It's nearly spring in Oklahoma... maybe
Spring has not quite sprung in Oklahoma, though it is hard to tell since we have had very little you could call winter. It is acting more like spring with increasing temperatures and more wind. Much of the state has received moisture recently and conditions are generally much better than this time last year. Stock pond water levels remain very low, how ever, in many places.
Wheat pasture, though it started late, has done very well this winter and so have the cattle grazing it. Most of the wheat varieties in Oklahoma are at or very near first hollow stem stage, which means that cattle must be removed immediately in order to preserve grain yields. I do not expect to see much market impact from a “wheat pasture run” for several reasons. First, overall grazing numbers are fairly limited. Second, I suspect, though I do not have any data to confirm, that significant numbers of heifers are grazing wheat that will be retained for replacements, and third, much of the wheat that is being grazed is intended for forage only and will be grazed out.
Feeder cattle prices in Oklahoma are leaving many producers (and lenders) breathless. Based on last week’s auction prices, a 500-pound, medium/large #1 steer was priced at about $190/cwt. or $950/head. Just as we talk about the corn market trying to buy acres for corn production, it seems the market is trying to buy some heifer retention. Various data sets suggest that the annual cow cost for most producers is in the range of $600-700/cow/year. Upwards of $250/head in returns per cow should be enough to stimulate some interest in herd expansion.
It will take another four to six weeks to really see what kind of spring is in store for Oklahoma. If conditions are good when green up really takes off, the replacement female market will likewise take off. At the current time, bred heifers and cows and cow/calf pairs are priced significantly below current markets farther north. I expect this gap to close by late March if green grass is happening by that time. Bred cows in Oklahoma are currently priced mostly in the range of $1,000-$1,475 per head. Prices for young bred cows in Nebraska were reported last week in the range of $1,275-$2,375/head. Bred heifers in Nebraska were reported in the range of $1,350-$2,110 last week. —Derrell S. Peel, Oklahoma State University Extension Livestock Marketing Specialist