March 22, 2021
Fed Cattle Market Struggling Now with Optimism Ahead
By Derrell S. Peel, Oklahoma State University Extension livestock marketing specialist
Fed cattle markets have been unable to put together any sort of spring rally this year with cash markets trading in a narrow range for several weeks. The five-market fed cattle price has averaged $113.81/cwt. for the past six weeks with weekly averages ranging from $113.62/cwt. to $114.07/cwt. Fed cattle markets have struggled with ample supplies thus far in 2021 aggravated by winter weather disruptions in February. Steer plus heifer slaughter is up 0.8% year over year for the first nine weeks of the year with steer and heifer carcass weights 13 to14 pounds heavier year over year. Carcass weights are declining seasonally and relative to last year and may be below year-ago levels for much of the rest of year.
The March Cattle on Feed report pegs March 1 feedlot inventories at 12.0 million head, up 1.6% year over year. February placements were 98.1% of last year with winter weather reducing placements during the month. February marketings were 97.6% of one year ago also disrupted by the massive winter storm in February. The cattle on feed report was well anticipated with placements, marketings and the on-feed total all close to pre-report expectations. February placements of cattle less than 700 pounds was down 4.5% year over year and cattle placed weighing more than 700 pounds were almost unchanged, just fractionally lower than last year.
Feedlot supplies are expected to tighten in the coming months. Total feedlot placements the past six months were down 2.3% year over year. In the last six months, placements of cattle under 700 pounds is down 4.5% year over year with placement over 700 pounds down by 0.6% compared to last year. Feedlots have been somewhat front-loaded thus far in 2021 which has contributed to the sluggish fed cattle markets in the first quarter of the year. Feedlot supplies should tighten in the second half of the year after working through current inventories. However, interpretation of cattle on feed reports will be difficult in the next few months because 2021 will be compared against the monthly volatility in placements and marketings due to pandemic disruptions in 2020.
There is considerable optimism for fed cattle markets going forward beginning in the second quarter and especially in the second half of the year. Currently, Live Cattle futures for April and June are trading at roughly the same level with June, at times, premium to April. This is unusual because June is usually at a significant discount to April Live Cattle futures. In fact, the previous five-year average discount of June to April Live Cattle futures in March is -$8.47/cwt. The fact that April and June are at equal levels this year is due to weak April prices relative to June expectations. Live Cattle futures prices for October and December reflect additional optimism for fed cattle markets in late 2021 and heading into 2022.
Genetic Prediction in Beef Cattle and Expected Progeny Differences
By Mark Z. Johnson, Oklahoma State University Extension beef cattle breeding specialist
What is an Expected Progeny Difference (EPD)?
An EPD is a prediction of how future progeny of a parent are expected to perform relative to the progeny of other animals. EPDs are expressed in the unit of measure for that trait, plus or minus. EPDs are based on:
- Performance of the individual animal we are looking at relative to the contemporary group of animals it was raised with.
- The performance of all the animals in the breed’s database which have pedigree relationship to that animal. Including all ancestors, siblings, cousins, offspring, etc.
- Genomics, whereby the DNA of the animal is analyzed to identify if the animal carries genes known to influence quantitative, polygenic traits like birth weight, weaning weight, yearling weight, etc.
EPDs are the result of genetic prediction, based on performance data collected by cattle breeders over many generations of beef production. This performance data is submitted to respective breed associations and statistically analyzed accounting for pedigree relationship to yield EPDs. EPDs are an estimate of an individual animal’s genetic potential as a parent for a specific trait.
Accuracy Values (ACC) are reported along with each EPD to reflect how much information has been taken into account in calculating the EPD. Accuracy values range from 0 to 1.0, values closer to 1.0 indicate more reliability. Accuracy is impacted by genomic testing as well as the number of progeny and ancestral records included in the analysis. The more information taken into account in calculating the EPD, the higher the ACC value associated with that EPD.
An example of comparing two potential sires and our selection priority is to improve weaning weight:
Sire A has a Weaning Weight EPD of 65.
Sire B has a Weaning Weight EPD of 50.
If mated to the same cows, the calves by Sire A should weigh 15 pounds more at weaning (65 – 50 = 15).
