Cow-Calf Corner • The Newsletter
Monday, January 24, 2022
Feedlots Maintain Cattle Inventories
Derrell S. Peel, Oklahoma State University Extension Livestock Marketing Specialist
Unexpectedly large December placements once again pushed feedlot inventories higher year over year on January 1. Feedlot placements in December were 106.5 percent of last year, higher than the average trade expectation and above the trade estimate range. December marketings were about as expected at 100.8 percent of one year ago. However, with one less slaughter day in the month, daily average marketings were five percent higher year over year in December. The January 1 on feed total was 12.037 million head, 100.6 percent of last year. On January 1, the inventory of steers in feedlots was 0.5 percent below one year ago while the number of heifers on feed was up 2.4 percent year over year.
Although cattle numbers are generally declining, feedlots will try to maintain inventories as long as possible. Following a similar pattern to November, most of the increase in December placements was lightweight cattle. Placements of cattle weighing less than 700 pounds were up 9.5 percent year over year while placements of cattle over 800 pounds were up just 1.7 percent compared to last year. Cattle producers may have helped feedlots with large December placements as rising feeder prices encouraged later and larger auction totals…at least in some regions. In Oklahoma, for example, feeder cattle auction totals for the three weeks of December sales were up 22.4 percent year over year. Feeder cattle supplies are expected to tighten considerably in 2022.
With the final numbers for December completing the year, commercial beef production in 2021 totaled 27.937 billion pounds, up 2.8 percent year over year and a new record annual total for the U.S. Total cattle slaughter (federally inspected) was 33.184 million head, up 3.2 percent over 2020. It’s worth noting that 2021 had a total of 254 slaughter days, two less than 2020 (a leap year). Total slaughter days per year vary from 254 to 256 and usually only change by one day more or less per year.
Total steer and heifer (fed) slaughter was 25.972 million head in 2021 with steer slaughter at 16.145 million head. Heifer slaughter was 9.827 million head and made up 37.8 percent of fed slaughter, the largest percentage since 2004. Total cow slaughter was 6.669 million head and accounted for 20.1 percent of total slaughter, the highest percentage since 2011. Beef cow slaughter totaled 3.562 million head, up 9.0 percent year over year.
Steer carcass weights averaged 906 pounds last year, down one pound from 2020. Average steer carcass weights exceeded average bull carcass weights (884 pounds in 2021) for the third year in a row. Heifer carcass weights averaged 831 pounds, down 1.8 pounds year over year. Cow carcass weights averaged 637 pounds, down 3.8 pounds from the prior year.
Declining cattle numbers are projected to reduce cattle slaughter by 2.5 -3.0 percent in 2022 and lead to a 2.5 percent decrease in beef production for the year. However, drought could change the timing by forcing more liquidation and slaughter sooner and delaying the decrease in production until later.
Monitor Body Condition on Cows and Bulls Now to Be Ready for Breeding Season
Mark Z. Johnson, Oklahoma State University Extension Beef Cattle Breeding Specialist
At the time of this writing we continue to enjoy a mild, dry winter in Oklahoma. This has been a blessing from a standpoint of winter feed bills to this point. The mild weather also creates a good opportunity to put flesh on the breeding herd prior to calving and breeding season if its needed.
Optimum Body Condition Score (BCS) on bred heifers going into calving season is a 6, for mature cows it’s a 5.5. This is important because there is a strong relationship between BCS at calving and reproductive success in the first 90 days after calving, the critical interval post calving when cows need to breed back to stay on schedule to wean off a calf each 365 days. As well, cow body condition influences the calf’s ability to develop as strong immune system.
It’s also important to monitor the BCS on herd bulls at this time of year. Herd bulls at a BCS of 5.5 – 6 at turnout are more fit, athletic and have batteries fully charged when turned out later this spring. Bulls in optimum condition at turnout are more likely to service and settle more cows early in the breeding season and contribute to the bottom line in a positive fashion.
Now is a good time to evaluate BCS on the breeding herd and feed accordingly. The mild weather gives opportunity to add some body condition more efficiently if its needed. More effective to do that now than to try and accomplish it if colder, wetter winter weather looms on the horizon.
Reference: OSU Beef Cattle Manual. Eight Edition. Chapter 20.
Cold Weather Nutrition for Beef Cows
Dana Zook, Oklahoma State University Extension NW Area Livestock Specialist
Just before Christmas, I told my husband that I wished the weather was more characteristic of the season. “Be careful what you wish for”, he said. As you all know, winter came to us in full force on January 1st with bitterly cold temps and a little moisture for some. This recent weather brings to mind the extra nutrition required by cattle in cold weather. One can’t forget the February 2021 cold snap and the difficulties that cattle had maintaining body condition during that time.
There are many things that impact the ability of cattle to tolerate cold and inclement weather. Haircoat is the first aspect that makes a great deal of difference in cattle’s ability to withstand cold temperatures. The amount of moisture and how wet the haircoat is also impacts cold tolerance. Rainfall, melting snow or ice increases cold stress. In addition, cattle in lower body conditions (less than BCS 5), have less tolerance for cold. All cattle will need extra feed to maintain body condition and manage stress from the cold, but those needs may vary from one group to the next.
So how much extra nutrition are we talking about? The Mesonet Cattle Comfort Advisor is an excellent tool for getting an idea of cold conditions and the impact they have on cattle performance. According to the Mesonet Cattle Comfort Advisor, a cows energy requirement increases 1% for each degree the cattle comfort index is below 32. This energy need would double to 2% if the animal is wet to the skin. Let’s look at a realistic example. At 1:30 pm on January 6, the cattle comfort index was 11 degrees in Kingfisher, OK. As many will recall, this was a dry cold with no moisture. According to the increased energy requirement of 1% (no moisture), cattle would need an additional 21% energy to maintain body condition (32°-11° = 21° x 1%= 21%).
So how much would producers need to feed to meet this increased requirement? A producer feeding 20% cubes to gestating cows would need to provide an additional 3.5 – 4 pounds of cubes daily to maintain body condition. Lactating cow’s energy requirement is much higher and therefore they will need an additional 4.5-5 pounds 20% cubes daily. Increasing feeding allotments like this could cause some digestive upset if fed all at once so it may be beneficial to increase feeding at a lower level before cold weather strikes and for a few days after the cold snap to recover some energy loss. Also, cows that are fed just twice or three times per week may benefit from feeding more often to distribute higher feeding levels. A higher quality hay can also bridge the energy gap in these situations, but it is helpful to know the hay quality and how much is being provided.