Cow on wheat pasture

Wise use of wheat pasture can help Oklahoma producers ensure livestock nutritional needs are met during potentially stressful weather conditions heading into January and February. Photo by Todd Johnson, OSU Agricultural Communications Services.

October brought significant rain across most of Oklahoma after a very dry September.  The rains came in the form of a significant fall severe weather season.  A total of 31 tornados were reported in the state in October, a new record for the month and more than for the entire year from January through September.

Wheat planting is finishing up in Oklahoma.  The latest Crop Progress report showed a total of 73 percent planted as of October 24, slightly behind the five-year average of 80 percent for the date. Considerable progress was made in wheat planting the last week of October. While wheat for grain-only is still being planted or is newly planted, wheat for forage or dual purpose has progressed significantly with recent rains.  Driving across Oklahoma recently I observed wheat in stages from planting to barely emerged to several inches tall.  Most wheat pasture will not be ready for grazing until December, later than usual, but I have heard reports that some wheat grazing may begin by mid-November.

Rain and the revived prospects for wheat pasture has lifted calf and stocker prices in October.  Prices bottomed earlier than usual in the first week of October and have increased counter-seasonally the last three weeks.    For example, prices for 450-500 pound, M/L No. 1 steers were $167.32/cwt. the first week of October, and averaged $175.69/cwt. the last week of October (Oklahoma combined auctions).

Nationwide, the drought continues as winter approaches.  Drought developed through 2020 and average drought conditions currently are slightly worse than the drought conditions at this time last year.  Although there has been some regional changes in drought situation, the overall picture has not changed much.  The country started this growing season with the worst average pasture and range conditions on record and is ending the year in the same condition.  The reemerging La Niña increases the chances for moisture in the northern half of the country and Canada but simultaneously increases the odds of drier conditions redeveloping in the Southwest.  In any event, not much will change regarding forage supplies in the next 6-7 months.  The one exception is the potential for wheat pasture and other cool-season forages in the southern plains, which will need additional moisture through the winter.

November will bring big runs of spring-born calves, although in some drought regions, calves moved out earlier.  In total, feeder cattle numbers are expected to be smaller going forward as cattle inventories continue to shrink cyclically.  Several OQBN preconditioned calf sales are upcoming.  Check  for more information.

(Derrell S. Peel is a livestock marketing specialist for Oklahoma State University)

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