Most beef breeds publish a Sire Summary. Sire summaries include a great deal of useful information. This would include the definitions of each of the EPDs reported by that breed.
To view Dr. Johnson’s segment on Sunup TV Cow-Calf Corner from March 20, 2021 on selection for calving ease in your herd:
Grass Tetany and Milk Fever in Spring Calving Cowherds
By Paul Beck, Oklahoma State University Extension beef cattle nutrition specialist
As we are calving during the early spring with lush pastures we can often find mature cows that are in otherwise good condition and health with unusual behaviors, unsteady gait or inability to rise. These are early signs of both grass tetany and milk fever. Both of these metabolic diseases are common in adult cows that have recently calved.
Grass tetany is a condition associated with inadequate magnesium in the diet. Magnesium is a mineral that is necessary in nerve function and therefore muscle contraction. Cattle with grass tetany become excitable, develop muscle tremors, and have difficulty breathing and in the worst case, death. As a result, care must be taken when handling and treating cattle that are exhibiting symptoms to avoid exacerbating the situation.
To assess the risk for grass tetany, forages may be tested for major mineral content (calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, potassium, sodium, and sulfur) to calculate a “tetany ratio.” The ratio examines the quantity of potassium in relation to the quantity of magnesium and calcium, and ratios greater than 2.2 potassium to Calcium/magnesium are likely to result in grass tetany.
Well-managed and fertilized cool season annual pastures are at the biggest risk because rapidly growing pastures have increased uptake of potassium which blocks the uptake of magnesium by the plant. During this time, cattle become susceptible to grass tetany, associated with inadequate magnesium in the diet as excess potassium blocks both magnesium uptake by plants and magnesium absorption in the cow. Mature lactating cows are most susceptible because not only is dietary magnesium limited but these cattle are also loosing magnesium through the milk they produce.
Cattle diagnosed with grass tetany should be treated by slowly administering a calcium/magnesium solution intravenously, given additional magnesium subcutaneously, and removed from the susceptible pasture. The most common method of preventing grass tetany is to supplement the herd with magnesium beginning at least one month prior to spring grazing.
Mineral supplements that contain 10 to 12% magnesium as magnesium oxide, called High Mag minerals in lay terms, are commonly used. At 3 to 4 oz intake, such minerals will provide 40 to 50% of a cow’s daily magnesium requirement. Mineral supplement intake is often reduced when higher rates of magnesium are added due to the unpalatability of magnesium oxide. Some producers will opt to blend higher rates of magnesium into their mineral and add cottonseed meal or similar feedstuff to increase supplement palatability and magnesium consumption.
Milk fever, also called parturient paresis (parturition paralysis), is a common metabolic disease in dairy cows, but can be an issue in older mature beef cows. The disease is often associated with the start of lactation resulting in sudden onset of low blood calcium (hypocalcemia) with deficiency of calcium uptake from the diet and the inability of cows to mobilize bone calcium to maintain blood calcium levels. This paralysis usually occurs within 72-hours of calving.
Exposure to the very high calcium content, as well as other minerals in high concentration, can cause the body to minimize absorption and focus on mineral storage. There are indications that milk fever can be associated with vitamin D deficiency because of its role in calcium metabolism. Near parturition, calcium needs for milk production increase greatly and with the exposure of high calcium in the diet, a cow’s body just isn’t prepared to absorb and mobilize stored calcium during this period. Feeding diets that are high phosphorus and low calcium during late pregnancy helps prevent milk fever because metabolic mechanisms for bone calcium mobilization will be up and going prior to calving.
Treatment for milk fever focuses on restoring serum calcium levels to the normal range, which must occur at the earliest possible time to avoid muscular and nervous system damage.
A veterinarian should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment. If deaths have occurred, your veterinarian should be consulted to properly establish cause of death. These diseases are hard to differentiate, and are difficult to treat in a timely manner, but for both prevention is key.
Here is a classic Sunup TV segment by Dr Dave Lalman from January 2016 on Grass Tetany: http://sunup.okstate.edu/category/seg/2016-first-half/012316-wheat/?searchterm=None