Texas Calf Crop Looking Good

Most of the state’s calf crop is on the ground and looking good amid spring conditions, said Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service beef cattle and livestock specialists.

Most regions were helped by decent to good rains and warmer-than-usual winter and early spring temperatures, specialists said. Most cattle body condition scores around the state were good as herds had plenty of available forage and did not endure lengthy frigid conditions, even in North Texas and the Panhandle.

Specialists said most producers had completed calving and calves on the ground were generally 2-3 months old and looking good. Many producers were beginning to castrate, vaccinate and dehorn calves.

Dr. Ted McCollum, AgriLife Extension beef cattle specialist, Amarillo, said pastures and rangeland had improved dramatically following spring rain events. Grazing areas affected by wildfires in early March were beginning to recover as well.

McCollum said a count of total lost beef cows was not available but that he expects the number to be less than 1 percent of the approximately 350,000 head in the Panhandle-South Plains regions.

McCollum said he expected regional herd numbers to remain steady despite lower prices on cattle and damages to herds and grazing areas from wildfire. Dropping crop prices are driving some producers to enter the cattle market for alternative income, and regional cattle producers are holding on to replacements as they continue to restock years after severe drought in 2011.

“Cattle prices may have dampened enthusiasm, but producers in the region are not necessarily looking to reduce cow numbers because of the market,” McCollum said.

Dr. Joe Paschal, AgriLife Extension livestock specialist, Corpus Christi, said good rain and grazing conditions were allowing producers in most of southern Texas to make similar decisions regarding stocking rates. He said most areas in south and southwest Texas looked good but that pockets, such as Zapata County, are very dry.

“About one in four producers at every program I attend are saying they will be holding on to more replacement heifers than normal,” he said. “They’re cattle people. It’s what they do, and they want to raise a few more calves and have more weaning weight to sell.”

Paschal said fever tick quarantine in Live Oak County has not affected producers’ willingness to hold cattle but he is recommending diligence in watching herds for ticks they don’t recognize and signs of unusual infestations.

After three wet springs, conditions have “returned to normal” in West Texas, said Dr. Bruce Carpenter AgriLife Extension beef cattle specialist, Fort Stockton. Carpenter said the region typically is dry in the spring and receives rain during the summer months but the previous three years were exceptional during the spring and summer.

Cattle haven’t been affected by the return to dry conditions yet, Carpenter said, and small rain events had occurred or were in the forecast that may help grazing until summer.

“We’re pretty dry,” he said. “There’s been no rain before a few days ago, but maybe that will be enough to get us to summer when typical weather patterns show up. I usually don’t give up hope until September.”

On the other side of the state, Dr. Jason Banta, AgriLife Extension beef cattle specialist, Overton, said the wet spring weather has ryegrass growing well and is setting conditions up nicely for Bermuda grass in the next few weeks.

“The calf crop in East Texas is pretty consistent,” he said. “Most producers are calving from December through March and conditions were good for most operations.”

Dr. Jason Cleere, AgriLife Extension, beef cattle specialist, College Station, said mild winter and spring temperatures, good rains and early spring conditions have cattle looking good. Some producers are beginning to work calves.

Cleere said winter pastures and warm-season forages were about two to four weeks ahead of a typical spring and timely rains through the summer would continue to help producers avoid some costs amid low beef prices.

“Cattle prices are what they are,” he said. “They’re one-third to one-half of what they were at their peak, but costs have risen, so from a producer perspective margins are tight. Shorter winter feeding, mild temperatures and good rain to allow producers to put up hay could help. Moisture always helps.”

AgriLife Extension district summaries can be found here.

Source: Texas AgriLife Extension

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