March 8, 2021
Volatile Feeder Auction Volumes in Oklahoma
By Derrell S. Peel, Oklahoma State University Extension livestock marketing specialist
Feeder cattle markets have bounced back from the brutal February storm just in time for the termination of winter grazing of dual-purpose wheat.
Feeder cattle auction volumes in Oklahoma are quite variable in February and March. Dual-purpose wheat production (graze and grain) means that grazing cattle must be removed promptly when the wheat crop begins the reproductive stage that produces a grain crop. This change in the wheat is indicated by monitoring wheat plants for “First Hollow Stem.” The link for more information on first hollow stem is https://osuwheat.com/2021/03/02/first-hollow-stem-update-3-2-2021/. The timing of first hollow stem in wheat pasture varies by year as well as across wheat varieties. The abrupt termination of wheat grazing that results from the physiological demands of wheat often results in a week or two of noticeably larger auction volumes occurring between mid-February to mid-March. Figure 1 shows the Oklahoma weekly auction volume for the 2018-2019 average, 2020 and thus far in 2021. In 2018-2019, the largest weekly volume occurred in the second week of March while in 2020 the largest weekly volume occurred in mid-February.
Figure 1 is based on data from AMS_1831 (USDA-AMS) and typically includes seven auction reports from OKC, El Reno, Apache, Ada, Tulsa, McAlester and Woodward.
Additional challenges in 2021 resulted from the extended winter storm in February. Many auctions in the state were closed for one or two weeks with typical feeder cattle marketing delayed. Figure 1 shows the dramatic reduction in auction sales in the middle week of February (664 head) and reduced volume the third week of February. It was not a surprise to see an extremely large volume of 45,702 head the first week of March. This volume likely consisted mostly of feeders delayed from February but may also include some wheat pasture cattle. The bulk of the wheat pasture cattle are expected the next two weeks and large auction volumes are expected until mid-March.
Prices for calves and stocker cattle were higher last week reflecting some spring grazing demand and relatively low volumes of lightweight cattle this time of year. For example, the price of 450-500 pound, Med/Lrg #1 steers was $179.37/cwt. Calf prices are following close to a typical seasonal pattern and are up 5-6% from last fall. Heavy feeder prices have remained generally steady the past few weeks and are currently about two percent lower compared to last fall; slightly lower than seasonal patterns would suggest. The price of feeder steers weighing 750-800 pounds (Med/Lrg, #1) was $133.74/cwt., unchanged from the week prior. The large auction volume last week included a majority of heavy feeders.
Another factor hanging over feeder markets is the dramatic rise in feed costs and feedlot cost of gain. The latest summary of the Kansas Focus on Feedlots data shows that feedlot cost of gain for closeouts in January was up 8.6% from the recent low in October. Feedlot cost of gain will continue to increase and reflect higher grain prices in the coming months. Feeder prices will continue to adjust in response higher feed prices as the year progresses.
Invest in Genetics to Maximize Your Profit Potential
By Mark Z. Johnson, Oklahoma State University Extension beef cattle breeding specialist
Breeding season is just around the corner and it’s time to consider our investment in genetics to maximize the profit potential of the calves that will be born next year. With more genetic information and technology available than ever before, we address the process of determining what traits are economically important in your operation. As covered last week, there are three primary goals of any breeding season:
- Get cows settled as early in the breeding season as possible.
- Get cows bred to bulls with highest possible genetic values.
- Achieve both as economically as possible by getting cows bred to fewest possible bulls
This week, we look closer at number two. This topic should be analyzed from your own unique perspective based characteristics of your operation such as:
- How and when do you intend to market your calf crop? (at weaning, as yearlings, as fed cattle, as bred heifers or open replacement females)
- To what type females will you be mating the bull? (heifers, cows, size of cows)
- Will you be selecting herd replacements from the resulting heifers?
- What is your production environment?
- What is your economic situation regarding production inputs and marketing endpoints?
