May 15, 2017
May cattle market roundup
by Derrell S. Peel, Oklahoma State University Extension livestock marketing specialist
Cattle and beef markets have pushed the spring rally higher and extended it longer than anyone expected. Feeder cattle prices are up 12-14 percent since the beginning of the year while fed cattle and Choice boxed beef are up about 23 percent. Select boxed beef is up about 16 percent since Jan. 1. Feeder and fed cattle markets appeared (once again) to perhaps have peaked seasonally this past week. Fed prices pulled back from the previous week’s highs near $145/cwt. However, Choice boxed beef continued to climb finishing the week at nearly $248/cwt. The Choice-Select spread has widened to over $22/cwt. following an exaggerated seasonal pattern similar to one year ago. The May boost of Memorial Day beef buying is likely done and markets may pull back a bit though grilling demand will continue on to Father’s Day in June and Independence Day in July.
Markets have been buoyed by tighter than expected supplies of beef; stronger than expected domestic demand; continued strong beef exports; and speculative support in live and feeder cattle futures contracts. The bullish psychology of the market has been supported by earlier news that China would reopen to U.S. beef and last week to the announcement that an agreement should be in place by July. It is, however, still not clear what requirements must be met and how much and how fast U.S. beef will flow into China.
Smaller carcass weights are continuing to help hold beef production increases in check. Beef production is up 4.3 percent so far this year while total cattle slaughter is up over six percent for the year to date. In the most recent week of actual slaughter data, steer carcass weights were down 21 pounds from one year ago while heifer carcass weights were down 18 pounds year over year. This is partially offset by heavier cow and bull carcass weights at the current time.
Forage conditions look very good across much of the country, with the exception of some parts of the Southeast. Although too much of a good thing led to flooding in many regions, recent rains have pushed back dry and drought conditions that emerged through the first quarter of the year. Favorable forage supplies and price, combined with attractive feedgrain and supplement prices, will help moderate cattle production costs in 2017.
Stocker Survey update: Oklahoma cattle producers who received the Oklahoma State University Stocker survey from USDA-NASS recently but have not returned the survey will soon be receiving a call from NASS to help them complete the survey. A sample of responses so far is very encouraging and will provide unprecedented information about the vital stocker industry in Oklahoma. We are very grateful to producers who take the time to provide this information on a sector of the cattle industry that is not well understood.
Now is the time to prepare for next spring’s calving season
by Glenn Selk, Oklahoma State University Emeritus Extension animal scientist
Only 1 to 2 months ago the spring calving cows were calving, the temperatures were colder and the calving pastures were covered with muck and manure. Experience would say that you do not want to ask cow calf operators how calving is then, because the response would be less than objective, reflecting bone-chilling cold and not enough sleep.
If you wait too long, perhaps until this fall, time will have mellowed most of the events and one soon has difficulty matching a calving season with particular problems. Plus, it may be too late to make the necessary changes to reduce calving losses. Now is perhaps a better time to make a few notes on what to change for next year.
The first step is to list the dead calves. Hopefully, your cattle are in a record system that will provide that information. If not, grab a piece of paper and pencil and list the calves. Your calving notebook should have the dead calves checked off and a brief notation on what happened to each. Until all the calves are listed, the shock of lost opportunities has not had its full impact.
Can you identify a pattern of problems?
Was most of the death loss right at delivery and involved two-year old heifers? This could indicate that sire selection needs to be done more carefully, with attention being paid to low birth weight EPD sires for heifers. It may be too late to change sire selection for this year, however, putting more emphasis on calving ease sires can be helpful for future calf crops. Perhaps the heifers were underdeveloped. This could contribute to more calving difficulty than necessary. Do you provide assistance to heifers after they have been in stage II of labor for one hour?
Was the death loss more prevalent after the calves had reached 5 days to 2 weeks of age? This often means that calf diarrhea (or scours) is a major concern. Calf scours will be more likely to occur to calves from first calf heifers. Calves that receive inadequate amounts of colostrum within the first 6 hours of life are 5 to 6 times more likely to die from calf scours. Calves that are born to thin heifers are weakened at birth and receive less colostrum which compounds their likelihood of scours. Often, these same calves were born via a difficult delivery and adds to the chances of getting sick and dying. All of this means that we need to reassess the bred heifer growing program to assure that the heifers were in a body condition score of 6 (moderate flesh) at calving time. If calf diarrhea is a significant cause of loss and expense, visit with your large animal veterinarian about other management changes that may help. Pre-calving vaccinations of the cows may be recommended in some cases.
Do you use the same trap or pasture each year for calving? There may be a buildup of bacteria or viruses that contribute to calf diarrhea in that pasture. This particular calving pasture may need a rest for the upcoming calving season. Plus, it is always a good idea to get new calves and their mothers out of the calving pasture as soon as they can be moved comfortably to a new pasture to get them away from other potential calf scour organisms. An excellent discussion of a method used to reduce calf diarrhea is available from the University of Nebraska website. Go to this link: http://beef.unl.edu/beefreports/symp-2007-17-xx.shtml online and learn more about the Nebraska Sandhill method of reducing calf scours.
Thanks to Dr. Kris Ringwall of North Dakota State University for this excellent suggestion to study the calf records now and start to make adjustments.
Cow-Calf Corner is a weekly newsletter from the Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service.