Sunshine finally appeared late last week raising hopes that Oklahoma will dry out and get summer crop harvest and wheat pasture grazing back on track. However, at least some rain is in the forecast in the coming days. It has been an unusual fall. According to the Oklahoma Mesonet, the last 30 days has been the second wettest for that time period with a statewide average of 187 percent of normal precipitation. The last 90 days has been the wettest on record for the period, with a statewide average of 173 percent of normal precipitation. All nine climate divisions in the state are reporting 90 day percentages well above normal. The least wettest areas have been the northeast and east central climate divisions of the state at 122 and 134 percent of normal, respectively. The south central region is the highest at 249 percent of normal in the last 90 days.
Wheat producers who did not get planting done early have struggled to plant recently. The Crop progress report for the week ending October 7, 60 percent of Oklahoma wheat was planted; ahead of the five-year average of 56 percent. However, the report for October 14, planting had advanced only 6 percent to 66 percent, behind the five-year average of 70 percent. Good moisture is helping wheat emergence. Wheat emerged in the week of October 14 was 50 percent, ahead of the five-year average of 43 percent for Oklahoma, and up from 28 percent the prior week.
Some wheat that was planted early is getting close to being ready to graze but some producers have struggled to get cattle ready for grazing. Wet, sloppy conditions make health challenges worse and producers have backed off of purchases recently. Some cattle sellers have also had difficulty gathering and getting cattle to market recently. After a huge cattle run the first week of October, Oklahoma auction volume the past two weeks has been 28 percent lower year over year. Stocker cattle auction prices have held steady the past two weeks after dropping back a bit from the late September counter-seasonal increase in prices. If conditions improve, feeder runs are expected to increase seasonally in the next month but it appears that considerable wheat pasture grazing demand remains as well and may help balance bigger seasonal supplies.
For the first time in many years turnout for wheat grazing is likely to be delayed by excess moisture across many regions of the state. Attempting to graze soggy wheat fields will damage the stand. Wheat stands will need some time to dry out and improve root development so cattle will not trample or pull up the wheat plants while grazing. This may delay the early start of grazing but the overall moisture situation implies that plenty of wheat pasture will be available later. Producers may, in fact, be looking to stock a bit heavier than usual with potential for better than average wheat forage production this winter. Stocker budgets for winter grazing still look quite favorable unless grazing delays stretch out too long and cut days available for winter grazing down excessively.