Wheat pasture offers Southwest cattlemen good opportunities to rebuild cattle herds and to add value to winter-grazed animals, according to Oklahoma State University Extension specialists.

The trick may be in getting a good stand, but if moisture is adequate to produce a good, early stand of wheat, cattlemen stand to make some serious money from wheat pasture, says Derrell Peel, OSU Extension livestock marketing specialist.

Good wheat pasture is also a good way to start bred replacement heifers to rebuild drought-stricken cow herds, says Glenn Self, Oklahoma State University emeritus animal scientist.

 

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Peel explains that dual-purpose wheat, where cattle are grazed until late March, then removed so the wheat can mature and be harvested in June offers two profit opportunities.

"Under these circumstances, cattle are grazed around 120 days for roughly 250 pounds of gain," he said. "That takes the 476-pound steer to 726 pounds, currently at $164.95 per hundredweight or $1,197.54 per head.

"The difference in value per head is a $334.17 gross margin or a value of gain of $1.34 per pound. By comparison, the reported price for an 823-pound steer, 256 pounds of gain on the 567-pound beginning weight, is $159.75 per hundredweight or $l, 314.74 per head."

That’s a gross margin of $334.64 per head or $1.31 per pound.

There are many advantages of beginning weight and total gain for either dual-purpose winter stockers or graze-out steers marketed in May. In all cases, the current value of gain is in the range of twenty 25 cents to $1.35 pound of gain.

Perhaps most important, he said, current feeder cattle futures prices for March and May, 2014, would allow hedging with expected selling prices at or a bit higher than these current cash prices.

Peel said current feeder cattle futures prices for March and May, 2014, would allow hedging with expected selling prices at or a bit higher than current cash prices.

"Regarding the purchase prices, we would typically expect to see seasonally low calf or stocker prices in the next month," he said. "However, I don't expect to see much seasonal weakness given the current market situation. In fact, strong feedlot and stocker demand may result in limited counter-seasonal strength in feeder cattle prices into November."

All of this information, Peel said, is based on reported feeder calf prices at the Joplin, Missouri, regional stockyards, from last week. A 476-pound, medium/large frame steer could be bought for $181.38 per hundredweight or $863.37 per head. Or, a 567-pound steer was priced at $172.68 per hundredweight or $979.10 per head. Peel said the additional 91 pounds of beginning weight only cost $1.27 per pound, an important consideration as producers decide what weight to begin this year's stocker enterprise.

Self says wheat pasture, used judiciously, “makes sense for pregnant heifers. Pregnant heifers consuming full feed of wheat pasture will gain about 3 pounds per head per day. If they are on wheat too long, heifers can become fat and have calving difficulty.

"If wheat pasture is used to grow bred heifers, use it as a protein supplement by allowing heifers access to the wheat pasture on at least alternate days. Some producers report one day on wheat pasture and two days on native or Bermuda pasture will work better."

This practice encourages the heifers to work a little harder for feed in the warm season pasture for the second day, rather than standing by the gate, waiting to be turned back out in the wheat.

Whatever method is used to grow the pregnant replacement heifer, plan to have them in good body condition, about a number 6, by calving so they will grow into fully-developed productive cows, Self said. 

Whatever the source, heifers need supplemental protein, if the major source of the diet is Bermudagrass, native pasture or grass hay. If the forage source is adequate in quantity and average in quality (6 percent to 9 percent protein), heifers will need about 2 pounds of a high protein (38 percent to 44 percent crude protein) supplement per day.

This will probably need to be increased with higher quality hay, like alfalfa, or additional energy feed (20 percent range cubes) as winter weather adds nutrient requirements, he said.

Soybean hulls or wheat mids may be used to insure adequate energy intake of pregnant heifers, Self said.

               

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Replacement cattle are expensive, no matter the source