Nov. 27, 2017
Who is the stocker cattle industry?
by Derrell S. Peel, Oklahoma State University Extension livestock marketing specialist
Earlier in 2017, Oklahoma State University, in conjunction with USDA’s Animal Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) and the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS), conducted a comprehensive survey of Oklahoma cattle producers. The primary objective of the survey was to identify stocker producers and how the stocker industry in Oklahoma operates. USDA-NASS conducted the survey on behalf of OSU. Completed surveys from nearly 1500 anonymous producers have been returned to OSU extension and research specialists. With survey data now recorded, initial results are becoming available.
Producers were asked to identify all cattle production activities in their operations. The list included several cow-calf activities (selling at weaning, retaining calves as stockers and retaining calves through the feedlot); and stocker/backgrounding production, including retaining stockers through the feedlot, as well as other production activities. Producers were asked to identify production activities that they use routinely as well as occasionally (at least once in the last five years).
Results indicate that Oklahoma cattle production is relatively complex. Although nearly half (49.1 percent) of producers indicated only one cattle production activity, the average across all producers was two production activities. Specifically, 24.7 percent of producers indicated just two production activities. Another 26.1 percent of producers reported three or more cattle production activities, including 15.1 percent reporting four or more production activities. Responses include routine practices as well as those identified as occasionally used by producers. Most producers surveyed have cow-calf production activities (91.1 percent). Relatively few producers (5.1 percent) indicated only stocker/backgrounding production though another 19.4 percent of producers indicated stocker production in addition to cow-calf production. This does not include the 37.9 percent of cow-calf producers retaining raised calves as stockers. When separate stocker/ backgrounding activities along with retained calves from cow-calf production are included, a total of 45.3 percent of producers are involved in some form of stocker production.
Many cow-calf producers do not consider themselves stocker producers, as well. Survey participants were asked to choose one of the production activities that they felt best describes their operation. Of those producers who chose a label, 58.4 percent labeled themselves “Cow-calf, sell calves at weaning.” However, of those who picked that label, just 53.2 percent indicated that selling weaned calves was their sole routine cattle production activity. This means that many producers who consider themselves primarily as cow-calf producers (selling at weaning) are involved, at least occasionally, in other types of cattle production as well.
The stocker industry is difficult to define, understand, or even identify. A variety of cattle producers are involved in stocker production including specialized stocker producers; stocker production in conjunction with cow-calf; and retained stockers from cow-calf operations. The stocker industry plays a varied and flexible but critically important role in the cattle industry. This survey will provide insight into stocker production and management practices, including timing and duration of stocker production; health management; forage use; purchasing and marketing of stocker cattle; timing and distance of shipping; and biosecurity practices. Stay tuned as more detail emerges from the broad array of survey information.
Prepare now for next spring’s calving season
by Glenn Selk, Oklahoma State University Emeritus Extension animal scientist
As a young boy growing up in Central Nebraska, we had a spring calving cow herd. The “calving shed” that was available to us was one side of a large red barn. This barn was built in the early part of the previous century and had stalls on one side that were meant to stall draft horses. Because we used the stalls only during March and April for the “calving shed”, the other ten months of the year they became a storage facility. Fencing materials, 5 gallon drums of grease for farming machinery, sacks of grass seed, and mineral blocks were just some of the items that were stored in the stalls. Invariably, the calving season would begin before the gestation table suggested that it should. One of us would find a two-year old that was in the midst of labor, and the calving shed was still full of supplies.
Someone once said “that Success occurs when opportunity meets with preparation.” Planning and preparing for next spring’s calving season can help increase the chances of success. There are several key preparation steps that would be good to conduct in December to insure success in February, March, and April.
Before calving season starts, do a walk-through of pens, chutes, and calving stalls. Make sure that all are clean, dry, strong, safe, and functioning correctly. Check the gates and the squeeze panels to make certain that they are ready for use. Do you have the extra barbed wire and steel posts, as well as grass seed and motor oil stored in the calving shed? Now would be a good time make certain that these items are placed in another facility or at least out of the way. This is a lot easier to do on a sunny afternoon than on a cold dark night when you need to have the calving area ready in a short time.
If calf diarrhea has been a significant issue in your herd in the past, now is a good time to visit with your large animal veterinarian. Ask about a scours vaccine given to the cows before calving, and about other management strategies that help reduce the pathogen exposure to baby calves when they are most vulnerable.
More information about management of cows and heifers at calving time can be found by downloading and reading the Oklahoma State University Circular E-1006 Calving Time Management for Beef Cows and Heifers.