Not a quiet year-end for cattle markets

Weather's widespread impacts on feedlots likely to affect cattle and beef markets in weeks ahead.

Oklahoma State University Extension livestock marketing specialist Derrell Peel said 2015 showed its teeth one last time with a storm that continues to affect people and animals across a majority of the country.

Peel said the massive storm had a severe side with rain, flooding and tornados and a winter weather side with snow and blizzard conditions, all separated by a band of freezing rain and sleet.

The dividing line between these storm components ran across the middle of Oklahoma, he said, resulting in a wide variety of conditions and challenges for Oklahoma cattle producers.  The one consistent component across both sides of the storm was lots of wind.

Rain totals across the eastern half of Oklahoma ranged from 3 in. to more than 11 in.  Peel said the final blast of moisture added to a wet fall to make 2015 the wettest year on record, with a statewide average exceeding 54 in., more than 50% above normal.

“Cattle producers are dealing with cold and muddy conditions that are impacting cattle across a wide swath of the country, extending from the southern Plains through the Midwest and Corn Belt.  The combination of wet, cold and windy conditions causes significant cold stress for cattle and boosts nutritional requirements for cattle,” he said.

According to Peel, the winter weather side of this storm brought significant snow totals across the West and Rocky Mountain regions and extended across the central and northern Plains.  The arctic air dipped south and combined with southern moisture to produce large snowfall and blizzard conditions in New Mexico and western Texas, across the Texas and Oklahoma panhandles and through western Oklahoma.

“While the storm is mostly a cattle management issue for cows, it will impact animal productivity for stocker cattle and feedlots,” Peel explained. “The widespread feedlot impacts will likely affect cattle and beef markets in the coming weeks.”

He said feedlots in the southern Plains have been hit with adverse weather for the first time this winter after enjoying very mild conditions throughout the fall.

“In contrast, feedlots in the Midwest and Corn Belt have already been dealing with muddy conditions, and the current weather will aggravate those poor conditions, resulting in additional productivity losses,” he said.

The poor animal performance and additional death loss are direct economic losses for feedlots, Peel said, while the broader beef market may reflect the impact of additional loss of beef tonnage as a result of lower carcass weights. 

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