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Cow-Calf Corner • The Newsletter

Monday, November 15, 2021

Fall Feeder Run and Cull Cow Markets

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


The fall feeder run is in full swing with calf prices moving counter-seasonally higher.  In Oklahoma, the combined auction total last week was 40, 411 head of feeder cattle, up from 26,298 head the week prior.  It is typical for the middle two weeks of November to have the largest weekly auction totals for the year.  The Oklahoma price of 450-500 lb. M/L No. 1 steers was $184.95/cwt. for the week ending November 12.  This was up $8.61/cwt. from the prior week for the same animals.  Last week also included large sales of OQBN and Noble Integrity Beef preconditioned feeder cattle.  The average price noted for value-added calves in the USDA-AMS report for the 450-500 pounds steers was $194.57, nearly $10.00/cwt. higher than the average price for similar steers.  By contrast, the price for similar steers marked as unweaned  was reported at $174.86/cwt, about $10.00/cwt lower than the average and about $20.00/cwt. lower than the price for the value-added calves.   The value-added calves were valued $93.62/head more than unweaned calves and $45.70/head over average calves.  In the last two weeks, I have collected auction sale data on over 13,000 head of feeder cattle at sales in Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska and South Dakota.  This tour has highlighted the fascinating differences in the cattle, the ways the cattle industry works, and the cattle industry culture across the country.  In general, all prices are higher week on week since early October with the highest overall prices, as is typical, in Nebraska.


Cull cow prices are seasonally lower in November but are actually holding quite strong.  Oklahoma boning cow prices were reported at $62.01/cwt. for the week ending November 12, down 8.9 percent from the average August price.  The average seasonal price decline for boning cows in Oklahoma from August to November is about 15 percent.  The cull cow market continues to be supported by a strong lean trimmings market despite increased cull beef supplies.  Cull cow slaughter continues to be higher year over year although the increase is smaller now than earlier.  For the past eight weeks, beef cow slaughter has averaged 6.5 percent higher year over year.  The eight weeks prior to that, in July and August, beef cow slaughter averaged 15.2 percent higher year over year.  For the year to date, beef cow slaughter is up 8.8 percent over 2020 and is up 12.0 percent over 2019 levels. 


Much of the increased beef cow slaughter is coming out of the northern plains where drought has been so severe this year.  I compared Oklahoma boning cow prices to Montana to see if drought impacts were apparent.  In both cases, prices have dropped seasonally since August but have fallen more in Montana, down 9.7 percent.  On average, boning cow prices in Oklahoma and Montana average very close to the same level.  However, in the first week of November, boning cow prices in Montana were $58.00/cwt, 9.3 percent lower compared to Oklahoma prices of $63.96/cwt.  Montana boning cow prices have been significantly lower compared to Oklahoma since June of this year.  Clearly the drought is impacting prices in Montana compared to Oklahoma.  However, from another perspective, the overall cull cow market is higher year over year and although producers may be forced to sell cows due to drought, the prices have not dropped as much as sometimes happens in drought situations.  One year ago, boning cow prices in Montana were $49.49/cwt.  The general improvement in cattle markets is helping to offset some of the worst drought impacts.



Setting Stocking Rate for Stockers on Small Grain Pasture this Fall

Paul Beck, Oklahoma State University Extension Beef Nutrition Specialist


This year dry weather during September delayed planting and emergence of wheat, which will delay turnout of calves. Research indicates that forage intake and animal performance is limited when pastures have below 850 to 1,000 of forage per acre. The most success in a small grain forage grazing system is achieved if the start of grazing is delayed until forage is ready and grazing management allows for adequate leaf area for forage regrowth. Overgrazing and starting too early will limit animal performance and reduce total overall production of these pastures. Rains and mild fall temperatures during October have helped get pastures back on track. If pastures are below this level, turnout may need to be delayed until pastures are ready.

  • Wheat forage grows at 3 to 3.5 pounds of forage dry matter per acre for each growing degree-day.
  • A growing degree day = the average daily temperature - 40◦ F
  • If in a given day, the high temperature is 65◦ F and the low temperature is 45◦ F the average daily temperature is 55, so there is 15 growing degree-days.
  • Wheat would be expected to produce 45 to 52 pounds of forage dry matter that day.
  • So, 10 extra days of growth would be needed to get a pasture from 400 pounds of forage/acre to 850 pounds of forage/acre if these temperatures persist.

Setting stocking rates on wheat pasture in the fall and winter has large impacts on performance of growing calves and can have large influences on productivity of pastures during the spring. Forage production and steer performance from 10-years of experiments were used to determine the response of ADG to initial forage allowance (lb initial forage DM/lb initial BW) on ADG during the fall and winter. The maximum ADG of 2.7 lb/day could be expected at 5.0 lb forage DM/lb initial calf bodyweight and ADG of 2 lb/day could be expected at an initial forage allowance of approximately 2.4 lb forage DM/lb initial calf bodyweight.


An easy rule of thumb is for wheat pasture there is 150 to 250 pound of forage dry matter per inch of plant height. To make the math easy, I use about 200 pounds of forage dry matter per inch.

  • Pastures that are 6 to 7 inches in height would have about 1,200 to 1,400 pounds of forage dry matter per acre.
  • A 500 pound steer should have 2,500 pounds of forage dry matter available at turnout (500 x 5 lbs DM forage allowance).
  • So, about 2 acres of this wheat pasture should be adequate to meet steer performance goals.
  • When forage allowance fall below 2 pounds of forage per pound of steer bodyweight, supplementation should be considered.



Animal Disease Traceability

Dr. Rosslyn Biggs, OSU Extension Beef Cattle Veterinarian


As a result of the current pandemic, terms such as “herd immunity,” “infection rates,” and “contact tracing” are now part of daily conversations. Similar terms and principles would apply if an incursion of a foreign animal disease, such as foot and mouth disease, occurred in the United States. In such situations, animal disease traceability is critical to emergency response efforts. 


Animal disease traceability (ADT), as defined by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), is knowing where diseased and at-risk animals are, where they’ve been, and when. ADT does not prevent disease introduction, but does allow expedited emergency response. Accurate and timely response is critical for both producers and industry.


ADT allows official individual identification of animals and rapid tracing during an outbreak. One ADT system that allows individual identification is the National Uniform Eartagging System (NUES).  This system has been used for years and is familiar to many producers.  The common names for these tags are “Bangs tags” or “Silver Bright tags.  These tags are used for cattle requiring brucellosis vaccination or tuberculosis testing.


Another system of official identification involves the use of radiofrequency (electronic) tags beginning the tag number with the digits 840.  Radiofrequency identification (RFID) tags are available as low frequency and ultra-high frequency. In certain circumstances other forms of identification, such as registration tattoos and brands, may be used as official identification.


Currently, official identification is required only under certain conditions and for certain classes of cattle. The two primary situations requiring official identification are program disease testing (such as that required for brucellosis) and interstate movement.


The cattle classes requiring identification when moving interstate are listed below. Exceptions to this requirement do apply under unique movement types, such as travel for veterinary care. Feeder cattle and animals moving directly to slaughter do not require official identification for interstate movement.


Classes of cattle requiring USDA official identification for interstate movement include:


Beef Cattle & Bison

  • sexually intact and 18 months or older
  • used for rodeo or recreational events (regardless of age)
  • used for shows or exhibitions

Dairy Cattle

  • all female dairy cattle
  • all male dairy cattle born after March 11, 2013
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