Oct. 26, 2015
More steers in feedlots
by Derrell S. Peel, Oklahoma State University Extension livestock marketing specialist
The October USDA monthly Cattle on Feed report showed no surprises. September placements were close to expectations at 96 percent of last year, as were marketings at 98 percent of one year ago, leading to an October 1 on-feed total of 10.2 million head or 102.3 percent of last year. The relatively strong marketings number was confirmed by a 5.8 percent year over year increase in fed steer slaughter in September. This is an indication that progress was made to clean up a bulge of heavy fed cattle in the last half of September.
There are indications that more progress was made in the first half of October though carcass weights have continued to increase, with steer carcasses averaging 928 pounds for the week ending Oct. 10. This value is 29 pounds heavier than the 899 pound average for the same period last year. Interestingly, bull carcasses currently average 899 pounds, the same as steers one year ago and 29 pounds less than current steer carcass weights. Steer carcass weights exceeded bull carcass weights for the first time in October 2011 and have done so a few months seasonally since then. However, steer carcass weights have exceeded bull carcass weights by a record amount the past two weeks.
The quarterly breakdown of steers and heifers in feedlots in the latest report confirms, as expected, that heifers are being retained for herd expansion. The number of heifers on feed on Oct. 1 was down 7 percent from one year earlier, the thirteenth consecutive year over year decrease in quarterly heifers on feed since July 2012.
At the same time, the inventory of steers in feedlots was up 7.4 percent, continuing a strong trend of year over year increases in steers on-feed in 2015. Fewer heifers and more steers in feedlots have pushed the ratio of steers to heifers up sharply in recent months reflects the changing demographics of fed cattle production during herd expansion. The ratio of steers to heifers in feedlots since April of this year has reached levels not seen since the cyclical expansion in the early 1990s. The quarterly data on the breakdown of feedlot inventory only goes back to 1994. Similar indications are shown by the ratio of steer to heifer slaughter, for which the data goes back much farther. A 12 month moving average of the ratio of steer to heifer monthly slaughter for September is at the highest level since June 1975. The current ratio of steer to heifer slaughter exceeds levels that occurred in the cyclical expansion of the early 1990s as well as the truncated expansion in 2004-2005.
This confirms, not only that the industry is in the midst of herd expansion, but that it is a very aggressive herd expansion. It is not clear how long this aggressive herd expansion will persist nor whether the recent market shakeup may have tempered expansion plans. How much herd expansion will occur and how fast it will happen are both moving targets that will be determined by both demand and supply factors in the coming months/years.
Maintain body condition between calving and the breeding season. (“Don’t let ’em slip”)
by Glenn Selk, Oklahoma State University Emeritus Extension animal scientist
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 4 or 5.
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.
Seventy-five cows in year 1 and seventy 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 percent pregnant, while those that calved in similar body condition but lost nearly one full condition score were 73 percent 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. She should receive approximately 1 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 percent protein supplement, she will need about 3.75 pounds of supplement daily. If the supplement is a 30 percent supplement, then 5 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.
“Cow/calf Corner” is a weekly newsletter edited by Dr. Glenn Selk, Extension cattle specialist emeritus at Oklahoma State University with contributions from additional OSU Extension specialists.