Stock Cattle Industry Hard To Pin Down

The stocker industry is difficult to define, understand, or even identify, data from an Oklahoma State University/USDA survey showed.

Earlier this year, OSU, in conjunction with USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service and the National Agricultural Statistics Service, conducted a survey of Oklahoma cattle producers.  Derrell Peel, OSU Extension livestock marketing specialist, wrote of the results in this week’s “Cow/Calf Corner” newsletter.  This is a summary of his report.

The survey’s primary objective was to identify stocker producers and how the Oklahoma stocker industry operates. Completed surveys from nearly 1,500 producers were returned.




A variety of producers are involved in stocker production including specialized producers; stocker production in conjunction with cow/calf production, and retained stockers from cow/calf operations.

Stocker producers play a varied and flexible but critical role in the cattle industry.  The survey is expected to provide additional insight into stocker production and management practices, including timing and duration of stocker production; health management; forage use; purchasing and marketing of stocker cattle; timing and distance of shipping, and biosecurity practices.

That additional detail is expected in future instalments of the “Cow/Calf Corner.”




Producers were asked to identify all cattle production activities in their operations.  The list included several cow-calf activities (selling at weaning, retaining calves as stockers and retaining calves through the feedlot); and stocker/backgrounding production, including retaining stockers through the feedlot, as well as other production activities.  They were asked to identify production activities they use routinely as well as those used at least once in the last five years.

Although 49.1% of producers indicated only one cattle production activity, the average was two.  Specifically, 24.7% indicated two production activities; another 26.1% reported three or more production activities, including 15.1% having four or more.

Responses included routine and occasional practices.  Most (91.1%) had cow/calf production activities, but relatively few (5.1%) indicated only stocker/backgrounding production.  Another 19.4% indicated stocker production in addition to cow/calf production.

That does not include the 37.9% of cow/calf producers retaining raised calves as stockers.  When separate stocker/backgrounding activities along with retained calves from cow/calf production are included, a total of 45.3% of producers were involved in some form of stocker production.




Many cow/calf producers do not consider themselves stocker producers.  Survey participants were asked to choose one of the production activities they felt best described their operation.  Of those who chose a label, 58.4% labeled themselves “cow/calf, sell calves at weaning”.

However, of those who picked that label, 53.2% indicated that selling weaned calves was their sole routine cattle production activity.  This means many producers who consider themselves primarily cow/calf producers were involved in other types of cattle production as well, at least occasionally.




No trading took place on the Livestock Exchange video auction Wednesday.  Cash bids were reported at $117 per cwt on a live basis with asking prices at $120.

Cash cattle trading began last week at $118 per cwt on a live basis, down $1 from the bulk of the previous week’s action.  However, more trade came late at $120 to $120.50, up $1 to $1.50.  Dressed-basis trading was at mostly $189, up to $190, steady to up $1.

The USDA’s choice cutout Wednesday was down $2.08 per cwt at $206.55, while select was off $1.36 at $185.84.  The choice/select spread narrowed to $20.71 from $21.43 with 156 loads of fabricated product sold into the spot market.

The CME Feeder Cattle index for the seven days ended Tuesday was $156.81 per cwt, up $0.06.  This compares with Wednesday’s Jan settlement at $155.75 per cwt, up $1.07.