The Thanksgiving week storm hit parts of central Oklahoma hard with heavy ice accumulations that did significant damage and caused power outages for several days. The hardest hits areas were mostly west of Oklahoma City along the I-40 corridor. The storm created numerous cattle management challenges and disrupted movement of animals to markets. Cattle auction volume was lower last week and some sales were canceled due to the weather.
My travels last week took me through part of the region impacted by the ice and the broken trees and downed limbs documented the impact of the storm. Oklahoma is justly famous (or infamous!) for variable and extreme weather; including tornados, ice storms, severe thunderstorms, floods and wildfires. Tornados and ice storms, in particular, leave a record of damage on trees that lasts for many years. It seems impossible to keep pretty trees in this state. Those familiar with the state can drive across the region and read the scars like a living history of severe weather, as in: “there was the tornado of…” or “there was the ice storm of …” Oklahoma could be appropriately known as the Land of Ugly Trees.
The ice storm was part of a bigger weather event that brought rain to much of Oklahoma including flooding rains in south-central Oklahoma and northern Texas. In southwest Oklahoma, I traveled through Altus where much of the wheat in that area is very small; the result of delayed planting and/or emergence due to earlier dry conditions. Heavy recent rains, followed by warmer weather will boost wheat growth quickly, although flooded fields actually threaten to drown small wheat in some instances. Farther north, towards I-40, the wheat is significantly bigger and more is being grazed by both cows and stockers. The wheat, and the cattle, generally appear to be in very good condition.
Across I-40, north and east of Clinton, the wheat in central Oklahoma is bigger yet and growing rapidly. A larger proportion of the wheat is being grazed. Still, the amount of wheat grazing appears to be less than forage conditions would support. The recent moisture jump-started some delayed wheat and some conservatively stocked wheat pastures may now be understocked with the wheat forage growth outpacing grazing. Stocker demand has been muted this fall by slow developing wheat; limited cattle numbers and extreme cattle market volatility. Some additional stocker cattle are likely to dribble out to wheat pasture through December and perhaps after January 1 as producers assess the value of wheat forage for graze-out relative to harvesting the wheat for grain.