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Drought Impacts Advancing Rapidly

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


The July Cattle Report confirmed that the cumulative effects of drought that past two years have accelerated liquidation of the beef cattle herd.  The July 1 inventory of all cattle and calves was 98.8 million head, down 2.0 percent year over year.  The beef cow herd decreased by 2.4 percent year over year, a decline of 750,000 head from last year to the current total of 30.35 million head.  From the recent peak in 2018, the July beef cow inventory has declined by 6.3 percent, or a total of 2.05 million head.  The July inventory of beef replacement heifers was down by 3.5 percent year over year.  Feeder cattle supplies are estimated from the sum of inventories of other heifers and steers (over 500 pounds) plus calves (under 500 pounds) minus cattle on feed.  The estimated July 1 feeder supply was down 2.7 percent from last year.


The monthly Cattle on feed report puts July 1 feedlot inventories at 11.34 million head, a scant 0.4 percent above last year.  July, along with every other month this year has had record monthly inventories, but the year over year gap is declining.  June feedlot marketings were up 2.0 percent year over year.  Placements in June were down 2.4 percent from one year ago.  This is the fourth consecutive month of lower feedlot placements.  In the past two months, placements have consisted of increased numbers of cattle under 700 pounds with sharper decreases in placements over 700 pounds leading to an overall decline in placements.  Placements would have fallen faster without the lightweight placements.  Increased lightweight placements now mean that fewer cattle will be available for placement later.  The July Cattle on Feed report also included the quarterly breakdown of steers and heifers on feed, with steer inventories down 1.1 percent from last year but heifers on feed up 2.9 percent year over year.   Heifer slaughter is up 3.9 percent for the year to date and this July heifer inventory means that heifer slaughter will continue large in the second half of the year.


There are indications that drought impacts have accelerated sharply in the southern plains in July.  The percent of Oklahoma pastures and ranges rated as poor to very poor jumped from 18 percent in early July to 34 percent in the July 18 Crop Progress report.  Cattle producers are destocking at a rapid rate as pasture conditions deteriorate rapidly.  The volume of feeder cattle in Oklahoma auctions the past two weeks is up 24 percent year over year.  It appears that calves are being weaned and marketed early.  Prices for Oklahoma steers dropped an average of 3.5 percent this past week with prices for 400-500 pound steers down 7.9 percent.  Feeder heifer prices were down an average of 2.5 percent with prices for 400-500 pound heifers down 6.3 percent.  The auction volume of cull cows and bulls jumped nearly 124 percent over last year in the past two weeks.  Prices for average dressing Boning cows decreased by nearly 22 percent from $85.22/cwt. in early July to $66.62/cwt. this past week.  Anecdotal reports indicate that auctions in the southern plains and regional cow slaughter plants are being overwhelmed with volumes of cattle sales.


Derrell Peel breaks down the latest news in the cattle markets on SunUp TV from July 23, 2022.



Anaplasmosis in Cattle

Mark Z. Johnson, Oklahoma State University Extension Beef Cattle Breeding Specialist


Anaplasmosis is a common disease in cattle with worldwide distribution.  The disease is regularly found in cattle in the state of Oklahoma.  Accordingly, Anaplasmosis will occur every year within Oklahoma with some variation on the intensity of this disease usually based on the strain of Anaplasma marginale which is a bacteria that infects red blood cells and once an animal becomes infected they are infected for life.  Anaplasmosis is transmitted through the bite of ticks and flies, as well as blood contaminated instruments like needles, tattoo tools, castration equipment and dehorning instruments.   This bacteria does not harm the red blood cells directly but the cow’s immune response recognizes it when it reaches certain levels which then causes anemia due to the immune system killing the red blood cells that are infected.  This will limit the amount of oxygen that is transported throughout the animal’s blood, which can then lead to aggressive behaviors exhibited by normally docile cows or bulls. Other clinical signs that animals are infected with the bacteria are extreme lethargy, yellowing of the mucous membranes, abortions, weight loss, and difficulty breathing.  Most producers will not know they have an anaplasmosis problem until they see dead cows or bulls that are older than 2-years of age.  This disease can be devastating with death losses in some herds approaching 50%.       


