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Cow-Calf Corner • The Newsletter

Monday, August 23, 2021

Cattle Market Optimism Builds Towards the Fourth Quarter

Derrell S. Peel, Oklahoma State University Extension Livestock Marketing Specialist 


August is a tough time for fed cattle markets to move higher, but the market seems poised to break out from the constraints of the first half of the year as we move into the last part of the third quarter.  Meanwhile, auction calf and stocker prices have moved counter-seasonally higher in July-August while feeder cattle markets, which typically increase through the summer have shown a strong seasonal price increase over the summer.   Cull cow prices have pulled back from summer peak prices, moving into fall seasonal declines, but remain above year ago levels. 


The August USDA Cattle on Feed report pegged July feedlot placements at 1.739 million head, 91.9 percent of last year, with July marketings at 1.9 million head, 95.5 percent of one year ago.  The August 1 cattle on feed total was 11.074 million head, 98.1 percent of 2020 levels.  Feedlot inventories continue to fall, partly seasonally, but also reflecting the cleanup of the backlog of feedlot cattle from earlier in the year.  August represents the sixth consecutive monthly decline in feedlot inventories from the February peak, a decrease of 1.032 million head or 8.5 percent over the six months.  In the previous five years, the average feedlot inventory decline from the spring high to summer low has been 6.2 percent. 


Carcass weights provide more indication that feedlots are getting more current.  Steer and heifer carcass weights dropped below year ago levels in May and continue below year earlier levels.  Carcass weights reached a seasonal low in June, a tad later than the normal May low and are rising seasonally into the last part of the year.  Most recently, weekly steer carcass weights were 896 pounds, down 10 pounds year over year but still 18 pounds heavier than 2019 levels.  Heifer carcass weights are currently 817 pounds, down 15 pounds from last year but 11 pounds above 2019 at this time.  In addition to improved feedlot currentness, lower carcass weights also reflect the impact and incentives that follow from sharply higher feedlot cost of gain.  This should help hold carcass weights in check in the coming months. 


Cattle market optimism is clearly reflected in futures markets.  Live cattle futures for December are $10/cwt. above current levels with an April 2022 level of $140/cwt. Feeder cattle futures have been strong this summer and are even higher this fall.  In fact, weak feeder cattle basis in June and July suggests that the futures optimism was somewhat ahead of the cash market reality.  Cash feeder cattle markets continue to adjust to higher feed costs, partly in terms of general price levels but particularly in the relative prices of lightweight and heavy feeder cattle.  The flattening of the price line across weights translates into higher value of gain potential for added feeder cattle weight gain. Increased optimism and less volatility would be greatly appreciated as cattle markets finish 2021 and look ahead to the coming year. 


In the Sunup TV Livestock Marketing segment from August 14, Dr. Peel discusses packing capacity issues and labor shortages. Livestock Marketing 8/14/21 — SUNUP TV

Heat Stress in Cattle

Barry Whitworth, DVM, OSU Eastern Oklahoma Area Extension Food/Animal Quality and Health Specialist


According to the Oklahoma Mesonet, the month of July was cooler than normal with the average temperature below 80° Fahrenheit (F) ( August has started much the same way with temperatures well below what would be expected during this time of the year. However, this will probably change quickly. With hot temperatures likely to return, cattle producers will need to monitor their cattle for signs of heat stress.


Cattle are comfortable when the temperature is between 15-85°F. When temperatures are above 85°F, cows will typically try to find relief by heading to shade among the trees and/or by bellying deep in ponds. These actions are signs for producers that they should closely observe their cattle for heat stress. Other signs telling of heat stress include increased respiration, open mouth breathing, breathing with protruding tongue, and excessive salivation. Cattle displaying these signs need immediate relief from the heat. A good way to provide quick relief is to spray or mist cattle with water. Increasing air circulation will also help to reduce extreme heat. This can be done with large fans or by moving cattle to areas where there is natural wind. If the heat stress continues, cattle with the above signs will begin to tremble and convulse. Without proper treatment, these cattle are at risk of dying.


A lack of clinical signs of heat stress does not mean that cattle are not being impacted by the heat. There are hidden consequences to heat stress such as decreased conception rates in cows, decreased sperm quality in bulls, and reduced weight gain in younger cattle. Due to the hidden impacts of heat stress, it is important that producers have preventative measures in place before hot weather arrives.


