Drought Forces Cattle Producer Decisions

Drought Forces Cattle Producer Decisions

Lack of available forage may force southwest Missouri farms to sell calves early.

Dry weather for the last two months in southwest Missouri has reduced the available forage in most pastures. As a result, many cattle producers are feeding hay that they would prefer to have saved for wintertime.

"The dryness has caused some farmers to early-wean their spring calves and sell them," says Eldon Cole, a livestock specialist with University of Missouri Extension, Mount Vernon.

Those 300- to 400-pound steer calves are bringing $150 per hundredweight on the market today. Heifer calves are about $15 to $20 per cwt. behind their steer mates at that weight.

Drought forces cattle producers to feed forage that would have otherwised been used for wintertime.

"While those prices appear attractive compared to recent years, the market outlook contains optimism for the future," Cole notes. "A quick look at the current feeder steer market shows that adding an extra 100 pounds should return a nice profit -- unless you have very high costs of gain."

For example, in recent weeks the Missouri average 350-pound steer referenced above was worth $560 while the 450-pounder was valued at $670 per head. As the weight increased from 450 to 550.,from 550 to 650, 650 to 750 and on to 850 pounds, the value for each added 100 pounds has run from around $120 down to $95 per head.

"When forage is available, along with some supplemental feed, the cost of gain should be low enough to make adding weight up to 750 to 800 pounds profitable," Cole says. "Efficiency of gain is good on young, thrifty calves, so if you wean early, do all you can to give them a chance to put the weight on economically."

For more information and assistance with drought management, visit your local MU Extension livestock specialist.

Source: MU Extension Southwest News Service

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