Cattle Producers Struggle With Winter’s Blast: Peel

Cattle producers have felt the brunt of the protracted winter blast that has taken wind chills to minus 25 to 30 degrees Fahrenheit, said Derrell Peel, Oklahoma State University Extension Livestock Marketing Specialist, in a letter to Extension agents called Cow/Calf Corner.

The winter blast pushed to the southern plains before spreading eastward, ultimately affecting most of the eastern half of the country, Peel said.  This storm is unprecedented in terms of low temperatures and duration.




Cattle producers are struggling to provide water and feed, he said.  Cattle nutritional requirements rise sharply in this weather, and producers must consider the quantity and quality of feed.

Cattle physically will not be able to consume enough medium- to low-quality hay to provide sufficient energy in these conditions and must receive additional supplement or high-quality hay, Peel said.

If there is a silver lining, it is that conditions are cold but relatively dry, he said.  The snow has not, for the most part, penetrated the hair coat of cattle keeping the hide dry.

With adequate feed and water, cattle can handle this type of cold weather relatively well, Peel said.  These conditions are more typical of the central and northern plains and Rocky Mountain areas.

Areas south and east of Oklahoma are receiving rain and ice ahead of snow, producing more dangerous hypothermia conditions, Peel said.




This storm likely is ahead of most calving in Oklahoma but if calving is in progress, the extreme cold is a significant risk, he said.  Newborn calves can experience frozen ears and tails, marking them for life as a cold weather survivor and are discounted at marketing because of buyer fears of foot damage and other injuries.

Once calves are dry and feeding they can endure the cold, dry weather pretty well and may, in fact, be insulated by dry fluffy snow when bedded down, Peel said.




Oklahoma feeder cattle prices dropped 3% to 10% last week with lower demand more than offsetting sharply reduced sales volumes, he said.  Stockers doubtless are experiencing reduced gains or even weight loss, and many will need to be removed and marketed in the next two to three weeks, very likely weighing less than expected.

The effects to feedlot cattle will be apparent over time as lower carcass weights, and likely will affect cattle markets for several weeks.




Fed cattle trading was reported in the Plains last week at $113 to $114.50 per cwt on a live basis, steady to up $0.50 to $1 from the previous week.  Dressed-basis trading was at $180 per cwt, steady to up $2.

The USDA choice cutout Wednesday was up $2.74 per cwt at $237.51, while select was up $3.61 at $225.64.  The choice/select spread narrowed to $11.87 from $12.74 with 49 loads of fabricated product and 22 loads of trimmings and grinds sold into the spot market.

The USDA reported Tuesday that basis bids for corn from livestock feeding operations in the Southern Plains were unchanged at $1.00 to $1.25 a bushel over the Mar CBOT futures contract, which settled at $5.53 a bushel, up $0.0 3/4.

No new live cattle delivery intentions were posted Wednesday.  Thirty-five heifer and no steer deliveries were retendered at one.  Forty-one heifer and 5 steer deliveries were retendered at two.  Two steer deliveries were demanded at two, twenty-five heifer deliveries were reclaimed at one, and 30 heifer deliveries were reclaimed at two.

The CME Feeder Cattle Index for the seven days ended Tuesday was $135.71 per cwt, up $0.11.  This compares with Wednesday’s Mar contract settlement of $138.42 per cwt, down $2.35.