Oct. 12, 2020
Cattle slaughter dynamics
By Derrell S. Peel, Oklahoma State University Extension livestock marketing specialist
Cattle slaughter for the year-to-date through the week ending Sept. 26, 2020, was down 3.6% yearover year. This includes a 4.2% decrease in steer and heifer slaughter; a 1.2% decrease in total cow slaughter; and a 3.7% decrease in bull slaughter so far this year. Varying slaughter patterns across different cattle classes make it difficult to project where slaughter will end up as the year closes out.
The biggest component of cattle slaughter is steer slaughter, which is down 4.3 percent year over year through late September. Through March, prior to COVID-19 impacts, steer slaughter was up 5.1% year over year. By the end of May, the cumulative steer slaughter for the year to date was down 7.2% before slowly recovering through the summer and early fall. In the last eight weeks, steer slaughter in August and September has been up 2.2% year over year. Steer slaughter is projected to increase 3.0 – 3.5 year over year in the fourth quarter leading to an annual total down roughly 2.5% compared to last year.
In the first half of the year, cumulative heifer slaughter was down 5.1%. In the third quarter of the year, heifer slaughter was down 1.8% year over year leading to the current year-to-date decrease of 3.9% year over year. Heifer slaughter is projected to be down 2.0 – 2.5% year over year in the fourth quarter. This would result in an annual heifer slaughter total down roughly 3.5% compared to 2019.
Dairy cow slaughter has decreased sharply since June leading to a year to date decrease of 4.9% in late September. The year-over-year decrease in dairy cow slaughter since late May has been nearly 9%. The rate of decrease is expected to slow in the fourth quarter and may be down roughly 3%. Total annual dairy cow slaughter is expected to be down about 4.5 percent year over year.
Beef cow slaughter is up 2.7% for the year-to-date as of late September. At the end of the first quarter, cumulative beef cow slaughter was nearly 11% higher year over year. By the end of the second quarter, cumulative beef cow slaughter had decreased to roughly 3.5% higher than the previous year. The year-over-year increase slowed more in the third quarter with beef cow slaughter the past eight weeks unchanged from last year. Beef cow slaughter is projected to be roughly 2% above year-ago levels in the fourth quarter leading to an annual total beef cow slaughter roughly 2.5% higher year over year.
There are many dynamics in cattle slaughter markets in the fourth quarter that will determine total slaughter for the year. Current estimates are for total annual 2020 cattle slaughter to be down roughly 2.5% year over year. Carcass weights for steers and heifers are expected to be record large in 2020, with steer carcasses exceeding 900 pounds for the first time. Lower cattle slaughter and larger carcass weights are projected to result in total beef production close to unchanged from last year. Total 2020 commercial beef production is projected to be 27.1 – 27.3 billion pounds.
Estimating hay needs for the upcoming winter
By Glenn Selk, Oklahoma State University Emeritus Extension animal scientist
Each fall, cow-calf producers have that question lurking in the back of their mind: “Do we have enough hay stored to get through the winter?” Winter hay needs will vary dramatically from place to place. Drought areas will provide much less standing forage in pastures than those parts of Oklahoma that have had adequate moisture this fall. Hay feeding will start earlier and occur over more days where drought or snow-cover prevent cows from grazing standing forage.
Estimating forage usage by cows is an important part of the task of calculating winter feed needs. Hay or standing forage intake must be estimated in order to make the calculations. Forage quality will be a determining factor in the amount of forage consumed. Higher quality forages contain larger concentrations of important nutrients so animals consuming these forages should be more likely to meet their nutrient needs from the forages. Also, cows can consume a larger quantity of higher quality forages.
Higher quality forages are fermented more rapidly in the rumen leaving a void that the animal can re-fill with additional forage. Consequently, forage intake increases. For example, low quality forages (below about 6% crude protein) will be consumed at about 1.5% of body weight (on a dry matter basis) per day. Higher quality grass hays (above 8% crude protein) may be consumed at about 2.0% of body weight. Excellent forages, such as good alfalfa, silages, or green pasture may be consumed at the rate of 2.5% dry matter of body weight per day.
The combination of increased nutrient content AND increased forage intake makes high quality forage very valuable to the animal and the producer. With these intake estimates, now producers can calculate the estimated amounts of hay that need to be available.
Using an example of 1200 pound pregnant spring-calving cows, lets assume that the grass hay quality is good and tested 8% crude protein. Cows will voluntarily consume 2.0% of body weight or 24 pounds per day. The 24 pounds is based on 100% dry matter. Grass hays will often be 7 to 10% moisture. If we assume that the hay is 92% dry matter or 8% moisture, then the cows will consume about 26 pounds per day on an “as-fed basis”. Unfortunately, we must also consider hay wastage when feeding big round bales. Hay wastage is difficult to estimate, but generally has been found to be from 6% to 20% (or more). For this example, let’s assume 15% hay wastage. This means that approximately 30 pounds of grass hay must be hauled to the pasture for each pregnant cow each day that hay is expected to be the primary ingredient in the diet.
After calving and during early lactation, the cow may weigh 100 pounds less, but will be able to consume about 2.6% of her body weight (100% dry matter) in hay. This would translate into 36 pounds of “as-fed” hay per cow per day necessary to be hauled to the pasture. This again assumes 15% hay wastage. Accurate knowledge of average cow size in your herd as well as the average weight of your big round bales becomes necessary to predict hay needs and hay feeding strategies. Unless cool season grasses are available in March and April, lactating cows may need to be fed hay for 60 days or more to maintain body condition while waiting for Bermudagrass or native grasses to grow enough for grazing.
Big round hay bales will vary in weight. Diameter and length of the bale, density of the bale, type of hay, and moisture content all will greatly influence weight of the bale. Weighing a pickup or trailer with and without a bale may be the best method to estimate bale weights.