Oklahoma is receiving a reminder this week that winter is not over with cold temperatures and a mix of rain, freezing rain, sleet and snow across much of central and eastern Oklahoma. This follows several days of near record warm temperatures. The variable weather has implications for crops and livestock. Warm weather has accelerated First Hollow Stem (FHS) development in wheat with early wheat varieties at FHS in southern Oklahoma. Cattle will need to be removed from dual-purpose wheat in the next couple of weeks across much of the state.
Oklahoma auction prices for feeder cattle were stronger last week with lightweight feeder prices up $3-$5/cwt. Auction volumes were up sharply from year ago levels last week as more wheat pasture cattle are moving to market. Reported auction volumes are up 52 percent so far in February compared to the same two weeks last year. This past week 74 percent of auction volume was cattle over 600 with large volumes of heavy feeders holding prices steady. Cull cow prices increased this past week back to December and early January levels after dropping for a couple of weeks.
Cash cattle prices appear to have stabilized after pulling back in January from the highs late last year. Cattle prices are more likely to follow seasonal patterns this spring compared to the strong uptrend that dominated market prices last year. Lightweight feeder prices typically increase to a spring peak while the heavy feeders typically advance through the first half of the year be declining in the last half of the year. Cull cow prices typically increase to a peak in the second quarter before declining through the summer to fall lows.
Drought conditions continue to redevelop across Oklahoma this winter. The area of the state that is abnormally dry or regressing into marginal drought has increased in recent weeks. In the latest Drought Monitor, 98.5 percent of the state is abnormally dry or in some stage of drought, up from 78 percent three months ago. Dry conditions at this time of year are not a major concern with the exception of impacts on the winter wheat crop. However, these expanding dry conditions will increase the vulnerability to serious drought impacts quickly this spring if moisture is reduced or delayed.