Cow-Calf Corner is a weekly newsletter by the Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Agency
Oct. 26, 2020
Early winter storm and cattle on feed
By Derrell S. Peel, Oklahoma State University Extension livestock marketing specialist
A large winter storm is advancing across the central U.S. bringing cold temperatures and some much-needed moisture. Oklahoma is expected to see a first freeze and precipitation ranging from rain to freezing rain to ice to snow though mid-week. Farther north and west, snow and cold are blanketing much of the Rocky Mountain and plains regions. Fluctuating temperatures and cold, wet conditions add additional stress and health challenges for cattle, particularly for weaning calves and receiving stockers and feedlot cattle.
Feedlots continued to build inventories in September leading to a record feedlot total for Octo. 1, according to the latest USDA Cattle on Feed report. September placements were 105.9% of last year, larger than expected and higher year over year for a third straight month. Feedlot marketings in September were 106.2% of last year, slightly larger than expected. There was one more business day in September and daily average marketing were about one percent above last year. The Oct. 1 feedlot total was 11.72 million head, 103.8% of last year and a record large October total for the data series back to 1996.
From July to September, the three-month total feedlot placements were up 8.5% year over year. In Kansas, placements were up 17.0% for the three months, leading to an Oct. 1 inventory up 7% year over year. Nebraska placed 14.5% more cattle the past three months bringing the state feedlot inventory up 6% compared to Oct. 1 last year. Colorado placed 9.3% more cattle from July to September resulting in an Oct. 1 feedlot total up 12% year over year. Texas placements were up 2% since July with an on-feed total up three percent on Oct. 1. Iowa has placed 1.9% less than last year in the past three months and has a feedlot inventory down 5% compared to one year ago. Oklahoma has placed 13.4% more in feedlots since July and has a total Oct. 1 feedlot inventory equal to last year.
The winter storm this week will provide a significant management and production challenge for feedlot cattle. This follows excellent feeding conditions for much of this year. The Kansas Focus on Feedlots data shows that feedlot average daily gains have been above year ago levels all year with improved feed conversions as well. Improved gains and feed efficiency have pulled feedlot cost of gain below year-ago levels.
Excellent feedlot performance has contributed to heavy cattle weights thus far this year. The latest weekly data on steer carcass weights are at 928 pounds, up 27 pounds year over year. Heifer carcass weights are at 846 pounds, 17 pounds above this time one year ago.
Carcass weights should reach a seasonal peak in late October or early November and may match or exceed previous record levels. Steer carcass weights reached a record 930 pounds the week of Oct. 17, 2015. Year-to-date average steer carcass weights are well above the previous record level in 2015 and will no doubt reach a new record level in 2020, above 900 pounds for the first time.
Maintain body condition between calving and the breeding season
By Glenn Selk, Oklahoma State University Emeritus Extension animal scientist
One of the advantages for fall-calving is the body condition of the cows at calving time. After coming off good summer grasses, the cows were mostly in good body condition (body condition scores of five and six) and many had adequate quantities of standing warm season forages available to them.
Body condition score at calving is the single most important trait determining when a cow resumes heat cycles and therefore when she is likely to re-conceive for the next calf crop. However, it is also very important to avoid condition loss between calving and the breeding season to maintain excellent rebreeding performance. Fall-calving cows normally are in good body condition when they calve in September and October. Body condition changes from the time the cow calves until she begins the breeding season can also play a significant role in the rebreeding success story. This appears to be most important to those cows that calve in the marginal condition score range of four or five.
A two-year Oklahoma State University study shows the impact of losing body condition in the period from calving to the start of the breeding season. This study was conducted with spring-calving cows, but the “lesson-learned” applies to fall calving cows as well. 75 cows in year one and 70 cows in year two were randomly allotted to LOSE body condition from calving (beginning Feb. 11) until mid-April or MAINTAIN body condition during the same time frame. Cows were exposed to fertile bulls for 90 days each year starting May 1. Pregnancy rate was determined at 70 days after the breeding season.
Cows that were fed to maintain body condition from calving until the beginning of the breeding season averaged 94% pregnant, while those that calved in similar body condition but lost nearly one full condition score were 73% rebred.
The body condition that was maintained throughout late pregnancy until calving time must be maintained until rebreeding to accomplish high rebreeding rates.
By studying the nutrient requirement tables for lactating beef cows, we can learn that an 1100 pound cow needs about 2.5 pounds of crude protein per day. (Download and read OSU Circular E-974 “Nutrient Requirements of Beef Cattle”) She should receive approximately one pound of protein from the standing grass and/or grass hay she consumes free choice. Therefore, we need to provide 1.5 pounds of protein via supplements. If we are feeding a high protein cube such as a 40% protein supplement, she will need about 3.75 pounds of supplement, daily. If the supplement is a 30% supplement then five pounds per day will be needed. Maintaining the body condition through the breeding season should be rewarded with a high percentage calf crop the following year.