Although wet weather is slowing the pace in some areas, winter wheat planting continues ahead of last year and looks to be the most promising in years.
At the beginning of October, 43% of winter wheat was in the ground, which was 9% more than last year and 3% more than the average. According to the weekly USDA Crop Progress report, 14% had emerged, which was 4% more than last year, but on par with the average.
“Early planting and quick germination will grant cattle earlier access to those fields and allow for longer grazing without sacrificing harvesting that wheat for grain,” say analysts with the Livestock Marketing Information Center (LMIC), in the latest Livestock Monitor. “Time will tell how the forage potential of those pastures will be, but heading into the fall availability looks to be well above normal.”
In fact, the most cattle in a decade will likely graze wheat pasture in Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas, according to LMIC.
“As of Jan. 1, 2019, the three-state total could be 1.8 to 2.0 million head,” LMIC analysts say. “At that midpoint (1.9 million head), it would indicate the number of head winter grazing has increased from the prior year by 400,000 head (up 27%). That number would go a long way in absorbing the growth in this year’s national calf crop, but it may also bunch-up sales of short yearling animals coming of those pastures as early as mid-February.”
For perspective, the three-state average for the past 18 years is about 2.1 million head, according to LMIC.