September 10, 2013


Oklahoma's beef cattle herd may start expansion in 2014


After suffering three years of severe drought that brought cattle numbers to a record low, next year could be the year Oklahoma's beef cattle herd begins its expansion.


Derrell Peel, Oklahoma State University livestock marketing specialist, says, "While 2013 will be another year of herd numbers slipping, weather improvements like better rainfall and cooler weather could provide a period of herd stabilisation, with little or no growth. That first year where the beef herd begins to climb in numbers could be 2014."


Peel believes that if drought conditions continue to improve next year, a cow herd growth of 2% is possible. Faster growth than 2% is unlikely, when all factors are taken into consideration, and even slower growth is possible, he said. Several implications, including reduction in cow and heifer slaughter, could result in a "roughly 7% decrease in total cattle slaughter in 2014."


Despite selling off older cows due to drought and other negative factors, Peel explains that producers recently have continued to buy replacement heifers.


Peel explains that cow-calf producers now show a growing need for herd expansion with strong profit prospects and improved forage conditions in much of the state. Beef cow slaughter to date this year is unchanged from the same time last year, down 13% in the most recent weeks.


Sharply decreased beef cow slaughter around 8-12% for the rest of 2013, will result in beef cow slaughter down a modest 4-5%, he said. Indications are replacement heifers were diverted into feeder markets in the first half of 2013, a result of drought, reduced hay supplies and extended winter impact, Peel said. A combination of larger cow slaughter, but smaller than expected reductions, and smaller heifer placements could likely result in an over-year decrease of 0.75 to 1.25% in the beef cow herd on January 1, 2014, he said.


Peel also said indications are that heifer retention will accelerate this fall with cow-calf producers holding back more heifer calves for breeding purposes.

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