- What level of Management can you provide?
Most beef breed Sire Summaries currently include Expected Progeny Differences (EPDs) for more than 20 traits. These include multiple genetic predictors of calving ease, several traits that would be considered as maternal performance, growth at different ages, feed intake and feed efficiency. In addition, several traits indicating carcass merit such as marbling, ribeye size, external fat thickness and carcass weight.Various Bio-economic indexes are also reported. A Bio-economic index is a genetic value derived from assigning an economic weighting to several EPDs based on their anticipated value at a specific marketing endpoint. An example would be a Terminal Sire Index (TSI), which is the result of assigning a dollar value to units of post-weaning growth EPDs as well as the EPDs that indicate Quality Grades, Yield Grades and Carcass Weight.
At some point through the segmented chain of beef production many (if not all) of these traits are economically important. Yet, depending on the unique characteristics of your operation, only a few of these traits are economically relevant to you. For example, the TSI mentioned above would be a useless selection tool for an operation that sells all their calves at weaning since it is based on genetic values for traits that occur post-weaning. Another example would be ignoring EPDs predicting maternal performance if you don’t intend to retain heifers as herd replacements and plan to market your entire calf crop as finished cattle. Bottom line: consider your own unique operation and marketing plan for calves when deciding how to invest your bull buying dollar. Purchase bulls offering strong genetic values for the traits that will pay off for your operation!
To view Dr. Johnson’s latest segment on Sunup TV Cow-Calf Corner on preparing bulls for breeding: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dTvhVwOZ5Vk
Colostrum: The First Feeding for the Future
By Dr. Rosslyn Biggs, OSU College of Veterinary Medicine Extension beef veterinarian
Through colostrum intake, the calf receives passive immunity from its mother to help protect it from diseases early in life. Failure of passive immunity transfer drastically increase a calf’s likelihood to develop diseases including those that can lead to death. The cow’s health can directly impact the quality of colostrum. Therefore, it is important that the cow have appropriate nutrition and be on a good health program that includes vaccinations. This insures the highest quality colostrum. Age and genetics also influence quality. Generally, colostrum quality is less in heifers as compared to mature cows.
It is essential that calves receive quality colostrum as soon as possible following birth. After six hours of age, the calf’s intestine begins to lose the ability to adequately absorb colostral components. Virtually no intestinal absorption of antibodies occurs after 24 hours of age.
A calf is always best served by receiving quality cow-sourced colostrum from its dam. However, producers should have replacement options if the calf’s dam cannot be milked. The best option for replacement is most often colostrum from a cow in the same herd. Dairy origin or other outside farm colostrum should only be used if verified to be free of diseases like Johne’s. Commercial quality colostrum replacements are good to have on hand if quality fresh or frozen cow-sourced colostrum is not available. Commercial dry preparations should be labelled for replacement, not just supplementation.
If an otherwise healthy cow loses a calf at birth, producers are wise to milk her to obtain the unused colostrum. Colostrum retains its many qualities only when frozen. Fresh colostrum can be stored in one-quart doses by putting that much in a gallon-size freezer bag. When storing, be sure to leave space in the bag to allow for expansion. Bags can easily be stored flat in a deep freezer. Refrigerator-freezer combinations should be avoided as they often have a thaw and freeze cycle.
When the time comes to thaw the colostrum for feeding, place the freezer bag in warm water to gradually thaw. Do not microwave or use boiling water to heat.
On average, a calf should receive 5 to 6% of its body weight within the first four to six hours, with a repeated feeding of the same amount at four to six hours later. About two quarts of colostrum should be administered to an 80-pound calf at each feeding. Ongoing research supports early colostrum administration is best if delivered by four hours of age. Understanding that most births occur unattended, producers should not wait to administer colostrum if there is evidence the calf has not nursed.
Here is a classic Sunup TV segment by Dr Glenn Selk on the signs of calving: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a66b-AO9r1U