Rain May Help Plains Wheat, Pasture

While the National Weather Service’s weekly drought monitor showed conditions to be dry still, rain fell across much of the Southern Plains late last week.

September was exceptionally dry across the area with drought conditions building quickly, said Oklahoma State University Agricultural Economist Derrell Peel, in a newsletter to Extension Agents called Cow-Calf Corner.

The Drought Monitor shows most of the western 2/3 of the contiguous 48 states to be dryer than normal or experiencing exceptional drought.  Last week’s rains may help this week’s Drought Monitor somewhat, though.




The latest USDA Crop Progress report showed winter wheat planting at 28% complete the last week of September, equal to the 2016-2020 average, Peel said.  Emergence was at 5%, slightly above the five-year average of 3% for the end of September.

Although the numbers were about average, general indications are that wheat pasture prospects are limited, he said.  Some producers have “dusted in” wheat into dry soil, which will germinate quickly with last week’s rains, but pockets of heavy rain may have crusted over fields with ungerminated or very small wheat and may require replanting.

Pasture conditions deteriorated rapidly in September, Peel said.  Range and pasture in good to excellent condition dropped from 58% at the end of August to 32% in late September.

The percent of pastures in poor and very poor condition increased from 14% to 21% over the month, he said.  In the August Crop Production report, the USDA forecasted 2021 Other Hay production in Oklahoma to be 8.3% higher year over year, an increase of 2.5% over the 2015-2019 average.

The rapid decline in September’s forage conditions may reduce that estimate somewhat, he said.  Alfalfa hay, used primarily as a cash crop in Oklahoma, was forecast to decrease 15.8% year over year.




Auction prices for Oklahoma feeder cattle dropped last week reflecting seasonal price pressure and deteriorating forage conditions, Peel said.  The rains late last week may help support prices some, but the seasonalities of fall calf marketings will build in coming weeks with the lowest seasonal price for calves expected in late October and early November.

Heavy feeder cattle (over 700 pounds) typically do not drop seasonally in October and November, he said.  Feeder cattle prices currently average about 8% higher compared with this time a year ago.

Cull cow prices also are 8-9% higher year over year but likewise show seasonal pressure, Peel said. Typically, cull cow prices drop sharply through October to seasonal lows in November.




The USDA reported formula and contract base prices for live FOB steers and heifers this week ranged from $124.00 to $124.62 per cwt, compared with the previous week’s range of $123.68 to $125.06.  FOB dressed steers and heifers went for $194.25 to $195.53 per cwt, versus $194.31 to $196.10.

The USDA choice cutout Tuesday was down $1.47 per cwt at $287.71, while select was up $2.62 at $267.78.  The choice/select spread narrowed to $19.93 from $24.022 with 120 loads of fabricated product and 51 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 $1.20 to $1.35 a bushel over the Dec futures and for southwest Kansas were unchanged at $0.40 over Dec, which settled at $5.37 1/2 a bushel, down $0.03 1/4.

No contracts were tendered for delivery Tuesday against the Oct live cattle contract.

The CME Feeder Cattle Index for the seven days ended Monday was $152.79 per cwt up $0.26.  This compares with Tuesday’s Oct contract settlement of $156.10 per cwt, up $1.10.