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Calf crop projected down 2-3 percent
The 2014 Texas calf crop is expected to be 2 to 3 percent lower than it was in 2013, according to a Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service expert.
“We’re projecting it to be somewhere around 3.8 million calves,” said Dr. Ron Gill, AgriLife Extension livestock specialist and associate animal science department head at Texas A&M University, College Station.
“Last year was kind of static, down a little bit from 2012,” he said. “We saw the big drop in 2011, but we do have a further contraction in the cow herd.”
Though there were reports of minor frostbite in calves born in the extremely cold weather this winter, it shouldn’t affect the total calf crop, Gill said.
“You may have a few burned tips and tails, but it won’t really affect the performance of those calves either,” he said.
There were also reports from AgriLife Extension county agents of livestock producers selling older calves early to give relief to drought-stressed pasture and rangeland. Generally, this is a strategy that will help pastures some and does not cause a severe financial loss, particularly with calf prices so high, Gill said.
“It’s a strategy that will also allow cows to regain condition, and that’s the reasoning we’d like to see people use,” he said. “If they pull those calves a little earlier than they might normally, it allows cows to recycle so we can have a good calf crop next year.”
Five-hundred weight calves are bringing $1.70 to $1.80 per pound on a national level.
“Of course, regionally those prices will be different according to the quality of the calves,” Gill said.
With wheat around $7 plus per bushel, the other issue producers face will be whether to pull stockers off wheat pasture or find cattle to graze it out, Gill said.
“That will be the deciding factor for some, as there are just not that many cattle available,” he said. “So I expect some of the better wheat will come out for grain production, and they will concentrate those calves that are available on some of the lesser wheat producing areas.”
AgriLife Extension district reporters for the Southwest District, including Wilson, Gonzales, Guadalupe, and Bexar counties, reported warmer temperatures caused trees to bud and hardier weeds to emerge. Rangeland and other crops further declined due to dry conditions. Producers were preparing fields for planting corn and cotton. Livestock producers continued supplemental feeding of cattle and efforts to make water accessible for both livestock and wildlife.
Robert Burns has nearly 30 years’ experience writing about agriculture and agricultural-related research. He writes about Texas AgriLife Research and Texas AgriLife Extension Service activities at the Overton Center and centers in Stephenville and Temple.
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