Oklahoma Cow Calf Corner

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Well-known member
Jan 20, 2007
LaRue, Ohio
The Newsletter

From the Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service

April 13, 2007
In this Issue

Fed and Feeder Cattle Markets Red Hot

By Derrell S. Peel, OSU Extension Livestock Marketing Specialist

Cow Body Condition Changes after Calving
By Glenn Selk, OSU Extension Animal Reproduction Specialist

Fed and Feeder Cattle Markets Red Hot
By Derrell S. Peel

Fed and feeder cattle prices are very strong now for a variety of positive reasons and despite a few negative ones.  This week in Oklahoma auctions, the price of Large frame, No. 1 steers weighing 478 pounds averaged $136.34/cwt, slightly higher than the same week last year when the price was $134.35/cwt.  For 824 pound, Large frame, No 1 steers, the price this week was $107.26/cwt. compared to $97.26/cwt. this time last year. 

There are several factors at work.  Fed cattle prices are plus or minus $100.00/cwt. because boxed beef prices have been on a rollercoaster that takes them higher and higher so far.  This last week, Choice boxed beef prices reached levels not seen since the fall of 2003.  I don’t expect boxed beef prices to continue increasing at this rate or even to be able to maintain current levels for long.  However, despite the volatility of beef markets , the overall levels suggest underlying beef demand strength and seasonally, we would expect beef prices to remain generally strong for another month or so.  Both meat buyers and sellers are operating largely on a hand to mouth basis on supplies which contributes much the volatility of wholesale beef markets but beef prices should stay reasonably strong at least until Memorial Day featuring needs are assured.

Feeder prices are strong because a) fed prices are strong; b) feeder supplies are limited; and c) forage conditions have improved.  Recent rains in the Southern Plains, in particular, have significantly improved forage and stock water conditions going into the growing season.  They have also rekindling interest in retaining heifers to restart the stalled herd expansion.  Lightweight cattle have strong demand for summer grazing and breeding heifer demand is likely to pull more heifers out of commercial feeder cattle markets this summer.
Feeder prices have recovered most of the declines of last fall caused by high corn prices.  Not that corn prices are not still high and certainly not to say that high feed prices is not still having an impact.  It is and it will continue to.  Notice in the prices reported above that while calf prices are very close to last year’s levels, heavy feeder prices are actually higher relative to last year and to lightweight cattle.  That impact is exactly what is expected when feed prices increase.  Thus, while calf prices are equal to last year for a variety of reasons, they would be even higher if corn prices were not $1.50 to $2.00/bushel higher than last year.  The spread in feeder prices by weight continues to be narrowed by high feed prices and the general incentive is to favor forage based gains in feeder cattle and delay feedlot placements to heavier weights. 
Feeder markets will continue to be sensitive to corn market conditions.  The anticipated increase in corn plantings reported on March 30 by USDA is being offset more each day with cold, wet weather that is delaying corn planting.  These delays will begin to impact corn yield potential as we get into May.  Lot of positive factors are pushing up cattle prices for very solid reasons but feed prices continue to be a negative and will be a source of volatility for the foreseeable future.

Cow Body Condition Changes after Calving
By Glenn Selk

Body condition at the time of calving is the most important factor affecting rebreeding performance of normally managed beef cows.  Body condition changes before, and after calving will have more subtle effects on rebreeding especially in cows that are in marginal body condition.  Body condition changes from the time the cow calves until she begins the breeding season can also play a significant role in the rebreeding success story.  This appears to be most important to those cows that calve in the marginal condition score range of "4" or "5".  An Oklahoma trial illustrates the vulnerability of cows that calve in the body condition score of 5.  Two groups of cows began the winter feeding period in similar body condition and calved in very similar body condition.  However, after calving and before the breeding season began, one group was allowed to lose almost one condition score (from 5.3 to 4.6).  The other group of cows was fed adequately to maintain the body condition that they had prior to calving.  The difference in rebreeding rate was significant (73% vs 94%).  Again this illustrates that cows that calve in the body condition score of 5 are very vulnerable to weather and suckling intensity stresses and ranchers must use good nutritional strategies after calving to avoid disastrous rebreeding performance.

Figure 1.  Change in body condition after calving influences rebreeding rates.

Cows should calve in moderate to good condition (scores of 5 or 6) to ensure good rebreeding efficiency.  Ideally, cows should be gaining condition during mid to late pregnancy and maintaining that excellent body condition to, and during breeding. 


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