Managing heat stress should begin with making sure cattle have plenty of clean water. During hot weather, cattle may drink up to two gallons of water a day per 100 pounds of body weight. Keeping water clean and cool encourages consumption. This may require producers to clean water tanks frequently and to place water tanks in the shade to keep water cool.


There are several other preventative measures that can be taken to aid in helping cattle lower body temperature. Providing access to shaded areas will lower the overall environmental temperature. Making sure that cows have room to spread out will help by providing better air circulation. Keeping brush low in pastures will also improve air circulation. Feeding a few hours after the high daytime temperatures allow cattle to dissipate heat better since cattle create heat when fermenting their food. Controlling flies will help. Flies force cattle to bunch up. Cattle not fighting flies will maintain better separation which allows for better airflow. Lastly, when working cattle, producers need to start early in the day and be finished before 10 AM.


A great source for managing heat stress in cattle is the Oklahoma Mesonet website ( This website is the home of the Cattle Comfort Advisor which is a great tool to manage heat stress in cattle. The site provides detailed information about heat and cold stress for cattle producers. For more information about heat stress in cattle, producers should visit with their local veterinarian and/or their Oklahoma State University Cooperative County Extension Ag Educator.

Beef Quality Assurance Program Injection Site Guidelines

Bob LeValley, Oklahoma Beef Quality Assurance Coordinator


In order to reduce the incidence of injection site lesions, injectable products should be administered subcutaneous (SQ)if the label allows. Intramuscular (IM) injections not only increase soreness compared to subcutaneous injections, some products given IM cause muscle damage which subsequently causes a significant amount of expensive carcass trim. Knots or blemishes from SQ injections are much easier to find, examine and remove at the packers. Because of these considerations, the national Beef Quality Assurance program adopted a policy that all injections (antibiotics, vaccines, parasiticides, vitamins, prostaglandins, hormones, and all other injectables) be given in front of the slope of the shoulder, that products with SQ labeling be selected in preference to products labeled for IM use only, and that IM injections if required, be limited to not more than 10 cc per injection site.


A Producer’s Guide for Judicious Use of Antimicrobials in Cattle

  • Prevent problems: Emphasize appropriate husbandry and hygiene, routine health examinations, and vaccinations.
  • Select and use antibiotics carefully: Consult with your veterinarian on the selection and use of antibiotics. Have a valid reason to use an antibiotic. Therapeutic alternatives should be considered prior to using antimicrobial therapy.
  • Avoid using antibiotics important in human medicine as first line therapy: Avoid using as the first antibiotic those medications that are important to treating strategic human or animal infections.
  • Use the laboratory to help you select antibiotics: Cultures and susceptibility test results should be used to aid in the selection of antimicrobials, whenever possible.
  • Combination antibiotic therapy is discouraged: Unless there is clear evidence the specific practice is beneficial, select and dose an antibiotic to affect a cure.
  • Avoid inappropriate antibiotic use: Confine therapeutic antimicrobial use to proven clinical indications, avoiding inappropriate uses such as for viral infections without bacterial complication.
  • Treatment programs should reflect best use principles: Regimens for therapeutic antimicrobial use should be optimized using current pharmacological information and principles.
  • Treat the fewest number of animals possible: Limit antibiotic use to sick or at-risk animals.
    Treat for the recommended time period: To minimize the potential for bacteria to become resistant to antimicrobials.
  • Avoid environmental contamination with antibiotics: Steps should be taken to minimize antimicrobials reaching the environment through spillage, contaminated ground run off or aerosolization.
  • Keep records of antibiotic use: Accurate records of treatment and outcome should be used to evaluate therapeutic regimens and always follow proper withdrawal times.
  • Follow label directions: Follow label instructions and never use antibiotics other than as labeled without a valid veterinary prescription.
  • Extra-label antibiotic use must follow FDA regulations: Prescriptions, including extra label use of medications must meet the Animal Medicinal Drug Use Clarification Act (AMDUCA) amendments to the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act and its regulations. This includes having a valid Veterinary/Client/ Patient Relationship (VCPR).
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