Cold, Wet Weather Hits Plains, Midwest

The Thanksgiving Day holiday brought freezing temperatures, rain, ice and snow to much of the central US and into the Midwest, helping the winter wheat but bedeviling cattle.

The National Weather Service shows the precipitation over the last 24 hours in the Southern Plains and Western Midwest.

Two days ago, this storm was dumping a concoction of rain, snow and everything in between in the Northern Plains and into Minnesota.  News reports said California even got some precipitation, allowing ski resorts to open earlier than they have in two or three years.

But the widespread wintry mix pattern over the central Plains where most US cattle are fattened in feedlots will stress the cattle there.

Temperatures were not extreme, but the cattle are wet and unable to get dry.  Feedlots are muddy with little, if any, space to lie own where it is drier.




University studies have shown that cattle can withstand a lot of cold if they are dry.  They are outside animals that deal with the cold, dry conditions pretty well.  They grow a dense coat of hair in the fall, and the fermentation action in the rumen, the large portion of their four-chambered stomach generates internal heat.

However, their hair is not able to shed water, nor is it able to insulate when whet as is wool.  Cattle then use more of their food energy to maintain body temperature, using less to grow muscle, bone and fat.  They may even lose weight when dealing with particularly harsh winter conditions.

University animal specialists and veterinarians agree that cattle are better off health-wise if the weather turns cold and stays cold.  That way, the snow doesn’t soak them up, disease-causing microbes are inhibited, and the cattle remain fairly healthy.  A Nebraska second, generation cattle feeder once quoted his father as saying there were only two days of the year unsuitable for feeding cattle – and both were in the summer.

That’s an exaggeration, but cattle do grow and fatten more slowly, increasing costs to cattle owners.  For this storm, the problem is going to be the cold, wet conditions of the feedlots.

Still, temperatures in most areas haven’t been extreme yet, allowing cattle a better chance to deal with the wet feedlot conditions.  In storms over the last couple of weeks, temperatures warmed and allowed the cattle to catch up.




Cash fed cattle markets so far this week have been quiet with no packer bids reported.  Asking prices were about $5 to $7 higher at $132 per cwt on a live basis.

Cash cattle trading last week ranged from $124 to $127 per cwt on a live basis and around $195 on a dressed basis.

Wholesale beef prices Wednesday were higher, with the USDA choice cutout at $204.09 per cwt, up $0.28 on the day, and its select cutout at $193.76, up $1.52.  The choice/select spread narrowed to $10.33 from $11.57 on Tuesday, and there were 131 loads of fabricated product sold into the spot market.

The USDA reported light-to-moderate demand and offerings on Wednesday with ribs and chucks steady to firm wile rounds and loins were steady to weak.

The CME Feeder Cattle Index for the seven days ended Tuesday was $172.69 per cwt, up $0.86 on the day.  This compares with the Jan settlement Wednesday of $164.97, up $0.30.