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Agricultural News

Forage Production Lagging in Oklahoma

Mon, 10 Jun 2013 10:35:26 CDT

Forage Production Lagging in Oklahoma
Derrell S. Peel, Oklahoma State University Extension Livestock Marketing Specialist, writes in the latest Cow-Calf Newsletter:

Typically hot weather is expected in Oklahoma for the next week or so. Oklahoma has seen remarkably little hot weather so far and that has forage production behind schedule in the state. Recent rains in much of the state have resulted in very green conditions but pasture and hay growth has been delayed, especially for warm season forages. Delayed hay production is a concern to cattle producers who have severely depleted hay supplies during the last two years of drought.   

The most recent USDA reports indicate that 69 percent of the first cutting of alfalfa hay was complete, compared to a 92 percent average for the same time. For other hay, 30 percent of the first cutting was completed, with 47 percent being average. Oklahoma pasture and range conditions included 33 percent rated poor to very poor, down slightly from 36 percent a week earlier. Warm weather will likely accelerate pasture and hay production in the coming weeks but delays so far may impact total annual yields.

Reduced hay production will limit the recovery of hay supplies. Both December and May 1 hay stocks were record low in the U.S. In Oklahoma, May 1 hay stocks were up from last year's dismal levels but were 28 percent below the 2002-2011 average for May 1. Hay disappearance between December 1, 2012 and May, 1 2013 (the difference between December 1 and May 1 hay stocks) in Oklahoma was 2.2 million tons, compared to a ten-year average of 3.5 million tons. This is the smallest hay use in Oklahoma since 1986. Even with herd liquidation that last two years, this is a small level of hay use. On a per cow basis, hay use this past winter was 1.22 tons per cow from December to May, which implies 16.3 pounds of hay per day per cow. The average winter hay use from 2002-2011 was 1.67 tons per cow, or 22.3 pounds of hay per cow per day. This reduction in hay supplies probably contributed to the observed increases in cow culling this spring in Oklahoma.   

The same impacts occurred nationally with U.S. hay disappearance from December to May down 25 percent from the ten year average, resulting in per cow hay use of 21.6 pounds of hay per cow per day, compared to the ten-year average of 26.91 pounds of hay per cow per day. This represents the smallest U.S. hay use per cow since 1986. This is likely a major contributor to increased U.S. beef cow slaughter since mid-March. In the last ten weeks, beef cow slaughter has averaged nearly 16 percent higher than last year bringing the year to date total to a three percent increase. It may also indicate that some heifers intended as replacements have been marketed as feeder heifers this spring. Though beef cow slaughter is expected to fall with improving pasture conditions, it would take a dramatic drop in beef cow slaughter for the remainder of the year along with increased heifer retention to avoid net liquidation for the year.



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