulation combining fur and air helps keep them warm in even the coldest of climates. Plus flying around Christmas night in many areas of the world that are warmer than they have at home should not be a problem.
How do they fly? Well that’s a tougher question, but let’s look at what we do know about them. Reindeer are amazingly fast runners on the ground. University of Alaska researchers report that a newborn baby reindeer at one day of age can out run the fastest graduate student. By the time that they are fully grown it is hard to tell what speeds that they could reach.
Next remember those huge antlers. Antlers of adult male reindeer can be as much as 4 feet long! Just think about it. Each reindeer has two sets; that’s eight feet of antlers and with eight reindeer, or nine, if we count Rudolph on foggy nights, that is 64 to 72 feet of total antler span. A typical small Cessna airplane only has about 36 feet of wingspan. Certainly it seems feasible those eight reindeer running that fast with all that antler span could get off the ground.
There are a couple of myths about reindeer that we should clear up. You have probably heard the poem that says that they have tiny reindeer feet. Actually they have a very wide large hoof that they use at home to dig through the snow to find grass and moss to eat. You’ve got to think that those wide hooves would come in handy for sliding to rather sudden stops on the small landing sites that Santa has to work with on Christmas Eve.
And you’ve probably heard the song about “up on the house top click, click, click.” Well it is true that reindeer do make a clicking sound as they walk. They have a tendon that snaps over a bone joint and makes a clicking sound on every step.
These are just a few facts about Santa’s Reindeer. Maybe this will help us understand that age-old mystery that occurs every Christmas Eve. Therefore, I am going to go to bed early tonight so that Santa will stop at our house once again!
Merry Christmas to all.