The U.S. is GREENING UP!!
USDA released on Monday its first weekly rating of pasture and range conditions for 2010, showing that
US pastures are off to one of the best seasons of the last 15 years. Pasture conditions are an important driver for cow slaughter rates during the summer months (the other being the financial state of the enterprise).
So far, US beef cow slaughter rates have remained at relatively high levels as producers respond to very high prices for market cows. The improvement in cow prices has helped reduce some of the debt burden incurred during this most recent recession. The USDA report for the week ending May 2nd showed that 63% of pastures and ranges in the 48 states were considered to be in good or excellent condition.
Keep in mind this is a weighted average based on reported acres, not a simple average. Moisture conditions in the Midwest and Northern and Southern Plains are in good shape and that has contributed to the good pasture conditions. The most recent reading of the Palmer drought index points to very positive longer term drought conditions for much of the pastureland in the country. Pasture conditions in states with a large beef cow inventory are well ahead of last year’s levels. Last year only 29% of Texas pastures and ranges were considered to be in good/excellent condition while 40% were rated as poor or very poor.
This year, 57% of pastures in Texas were rated in good/excellent condition while just 9% were rated as poor or very poor.
In Oklahoma, 60% of pastures and ranges as of May 2, 2010 are in good/excellent condition compared to 38% a year ago. These two states accounted for almost a quarter of the overall beef cow inventory in the US on January 1. Conditions in all other states including Pennsylvania, also show significant improvement over a year ago. Last year, poor pasture conditions in the Southern Plains pushed a significant number of beef cows to market. That may not be the case this year.
High beef cow slaughter in Region 6 (which includes TX and OK), has so far contributed to the year over year increase in US beef cow slaughter. It seems that it is only a matter of time when a combination of a much better profit outlook, and very positive short term feed supplies finally put an end to the ongoing liquidation of the US beef cow herd.
But with the lush Pastures and rangelands of spring comes the potential of grass tetany.
Grass tetany could become a major concern for cattle producers this spring, if preventative measures are not in place. The lack of magnesium intake by cattle is the cause of grass tetany. Cows are most vulnerable when grazing lush green forages either low in magnesium and/or high in potassium. High levels of potassium will interfere with magnesium absorption by the animal. Therefore, pastures fertilized with products like potash, chicken litter and ammonium sulfate will increase the chance of grass tetany.
Grass tetany generally occurs most commonly in early spring when cattle are grazing lush forages. Cattle most susceptible are those calving during this time of the growing season. A common indicator of tetany, is that your cattle will appear nervous and muscles can be seen twitching. As the condition progresses, animals will have problems walking, will eventually go down and will normally lie on one side and thrash about.
If the condition is not corrected, death may occur within three hours.
Since nothing can be done to control the weather, the best alternative to prevent grass tetany is to feed a complete mineral with adequate levels of magnesium. We have a free-choice Mol-Mag mineral block always available for our cattle relatively close to where their water source is. Most high magnesium minerals will contain 14 percent magnesium. At this level, cattle will receive the needed 12-15 grams per head per day to prevent grass tetany. Your local Feed-mill should carry other supplemental tubs and blocks containing adequate levels of magnesium to prevent grass tetany.
If you have an acute case of grass tetany, a sterile solution containing magnesium and calcium is given intravenously to the cow. If you’ve never given an I.V. to your cattle before, please contact your closest Large Animal vet or someone who is familiar with the procedure. I realize that in some parts of the country, especially the North-East, Large Animal Vet’s may be 100-200 miles away. But an I.V. must be done slowly to prevent rapid increases in blood calcium levels, which can cause heart failure.
The best way to stop grass tetany is to prevent it.
To accomplish this, provide a high magnesium mineral to cattle beginning early January. Cattle are amazing at being able to limit the amount of mineral intake based off of their current available forages, but the minerals need to be available for them to consume starting around February in most parts of the country.
I would recommend that you visually inspect your cattle often when first turning them out on new pastures
We generally will leave them on a new pasture for 1 hour a day for the 1st week, 2 hours a day the 2nd and by the 3rd week they can stay on pasture with free-choice dry hay to supplement their lush forage intake for the rest of the growing season.
Now get out there and GRAZE!!!