Feb. 5, 2018
Inside the Cattle report, Part 1
by Derrell S. Peel, Oklahoma State University Extension livestock marketing specialist
The latest Cattle report issued by USDA-NASS in late January provides cattle inventory estimates that confirm what happened in 2017 and shape our expectations for 2018. In general, the report was well anticipated and presented no major surprises. USDA made relatively few and small changes to 2017 numbers so the year over year changes in the report were easy to interpret.
The all cattle and calves inventory was up 0.7 percent at 94.4 million head. The beef cow inventory was up 1.6 percent to 31.7 million head. Beef replacement heifers were down 3.7 percent to 6.1 million head. The dairy sector was up slightly with dairy cows up 0.6 percent to 9.4 million head and dairy replacement heifers were up 0.5 percent to 4.8 million head. The 2017 calf crop was up 2.0 percent to 35.8 million head. The feedlot inventory for all feedlots was up 7.2 percent to 14.0 million head.
There are a couple of points to note in this report. First, the decrease in beef replacement heifers is generally taken as a sign that herd expansion is over. That may well be but a look at the absolute numbers suggests that a limited amount of additional beef herd expansion is possible in 2018. The Jan. 1 beef replacement heifer inventory was 19.3 percent of the herd inventory. This is down from record levels the past three years but it is still higher than the average level of 17.3 percent for the 25 years prior to the beginning of herd expansion in 2014. You have to recognize just how unusual the current herd expansion has been. Beef heifers as a percent of herd size shot up over 20 percent for the first time ever in the years 2015-2017, peaking at 21.0 percent in 2016. Thus, the current level of 19.3 percent, while down from recent years, is still above the levels seen in the previous full herd expansion in 1990-1996, with an average of 18.3 percent in the years 1993-1995. Any beef herd expansion in 2018 would likely be limited to less than one percent but, for example, a rate of 0.5 percent for the year is quite consistent with all the numbers in my analysis. I expect that the market conditions that play out in 2018 will determine whether any additional herd expansion is forthcoming.
Secondly, using the inventory categories for steers and other heifers over 500 pounds along with calves under 500 pounds and subtracting off the cattle already in feedlots, leaves a Jan. 1 estimated feeder supply outside of feedlots of 26.1 million head, down 2.3 percent year over year. How can feeder supply drop when cattle numbers are still increasing? In fact, the total inventory of steers, other heifers and calves was up 0.8 percent. But large feedlot placements in 2017 pulled the feedlot inventory up 7.3 percent year over year, meaning that more of those feeder cattle are already in feedlots on Jan. 1.
Aggressive feedlot placements and marketings were key factors in the strong 2017 market performance and will be again in 2018. The deceased feeder supply also reflects drought conditions at the end of 2017 that forced many lightweight cattle into feedlots early at the end of 2017. The point is that this tighter feeder supply will help support feeder cattle markets in the coming weeks and sets us up to deal with the still growing cattle numbers in 2018 in the best possible shape.
Next week, a look at some interesting state by state numbers in this report.
Knowledge of anatomy and time are keys to helping the backwards calf
by Glenn Selk, Oklahoma State University Emeritus Extension animal scientist
Any cow-calf producer that has spent several years in the cattle business has had the experience of assisting a cow or heifer deliver a calf that was coming backwards. Research from the Ft. Keogh experiment station in Montana with over 13,000 calvings in 15 years suggests that 1.6 percent of all deliveries were backwards (Patterson, et al., 1987 Therio. vol 28 no. 5). Understanding the physiology and anatomy of the calf and mother will improve the likelihood of a successful outcome. Study the diagram of the “posterior presentation” shown below.
Note the relative positions of the tailhead of the baby calf and the umbilical cord that connects the calf to the mother’s blood supply. As the calf’s hips are pulled through the pelvic opening, the baby calf’s tail will reach the outer areas of the mother’s vaginal opening. Once a person can see the baby calf’s tailhead, the umbilical vessels are being compressed against the rim of the mother’s pelvic bone. The blood flow, exchanging oxygen and carbon dioxide, between calf and mother is greatly impaired, if not completely clamped off.
Research many years ago conducted in Europe illustrates how little time it takes to compromise the calf’s survivability when the umbilical cord is clamped. These scientists studied the impact of clamping the umbilical cord for 0, 4, 6, or 8 minutes.
Table 1. Impact of clamping of umbilical vessels on calf survivability
|Duration of Clamping||Number of Calves||Fate of Calves|
|0 minutes||5 calves||All of the 5 calves lived|
|4 minutes||5 calves||4 lived; 1 died|
|6 minutes||3 calves||3 died|
|8 minutes||3 calves||3 died|
Certainly, if a producer does not feel confident in their abilities to deliver the backward calf, call your veterinarian immediately. Time is of the essence. As producers examine heifers or cows at calving and find a situation where the calf is coming backward, they need to keep this European data in mind. If the calf’s hips are not yet through the pelvic opening, they have a little time to locate help and have someone else to aid in the assistance process.
Once the cow and the producer in concert have pushed and pulled the calf’s hips through the pelvic opening and the tailhead is apparent, the calf needs to be completely delivered as quickly as possible. The remainder of the delivery should go with less resistance as the hips are usually the toughest part to get through the pelvic opening. The shoulders may provide some resistance. However, some calf rotation and traction being applied as the cow strains will usually produce significant progress.
Remember, the completion of the delivery is to be accomplished in about 4 minutes or less. The calf’s head and nostrils are in the uterine fluids and cannot breathe until completely delivered. The calf must get oxygen rapidly to offset the hypoxia that it is been subjected to during the delivery. After the calf is delivered, clean the mouth and nostrils of fluids and tickle its nostrils with a straw to cause snorting and inhalation of air to get it started to breathing.
If upon examination you find a “breech” presentation (with only tail and buttocks but no hind legs) call your local large animal veterinarian immediately. The Montana data indicates that 0.6 percent of all calvings are breech presentations. Breech presentations often require C-sections for a successful outcome. Download and read Oklahoma State University extension bulletin E-1006, Calving Time Management for Beef Cows and Heifers.
Cow-Calf Corner is a newsletter from the Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Agency.