Winter Storms and Cold Cattle in the Southeast

Feb 22, 2021

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By Josh Maples
If you are reading this, there is a good chance you have been dealing with impacts from the significant winter storm wreaking havoc on a large portion of the U.S. – even in the deep south. Power outages, school or business closures, and cold cattle are all occurring. This storm is rare due to not only the cold temperatures and ice/snow, but also the duration of the event.
Cattle sales volumes will be low this week in most places as some auctions close along with a reduction in the supply of cattle that would show up for auction even if they are open. The impact on winter pasture will be seen in the coming weeks as there will likely be at least some cattle that go to market sooner than intended due to reduced pasture conditions.
While there are certainly market impacts that will play out over the next few weeks, the production challenges faced by cattle producers are the most severe during an extreme winter weather event such as this one. For operations who have started calving, harsh temperatures and precipitation create significant stress for newborn calves (and cattle producers). Calving is not yet in full swing for most producers but there will be quite a few calves born this week. According to the USDA report “Beef Cow-calf Management Practices in the United States,” around 12% of calves in the U.S. are born during the month of February. For the East region which includes the Southeast, this number is about 10%. Keeping these newborn calves dry and warm is a top priority.
Nutritional requirements for cattle also increase sharply during extreme cold and providing enough quality feedstuffs and water can be difficult. The December 1 Hay Stocks report showed most of the Southeast with strong hay stocks which is positive because a lot of hay and other feedstuffs will be needed this week. For many areas, this is unfortunately likely to be one of those winter storms that will be remembered for many years.
Image Source: USDA-APHIS. Link to full report is in text above.
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