Best Management Practices for Treatment and Prevention

First, consult with your veterinarian so that they can develop a comprehensive plan to limit the impact of anaplasmosis.  This relationship is important because the most commonly utilized control plan is to administer tetracycline antibiotics through mineral supplements or feed and the only access to this preventative treatment is to obtain a Veterinary Feed Directive (VFD).  Clinical signs of infections can be treated with injectable antibiotics via an intramuscular injection of oxytetracycline administered multiple days and should be given under a veterinarian’s directions.  Successful antibiotic therapy curing the clinical signs of infection results in a carrier animal.  Carrier cattle will be immune to further disease from anaplasmosis but will remain a source from which needles, flies and ticks can spread the disease.  A vaccine is available in some states and Oklahoma is approved for this vaccine. This vaccine does not prevent infection but anecdotal evidence demonstrates a reduction in clinical signs. 


In Oklahoma it is not a matter of “if” but rather a matter of “when” anaplasmosis will impact your cattle herd.   Best management practices to prevent and control the transmission of this this disease include:

  • Feeding tetracycline antibiotic during the fly and tick seasons (essential)
  • Rotating pastures (when possible) to avoid pastures with a history of tick issues during tick season
  • Burning pastures in the spring to control ticks
  • Controlling fly and tick populations to the extent possible
  • Changing needles and disinfecting any instruments which may result in transmitting blood from animal to animal when working cattle.

Reference: Anaplasmosis: People, Ticks and Certain Flies. Justin Talley. Cow-Calf Corner Newsletter. June, 2021.               


Kurtis Hair interviewed Dr. Justin Talley about the importance of controlling external parasites on cattle to help with anaplaz spread on SunUp TV from May 4, 2019 



Plan Now to Make It Through the Winter: Part II

Paul Beck, Oklahoma State University Extension Beef Nutrition Specialist


Last week I shared some of the first steps for plans to get through the winter with an intact cattle operation, focus last week was taking steps now to reduce stocking rates and enhance grazing efficiency. This week focus will be on proactive steps for winter feeding.


  1. Determine how much hay you have and how much you can feed daily for the expected feeding period. If you have as little as 10 pounds of hay available per cow-day, you may not have to purchase more hay or roughage to provide a balanced diet to your cows.
  2. Test your hay or other roughage source. It is impossible to determine what your cows will require without some knowledge of the quality of what you are feeding them. Hay is variable and moderate to low in protein and energy. Crop residues are more variable and generally low in protein and energy.
  3. Consider planting warm-season annuals as a grazing crop in the late summer to fill early fall forage gaps. Warm-season annuals can produce 4 to 5 tons of dry matter per acre in 45 days when planted in late summer. Grasses like corn and millets do not produce prussic acid when under stress, which can be a concern for sudangrass, johnsongrass, and sorghums when frosted.
  4. Plant cool-season annual grasses in your pastures. The subdivided pastures you created are a great place to establish complementary forage be established. If you keep the cows off these pastures until they are 6 or 8 inches tall they will provide excellent forage for use in the winter or early spring which will decrease the hay feeding and can be used as an early hay or silage crop.
  5. Balance a supplement or feeding program that makes sense in your operation. There is no ‘one size fits all’ feeding program for every cowherd.
  6. Feeding monensin to beef cows has been shown to decrease forage intake 8% without impacting cow bodyweight or body condition.

Although these steps are not easy and will require thought and some work, if your goal is to keep your operation intact and profitable, they are well worth the effort.


Dr. Dave Lalman and I covered preparation for extended drought in two Rancher’s Thursday Lunchtime webinar presentations from February this year.

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