Beef producers weathered Winter Storm Goliath much better than dairy farms, but health may still be an issue down the road.
According to Oklahoma State University Extension livestock marketing specialist Derrell Peel, the combination of cold weather, wind and snow will likely set back beef cattle in the High Plains.
Initial estimates project a total of 12,000 beef cattle dying from the Dec. 26 storm that swept through eastern New Mexico and the Texas Panhandle. Dairy producers are slated to lose 40,000 head of cattle, but the beef totals will likely rise as snow drifts melt.
“There’s not a lot of indication at this point that feedlots, beef cattle suffered as much of the direct losses,” Peel says.
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The storm may have widespread impacts on the beef industry with 28 percent of the country's fed cattle calling New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas home. Only 4,000 fed cattle perished during the storm. Those that survived and were at a lighter weight might be at risk for health problems like respiratory disease.
“Perhaps more importantly across much of the center of the country conditions are pretty wet and muddy. Cattle are struggling in that and performance will be impacted,” Peel says.
Cow-calf producers have their own worries with health and performance. Mastitis or udder failure may occur in some cows, leading to lower milk intake in calves. Bulls are at risk of frostbite to sexual organs, so a breeding soundness exam might be a good idea prior to turnout.
The biggest impact directly on the market will be reduced weight on finished cattle when going through the packer, Peel adds.