2015 is showing her teeth one last time with a storm that is affecting people and animals across a majority of the country. The massive storm includes a severe side with rain, flooding and tornados and a winter weather side with snow and blizzard conditions, all separated by a band of freezing rain and sleet. The dividing line between these storm components runs across the middle of Oklahoma resulting in a wide variety of conditions and challenges for Oklahoma cattle producers. The one consistent component across both sides of the storm has been lots of wind.
Rain totals over the weekend across the eastern half of Oklahoma ranged from three inches to over 11 inches. This final blast of moisture adds to a wet fall to make 2015 the wettest year on record with a statewide average over 54 inches, more than 50 percent above normal. Above average moisture totals cover the state ranging from record precipitation totals in the south central, southeast and east central parts of the state to the Panhandle, which has seen the second highest moisture total on record in 2015. Yearly rainfall totals through December 27 range from over 77 inches in the southeast, 154 percent of normal, to over 31 inches in the Panhandle, 151 percent of normal.
Cattle producers are dealing with cold and muddy conditions that are impacting cattle across a wide swath of the country extending from the Southern Plains through the Midwest and Corn Belt. The combination of wet, cold and windy conditions causes significant cold stress for cattle and boosts nutritional requirements for cattle.
The winter weather side of this storm has brought significant snow totals across the West and Rocky Mountain regions and extended across the central and northern Plains. The arctic air dipped south and combined with southern moisture to produce large snowfall and blizzard conditions from New Mexico and western Texas, across the Texas and Oklahoma Panhandles and western Oklahoma. The storm caused road closures and disrupted travel in eastern New Mexico and the Texas Panhandle; with blowing snow and icing conditions making travel difficult and dangerous across western and central Oklahoma.
While the storm is mostly a cattle management issue for cows, it will impact animal productivity for stocker cattle and feedlots. The widespread feedlot impacts will likely affect cattle and beef markets in the coming weeks. Feedlots in the Southern Plains are being hit with adverse weather for the first time this winter; having enjoyed very mild conditions so far this fall. In contrast, feedlots in the Midwest and Corn Belt have already been dealing with muddy conditions and the current weather will aggravate those poor conditions, resulting in additional productivity losses. The poor animal performance and additional death loss are a direct economic loss for feedlots; while the broader beef market may reflect the impact of additional loss of beef tonnage as a result of lower carcass weights.