Cold, Wet Weather Affects Southern Plains Cattle Operations

November 30, 2015 04:49 PM

Old Man Winter made an appearance over the Thanksgiving weekend in many parts of cattle country, challenging producers with rain, freezing rain and even snow depending on where they live.

Oklahoma and Texas straddled the freezing line with a wide range of impacts in a region known for highly variable weather, with southeastern Oklahoma and northern Texas being the epicenter of heavy rain that totaled up to one foot in parts of the region.

“Nobody wants to complain because of the historic levels of drought the area experienced in recent years, but it is evident flooding had a negative effect in a region that had already received record rainfall earlier in the year,” said Derrell Peel, Oklahoma State University Cooperative Extension livestock marketing specialist.

Moisture arrived as freezing rain across much of western Oklahoma, central Texas and the Texas and Oklahoma panhandle sections.

“Most cattle in the region did not have winter hair coats; the wet hides and cold temperatures that followed are having nutritional and performance impacts on both feedlot and grazing cattle,” Peel said. “Depending on the weather to come, the cold and potentially muddy conditions across both the Southern Plains states and Midwest feedlot regions may temper fed cattle gains and weights in coming weeks.”

The driest winter wheat areas of Oklahoma in the north-central part of the state received two to four inches of rain. This is the first widespread abundant moisture in the region this fall and – along with warmer temperatures forecast for later this week – is expected to prompt rapid wheat growth.

“Though wheat forage has developed slower this fall than earlier projected, there may still be demand in December and perhaps after January 1 for stocker cattle for wheat grazing, especially for producers looking at grazing out wheat due to low wheat prices,” Peel said.

Still, the cold, wet and muddy conditions currently are creating nutritional and management headaches for many stocker and cow-calf producers across the state. Peel said this may impact the final couple of weeks of fall calf marketings in early December.

In all, the band of heavy rain over the Thanksgiving holiday extended from southwestern Texas north and east through the United States and up into the Great Lakes, covering the central and eastern Corn Belt and more.

Peel said the moisture should remove lingering dry conditions in the heartland and the lower Mississippi valley. The northern Great Plains and Rocky Mountain regions also received significant moisture in the form of snow and freezing rain. As a result, the eastern three-quarters of the country are in very good shape as far as moisture is concerned, with no significant drought areas across most of the country.

Source: Oklahoma State University

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