Texas beef cattle are doing well for fall and winter
Beef cattle prices and forage conditions have improved significantly for Texas producers so far in 2021, according to experts at Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service.
Most Texas cattle ranchers have experienced cooler and wetter than normal summer conditions, but the weather has gotten drier in recent weeks as they prepare for fall and winter. Prices for most classes of cattle were also higher in 2021 than in previous years.
Joe Paschal, Ph.D., AgriLife Extension Cattle Specialist, Corpus Christi, and Jason Smith, Ph.D., AgriLife Extension Beef Cattle Specialist, Amarillo, both in the Department of Animal Sciences at Texas A&M College of Agriculture and Life Sciences said growing conditions were very similar in their respective regions, but growers should expect a drier winter after the weather improves this summer.
Cattle, Forage Conditions in the Plains of Texas, Panhandle
In the north, general livestock and grazing conditions were relatively good, Smith said.
Most forage grasses grew slowly as conditions have become drier, but grazing is good. The question is for how long.
Much of the Texas Panhandle and Plains received much-needed precipitation this summer and experienced tolerable temperatures, he said. The weather is getting colder, but like most states, conditions have turned dry again.
Smith said while pasture and range conditions are better than last September, stocking rates should reflect their available forage and hay reserves pending drier conditions. Rain is forecast which could help establish winter wheat pastures, but producers should avoid overgrazing.
Drought in the past has conditioned more experienced ranchers to plan for low humidity, but Smith said there is always a temptation to add livestock when forages are plentiful. It is important this year to make value-based complementary feeding decisions due to high feed costs.
“I always encourage producers to be careful and plan for the worst,” he said. “It’s easier to react to a glut of forage than a shortage. It has not been cheap to feed livestock over the past year, so producers need to be mindful of the cost of their inputs and adapt according to their circumstances.
Available surface water is hit and miss around the Panhandle and the Texas Plains, Smith said. Most of the coves are dry, and some playa lakes that usually hold water are dry, while others have been replenished by scattered rainfall.
Cattle, forage conditions in the South, South-West
At first, the dry conditions turned extremely wet as the Upper Coast moved into summer, while the rains came later and lighter in southern and southwestern Texas, Paschal said.
Paschal said negative effects associated with heavy rains in the upper coastal region included flooding in low areas and muddy conditions for pastoralists and their herds. There were also a higher number of flies and mosquitoes and probably an increase in internal and external parasites due to the above normal humidity levels.
There have also been fatal cases of pneumonia in calves and young cattle due to the high humidity and relentless rains, he said.
The amounts of fodder have increased but the quality has decreased due to weeds, he said. Pastures may have recovered some for ranchers who avoided overgrazing, but not enough for the fall due to lack of moisture in recent weeks.
“It was a bumper crop of hay for two cuttings, but most of it is probably of poor quality and should be tested so ranchers can plan a good supplementation program,” Paschal said. “Most cows have recovered to their physical condition, but some haven’t, and good feeding programs are important for the next calf crop. “
Conditions were drier in parts of southern and southwestern Texas, but most pastures and rangelands were underpopulated due to the drought, so the grasses recovered more quickly, a t -he declares. These areas did not produce as much hay, but the cuttings were generally of very good quality and quantity.
There were fewer cattle in poor body condition in those areas, Paschal said.
“The rains are long gone and the grass is dry to dry crisp,” he said. “The nights are cooler so I doubt there will be any additional grass growth in the summer even if it was raining, but we could use the humidity to replenish the water in the reservoir for livestock and wildlife. and for any planted winter pasture. “
Better livestock market conditions
Justin Benavidez, Ph.D., AgriLife Extension economist, Amarillo, said the price outlook was favorable for producers. The prices for most classifications were higher and are expected to remain relatively high at this point in the cattle cycle.
The overall U.S. herd is shrinking due to severe drought in the western and northwestern states, but not as much as in 2011, when Texas producers were forced to thin out herds and liquidate, a he declared. But the overall herd reduction will trickle down to the market for at least the next two calving cycles.
“Every cull cow taken out of the herd will not produce a calf in the coming year,” he said. “As a result, we lost the equivalent of a year of new slaughter and ranching cattle to liquidation in states facing severe drought. This will likely affect prices next year and possibly beyond. “