Aug. 14, 2017
Cool, wet August improves fall grazing prospects
by Derrell S. Peel, Oklahoma State University Extension livestock market specialist
Temperatures in Oklahoma have been unseasonably cool in the first half of the month. Temperatures are forecast to be higher late in the month but will still likely remain at or below seasonal levels. Most of Oklahoma has gotten significant rain in the past ten days, generally ranging from 1.5 inches to over 7.0 inches. More rain is likely in the next week or two.
This type of late-summer moisture provides several opportunities for enhanced fall grazing. Warm-season introduced pastures, such as Bermuda, will get a boost from this moisture. Producers should consider a late-summer/fall fertilizer application to enhance forage growth and quality. This will allow a stockpile of grazing for the fall and early winter. This forage, perhaps combined with cool-season introduced pasture, such as Fescue, can significantly extend grazing thereby reducing hay use and reducing feed cost. Native ranges should also get a boost from recent rains to add to forage stocks for the fall.
Producers thinking about grazing wheat will no doubt be anticipating the enhanced fall potential that comes with the current weather. Good moisture conditions and cool soil temperatures may allow wheat planting about as early as producers might desire. With other forage already available, producers may already be thinking about when to purchase fall stockers. An early start implies the potential for a longer than usual fall/winter grazing period. This may impact several stocker considerations including purchase weight, quality of animal, gender and the potential for two sets of stockers between now and next March or May.
Enhanced fall forage may provide some additional marketing alternatives for cow-calf producers.
Good forage may allow the possibility of pushing weaning a bit later than usual or retaining calves post-weaning to add weight. At the current time, the value of additional weight tends to be about $1.00 per pound of gain or higher. The value of gain depends on the beginning weight and the amount of weight added. For example, average Oklahoma prices for the last three weeks result in a value of gain for 475 pound steers of $0.91/pound for 100 pounds of gain based on beginning price of $175.18/cwt. and a price of $160.45/cwt for 575 pound steers*. However, starting with the 575 pound steers and adding 100 pounds results in a value of gain of $1.33/pound based on a price of $156.29 for 675 pound steers**. Calf prices will likely decline seasonally into the fall and prices by weight may adjust so producers should reevaluate the value of adding weight to calves closer to weaning time.
*[(5.75 x $160.45) – (4.75 x $175.18)]/100 = $0.91/pound of gain
**[(6.75 x $156.29) – (5.75 x $160.45)]/100 = $1.33/pound of gain
Preg check and cull open replacement heifers
by Glenn Selk, Oklahoma State University Emeritus Extension animal scientist
Many Oklahoma ranchers choose to breed the replacement heifers about a month ahead of the mature cows in the herd. In addition, they like to use a shortened 30 to 60-day breeding season for the replacement heifers. The next logical step is to determine which of these heifers failed to conceive in their first breeding season. This is more important today than ever before.
The bulls were removed from the replacement heifers about 60 days ago, therefore, this would be an ideal time to call and make arrangements with your local large animal veterinarian to have those heifers evaluated for pregnancy. After two months of gestation, experienced palpaters should have no difficulty identifying which heifers are pregnant and which heifers are not pregnant (open). Those heifers that are determined to be “open” after this breeding season, should be strong candidates for culling. Culling these heifers immediately after pregnancy checking serves three very economically valuable purposes.
- Identifying and culling open heifers early will remove sub-fertile females from the herd. Lifetime cow studies from Montana indicated that properly developed heifers that were exposed to fertile bulls, but DID NOT become pregnant were often sub-fertile compared to the heifers that did conceive. In fact, when the heifers that failed to breed in the first breeding season were followed throughout their lifetimes, they averaged a 55 percent yearly calf crop. Despite the fact that reproduction is not a highly heritable trait, it also makes sense to remove this genetic material from the herd so as to not proliferate females that are difficult to get bred.
- Culling open heifers early will reduce summer forage and winter costs. If the rancher waits until next spring to find out which heifers do not calve, the pasture use and winter feed expense will still be lost and there will be no calf to eventually help pay the bills. This is money that can better be spent in properly feeding cows that are pregnant and will be producing a salable product the following fall.
- Identifying the open heifers shortly after (60 days) the breeding season is over will allow for marketing the heifers while still young enough to go to a feedlot and be fed for the choice beef market. “B” maturity carcasses (those estimated to be 30 months of age or older) are very unlikely to be graded Choice and cannot be graded Select. In addition, they may not be eligible for some international beef markets. As a result, the heifers that are close to two years of age will suffer a price discount. If we wait until next spring to identify which two year-olds did not get bred, then we will be culling a female that will be marketed at a noticeable discount compared to the price/pound that she would have brought this summer as a much younger animal. In today’s market an 850 pound non-pregnant heifer will bring about $1.30/lb. or $1105 per head. If current prices hold, next spring a two-year old 1000 pound open cow may bring $0.90/lb. or $900 per head. This calculates to a $205 per head loss plus the expense of keeping her through the winter.
Certainly the percentage of open heifers will vary from ranch to ranch. Do not be overly concerned, if after a good heifer development program and adequate breeding season, that you find that 10 percent of the heifers still are not bred. Resist the temptation to keep these open heifers and “roll them over” to a fall-calving herd. These are the very heifers that you want to identify early and remove from the herd. It just makes good economic business sense to identify and cull non-pregnant replacement heifers as soon as possible.
Cow-Calf Corner is a newsletter from the Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Agency.