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Cattle Markets Transition to Summer

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


As we move into June, cattle markets are transitioning into summer mode, reflecting seasonality and a myriad of other factors which are currently impacting markets.  Market impacts vary across different classes of cattle.


Steer calf prices posted a double top in February and again in early April with the outbreak of the war in Ukraine causing a counter-seasonal dip in March.  The decrease in calf prices in April and May is expected seasonally but the decrease has been more pronounced than usual.  For example, prices for 500-pound steers in Oklahoma have decreased about 12 percent since the first of April compared to the four to five percent typical seasonal decline over this period.  Poor forage conditions and prospects combined with high grain prices is weighing heavy on calf prices.  Calf prices typically decline through the summer before pushing more sharply lower in the fall.


The big feeder cattle also put in a double spring top with the highest prices of the year in mid-February and a second, lower top in early April.  By late May prices for 800-pound steers, for example, had decreased just over 4 percent from early April.  This compares to a typical increase of one to two percent in that period on the way to seasonally higher prices in the summer for big feeder cattle.  Increasing feedlot ration costs continues to push down on feeder cattle prices.  However, Feeder Cattle futures have rallied off the mid-May lows as Corn futures have moderated.  If it persists, this may help stabilize cash feeder cattle prices into the summer.


The outbreak of the war in Ukraine replaced the seasonal March peak in fed cattle prices with twin February and early May peaks.  Fed cattle prices decreased in the past month in a more or less seasonal fashion by roughly three percent.  Fed prices typically decrease into the summer as fed slaughter reaches a seasonal peak between May and August.  Fed prices typically reach a summer low around Labor Day, before increasing in the fourth quarter.  


Cull cow prices typically peak in March and April and hold close to peak levels through June before declining slightly in July and August ahead of a sharp seasonal decline in the fourth quarter.   This year, cull prices were very strong through a peak in April but have decreased more quickly through May.  Boning cow prices in Oklahoma City decreased nearly 12 percent from mid-April to late May.  Beef cow slaughter is up 15 percent year over year for the first 20 weeks of the year.  A strong ground beef market continues to support cull cow prices, but drought-forced liquidation is likely to add additional supply pressure to cull markets in the coming weeks.


Boxed beef prices did not post the typical May peak ahead of grilling season.  However, Choice boxed beef prices did increase in the last two weeks of the month from mid-May lows, with higher prices for all primals.  Post-Memorial Day assessment of beef demand will be forthcoming and may set the tone for beef markets this summer.



Act Now to Add Value to Weaned Calves

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


Added value can be captured through marketing preconditioned weaned calves or retained ownership past weaning.  Along with weaning at least 45 days, preconditioning includes several practices that add value to cattle for the buyer and seller.  Beyond this, additional weight gain can be added by growth implants, adding further value to your calves.

  • Bovine respiratory disease is the biggest issue for stocker operators and feedlots.  Fully vaccinated and preconditioned calves have been shown to have reduced sick pulls in the receiving pens by 90% and decrease chronics by over 70%.
  • Castrated steers bring $5-10/cwt more than bulls, and as they get bigger discounts for bulls increase.  Intact bull calves are 1.5 to 2.5 times more likely to get sick, and total gain during receiving is reduced, affecting total performance for the entire ownership period.
  • Dehorning adds value to horned cattle.  Often discounts for horned cattle can match or exceed discounts for bull calves.
  • Discounts for horned bulls can reach up to $25/cwt compared to dehorned or polled steer calves.
  • Implants can increase gains by 10 to 20%. For the cost of $2 or less, the 18 pounds of added weight at sale can be worth over $25.
  • Producers often think they can leave bull calves intact and increase weaning weights due to natural testosterone. Testosterone production is very low until puberty, so weaning weights are not heavier for intact bulls compared to steers. Weaning weights of implanted steers is often much heavier than intact bull calves.


Requirements to enroll calves in the Oklahoma Quality Beef Network marketing program are as follows:

  • All calves must be:
  • Raised from the ranch of origin
  • Bull calves must be castrated and healed
  • Dehorned and healed
  • Weaned a minimum of 45 days
  • Vaccinated with 2 doses of a 5-way respiratory vaccine
  • Vaccinated with 2 doses of at least a 7-way clostridial vaccine (blackleg)
  • Vaccinated with 1 dose of Pasteurella/Haemolytica (shipping fever)
  • Identified with an OQBN program ear tag
  • Must follow one of three vaccination protocols (options found on health protocol sheet)
  • Producers must be Beef Quality Assurance (BQA) certified
  • Third-party verified by OSU Extension personnel


For spring calving herds, now is the time to castrate, dehorn, implant and get the first round vaccinations into calves when they are two to four months of age.  The second round of vaccinations can be given at, or prior to, weaning.  Act now to add value at weaning and beyond.  


For more information refer to or contact your local Cooperative Extension Office.


Mark Johnson provides information on preconditioning programs on SunUp TV  from July 3, 2021 and adding value to calves from July 10, 2021



Managing Heat Stress

Paul Beck, Oklahoma State University Extension Beef Nutrition Specialist


We have had some variations in weather this spring with hot weather and intermittent stretches of cooler temperatures when storm fronts come through. The cooler temperatures are welcome, but they keep livestock from acclimatizing to hot temperatures, increasing the heat stress when hotter temperatures return. 


In hot summer conditions, heat transfer failures cause accumulation of body heat resulting in heat stress, reduced performance, animal discomfort, or death. When animals experience discomfort from heat stress, their behaviors change to reduce heat load (increased water consumption, decreased feed intake, seeking shade, standing in water, etc.). 


Water intake per unit of feed intake is twice as high during the summer than in the winter. Evaporation of moisture from the respiratory tract through panting is an important way for the animal to lose excess heat load. So, during heat stress water space availability becomes very important. During heat stress the linear water space increases from about 1 inch per head to 3 inches per head to allow for sufficient access to water. 


Shade has been found to be beneficial to feedlot cattle, the greatest benefit of shade for finishing cattle is at the onset of the heat stress event. Cattle with shade have lower respiration rates and body temperatures when temperatures increase. Under heat stress, shaded finishing cattle in feedlots have increased average daily gain, hot carcass weights and dressing percentage as well as improved feed efficiency. 


Cattle require 1.8 to 9.6 square yards per head depending on the size of the animal. Effective shade structure design depends on the thermal properties of the shade material, the ground cover under the shade, height of the structure, the amount of shade provided per animal, the level of ventilation (lower ventilation can trap heat under the structure), and the orientation of the structure. Shade structures should be at least 12 feet high to reduce direct solar radiation and increase air movement in the shelter. Metal shades effectively block direct solar radiation, but it can accumulate heat and radiate it on the animal. Shade cloth allows more air movement and heat dissipation. 


Providing shade, if designed correctly, is an effective strategy to reduce heat load by reducing heat accumulation from direct solar radiation and has animal welfare benefits that can improve performance. 


Dr David Lalman provides tips for producers on preventing heat stress in cattle from a classic Sun Up TV episode from August 4, 2012.


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