Feb. 26, 2018
Less drought and more cattle placed on feed
by Derrell S. Peel, Oklahoma State University Extension livestock marketing specialist
A significant change in the weather pattern of recent months brought rain and ice across roughly half of Oklahoma in the past 7 to 10 days. In a diagonal line from just east of Altus in the southwest to Blackwell in the northcentral part of the state, locations received increasing amounts of moisture moving south and east from about one inch along the line to totals more than 11 inches in McCurtain County in the southeast corner of the state. This should take a big bite out of drought conditions in the eastern third and south-central part of Oklahoma while moderating drought conditions in central Oklahoma.
The driest areas of western Oklahoma mostly missed out, receiving less than one inch to only a few hundredths of an inch. The nine northwest and Panhandle counties in Oklahoma have now gone more than 140 days with less than one-quarter inch of rain. These areas of western Oklahoma and the surrounding region face increasingly severe drought prospects as spring approaches; with a high fire danger in the meantime. It’s uncertain whether recent rains represent merely an aberration or a change in the La Niña conditions that have prevailed all winter. La Niña conditions are expected to fade this spring and this could be an early start to that.
Time will tell.
Drought conditions in the Southern Plains likely contributed to larger than expected feedlot placements in the latest Cattle on Feed report. Total January placements were 104.4 percent of last year, with Texas up 11.1 percent year over year and Oklahoma up 30.6 percent from one year ago. Feedlots placed 8.6 percent more cattle in the September to January period compared to one year ago. Total feedlot marketings in January were 106.1 percent of one year ago. The Feb. 1 on-feed total was 107.9 percent of last year.
Limited winter grazing numbers and early movement of wheat pasture cattle to feedlots means that little of the normal March run of wheat pasture cattle will be seen this year in the Southern Plains. Likewise few cattle remain or are likely to be purchased for wheat grazeout. Early placement of feeders in the feedlots means that the short-term supply of feeder cattle outside of feedlots is tighter, as reflected in the year over year decrease in the estimated Jan. 1 feeder supply. However, many of the lightweight feeders placed late in 2017 will remain in feedlots until mid-2018. Feedlots are pretty full and will have reduced demand for feeders for some time yet this spring, thus the overall supply-demand balance may not have changed much. Larger feedlot placements in recent months represents a change in timing of feedlot production but not a change in the overall supply situation.
In general, while feedlots will not maintain the placement rate of recent months going forward, feeder cattle numbers will be larger in 2018 supporting increased cattle slaughter and beef production.
The third stage of calving: shedding of fetal membranes
by Glenn Selk, Oklahoma State University Emeritus Extension animal scientist
The process of “calving” or parturition in beef cattle is defined by three stages. Stage I occurs about 4 to 24 hours prior to calving. The major event during stage I is the dilation of the cervix. Stage II occurs in about 30 minutes in adult cows and about 1 hour in first-calf heifers (when all goes well) and is the time when the calf passes through the birth canal and is delivered into the world.
The third stage of calving is the shedding of the placenta or fetal membranes. In cattle, this normally occurs in less than eight to 12 hours. The membranes are considered retained if after 12 hours they have not been shed. In some rare cases, the entire placenta is held in the uterus so there is no exposed portion. This condition may go unnoticed until the cow shows an abnormal uterine discharge or an odor characteristic of tissue degeneration.
Years ago it was considered necessary to remove the membranes by manually unbuttoning the attachments. However, research has shown that improper manual removal can be detrimental to uterine health and future conception rates. Therefore, manually pulling on the retained placenta is strongly discouraged.
When a cow-calf operator notices a cow that “did not clean” within 12 hours after calving, close observation is suggested. If the cow shows any signs of ill health, such as droopy ears, lethargic behavior, or poor appetite, this may indicate that an infection of the uterus has begun. Contact your local large animal veterinarian for the proper management of retained placenta. Treatments that cause uterine contractions and eventual sloughing of the membranes may be prescribed. Also, prescribed administration of antibiotics usually will help against infection. More information about working with cows and heifers at calving time can be found at the Oklahoma State University Extension publication E-1006 “Calving Time Management for Beef Cows and Heifers.”
Cow-Calf Corner is a newsletter from the Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Agency.