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Cow-Calf Confinement: A Viable Way to Grow the U.S. Beef Cowherd

Thu, 01 Oct 2015 14:40:35 CDT

Cow-Calf Confinement:  A Viable Way to Grow the U.S. Beef Cowherd

Beef cattle herd expansion looks to continue in the Southern Plains as well as in the Midwest. Earlier this year, Rabobank Protein Analyst Don Close put out a report on the realignment of the beef cow herd for years to come. In speaking at the Kenneth and Caroline Eng McDonald Foundation Beef Symposium held recently in Oklahoma City, he shared how raising cattle in confinement may be the wave of the future.

“We expect to see confined and semi-confined cow programs to grow and become a more vital or viable part of the industry,” Close said.

Raising cattle in confinement will not replace conventional cow-calf operations, but Close sees raising cattle in confinement will become an added component. There are a lot of different combinations of confinement options. Close said the easy one is raising cattle on corn stalks.

Dr. Close sees confinement systems working mostly in the Midwest, as the mechanics work out cleaner for that kind of system. With a pending lawsuit in Des Moines, Iowa over nitrate runoff, he said there is a need for planting cover crops on corn-on-corn acres. He said this will provide another avenue to graze those cattle for a portion of the year.

Raising cattle in confinement would also work in the north Texas Panhandle and Western Plains feedyards. Close said that’s a viable model with a few modifications, such as adding a so-called “playground” area for calves.

In getting the U.S. cowherd back to 32 to 34 million head, Close said there is excess capacity in feedyards. With bunk space available, he said there are alternative uses for some of that bunk space.

Aggressive herd rebuilding is taking place in 2015, based on the U.S. Department of Agriculture's mid-year cattle inventory report. The next assessment of the U.S. cattle herd numbers will be released in January with the annual cattle inventory report.

“The surprise could be when we get the January cattle inventory report, both the rate of cow herd rebuilding and the additional retention of heifers, on top of the seven percent growth in heifer retention in the July report,” Close said. “I think both of those numbers could be a surprise come January."

Radio Oklahoma Network Farm Director Ron Hays featured Don Close on the Beef Buzz feature. Click or tap on the LISTEN BAR below to listen to today's Beef Buzz.

The Beef Buzz is a regular feature heard on radio stations around the region on the Radio Oklahoma Network- but is also a regular audio feature found on this website as well. Click on the LISTEN BAR below for today's show- and check out our archives for older Beef Buzz shows covering the gamut of the beef cattle industry today.

Ron Hays Beef Buzzes with Don Close of Rabobank
right-click to download mp3


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