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Division of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources

Abundant forage providing flexibility to Oklahoma cattle producers

STILLWATER, Oklahoma – Abundant standing forage in state pastures may help cattle producers reduce hay needs and moderate cow costs this winter.
Abundant forage providing flexibility to Oklahoma cattle producers

Wheat pasture may have lagged this year but cattle will soon be feasting on the nutritious staple. (Open Access Photo)

“This year it is quite common to see cows belly-deep in pasture,” said Derrell Peel, Oklahoma State University Cooperative Extension livestock marketing specialist. “Unusually favorable growing conditions in the late summer and fall period boosted forage quantities and maintained quality above average.”

As of the end of October, Oklahoma pasture conditions were rated at 46 percent good to excellent, the same as one year ago, with 44 percent rated fair, up from 38 percent last year. Only 10 percent of pastures were rated poor or very poor compared to 16 percent at the same time last year.

USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service increased Oklahoma hay production estimates in October significantly from the initial estimates in August. Other hay production was revised upward by nearly 18 percent from the August estimates, leading to a 2017 other hay production estimate of 5 million tons, down less than 1 percent from the 2016 level.

“Alfalfa hay production was increased by 3 percent over the August estimate to a 2017 total of 1.122 million tons, 40.6 percent higher than 2016,” Peel said. “Combined 2017 alfalfa and other hay production in Oklahoma is projected to be up 4.9 percent from 2016 levels. Combined with slightly higher May 1 hay stocks, total Oklahoma hay supplies for the 2017-2018 winter feeding season are up 4.6 percent compared to last winter.”

Peel added ample pasture and hay supplies should allow increased flexibility for Oklahoma cattle producers.

“Anecdotal reports suggest some calf weaning and marketing has been delayed because of the abundance of fall forage,” he said. “However, combined Oklahoma feeder auction volumes for the past eight weeks have averaged 7.5 percent above last year. It does not appear there is any significant delay in calf marketings this fall.”

Despite the lack of wheat pasture through October, there are indications some stocker producers have stockpiled cattle on other forages until the wheat pasture is ready. The demand for stockers has held calf prices to limited seasonal declines before increasing in early November. As of this writing, Oklahoma calf prices are at the highest levels since June while heavy feeder cattle prices are at the highest levels since the end of 2015.

Oklahoma is the nation’s fifth-leading producer of cattle, providing more than $3.7 billion in cash receipts annually, according to USDA-NASS data.

The Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service is a state agency administered by OSU’s Division of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, and comprises one of the three equal parts in the university’s state and federally mandated teaching, research and Extension land-grant mission.

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