Making Short Wheat Pasture Work

Oklahoma State University Extension Beef Cattle Specialist Paul Beck this week provided some thoughts on making short wheat pasture work with high grain prices in a letter to Extension Agents called Cow-Calf Corner.

This year, most of central and western Oklahoma has gone more than 40 to 60 days with less than 0.25 inch of rain, and in the Oklahoma Panhandle it has been more than 70 to 120 days, pummeling wheat pastures, Beck said.

There were decent prospects with a in mid-October event that was at just the right time to get much of the grazing wheat going and provide enough forage for calves, he said.  There was not enough stockpiled forage to maintain stocking rates if conditions weren’t right, though, and the lack of rain since then has limited regrowth, and pastures are short again.




Previous ODU research where concentrate supplements containing monensin were fed at 0.65% to 0.75% of body weight and stocking rate was increased 22% to 44% showed fall/winter weight gains increased by 0.33 pound per day with a mean supplement conversion of five pounds of as-fed supplement per pound of increased gain per acre, Beck said.  Monensin has been shown to increase pasture gains by 10% to 15% and reduce forage intake by about 10%.

The supplementation program also can be used to stretch wheat forage when pastures are 60% to 80% of normal, he said.  The economics usually are very good when feed prices are low to moderate with costs of added gain around 50 to 75 cents per pound of added gain when feeds cost $150 to $200 a ton, but escalate to more than $1 per pound when feed prices are $400 a ton.

Research has shown that offering high-quality roughages like corn or sorghum silage or high-quality round bale silages can be used to replace short wheat pasture, Beck said.  1980’s research showed that feeding silage daily to calves on wheat pasture allowed stocking rates to be increased by up to 2X without reducing performance.




Even with higher stocking rates and less forage per acre pastured OSU steers gained 2.6 pounds a day, and total gain per acre increased from a “normal” 250 pounds per acre production to 300 pounds, he said.  This only took about 4.5 pounds of silage dry matter per pound of added gain per acre.

Using high quality, palatable hays or silages researchers were able to stretch wheat pastures when concentrate feeds are expensive, he added.




The USDA reported formula and contract base prices for live FOB steers and heifers this week ranged from $139.32 to $140.54 per cwt, compared with last week’s range of $135.28 to $137.27.  FOB dressed steers and heifers went for $216.70 to $217.39 per cwt, versus $211.86 to $215.04.

The USDA choice cutout Monday was up $0.77 per cwt at $266.03, while select was up $0.67 at $258.90.  The choice/select spread widened to $7.13 from $7.03 with 100 loads of fabricated product and 29 loads of trimmings and grinds sold into the spot market.

The USDA reported Monday that basis bids for corn from livestock feeding operations in the Southern Plains were unchanged at $1.35 to $1.45 a bushel over the Mar futures and for southwest Kansas were unchanged at $0.40 over Mar, which settled at $5.89 1/4 a bushel, down $0.04.

The CME Feeder Cattle Index for the seven days ended Friday was $165.35 per cwt up $1.80.  This compares with Monday’s Jan contract settlement of $166.25 per cwt, down $0.62.