Glynn Tonsor, a livestock-marketing specialist at K-State, said calving conditions have been so bad that many cattlemen are now considering moving to fall calving, with K-State planning to initiate a new study examining the feasibility of doing that.

A series of strong storms have made for a rough spring across the Central Plains.

Abundant moisture early followed by late-season bouts of snow and bitter cold has been tough on the condition of many cowherds, according to Justin Waggoner, a beef systems specialist with K-State's Southwest Area Extension office in Garden City.

"One of the reports we've heard is a lot of people talking about cows being a little thinner than is typical going into calving," Waggoner said. "A lot of that we can attribute to mud and cold temperatures. Both of those increase the energy requirements of the cows.

"When temperatures drop below 18 degrees, we see a pretty dramatic increase in energy requirements," he added. "If we didn't make adjustments for that in our supplementation or feeding program throughout the winter, we tend to draw body condition reserves off the cow.

"That kind of explains the situation we are in. We are seeing some cows where their condition is lacking right now."

Waggoner suggests cattlemen try to maintain cow conditioning and guard against letting it slip further by taking stock of their herd's energy requirements compared to existing feeding strategies.

"We need to pay attention to both the protein and the energy need," Waggoner said. "A lot of times we do a good job of covering our protein need; that's really what most of our supplementation protocols are geared toward. But we don't always do a good job thinking about the energy requirement."

Glynn Tonsor, a livestock-marketing specialist at K-State, said calving conditions have been so bad that many cattlemen are now considering moving to fall calving, with K-State planning to initiate a new study examining the feasibility of doing that.

"Changing something as important as when you calve probably should not be a reaction to one year," he said. Still, fall calving can help producers avoid seasonal lows in the calf market. The downside is that it tends to increase winter feed costs, so it needs to be carefully considered, he said.

Not surprisingly, feedlot survey data from across the region shows cattle feeding performance has suffered the last couple of months, according to Derrell Peel, a livestock marketing specialist at Oklahoma State University.

"There are no doubts some market level impacts given the lengthy and widespread period of poor cattle production conditions," he said, adding that boxed beef prices, and even feeder prices, have received support from lighter carcass weights.

The seasonal outlook from the Climate Prediction Center currently shows a mixed bag for temperatures but a continued likelihood of above-normal moisture for the Central Plains into early summer. That could make spring planting difficult in some areas.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, flooding is likely to continue along the Missouri and Mississippi rivers well into July, with the majority of the country expected to experience above-average precipitation levels during that time.

Even northern New Mexico could see some drought relief from spring rains and deep winter snowpack.

As for the wheat crop, conditions last fall delayed planting in many areas, putting much of the crop at least a week behind normal. That's probably a good thing for now, with the potential for late freezes still a lingering threat, said Mike Schulte, executive director of the Oklahoma Wheat Commission.

"Currently, I think things in the field look better than what they have at this point in the year in a long time," he said.

He added that rains in the middle of last fall's planting season led to essentially two crops: one planted early and another that didn't go into the ground in some cases until November.

"I think the verdict was still out until February on how that smaller wheat was going to turn out, with producers weighing whether they should even top-dress that," he said. "But I think you saw a lot of them decide to go ahead and fertilize, and it's amazing how it looks 15 to 20 days later with a little bit of sunshine, a little bit of moisture and some top-dress on it.

"I think we have really good potential if it doesn't turn off hot right away."

Early reports from plant pathologists indicate the disease to watch for this year will be leaf rust, with little to no evidence of stripe rust or powdery mildew showing up in Texas or Oklahoma fields so far.

Wheat industry representatives will make a thorough and up-close examination of the crop from April 29 through May 2, when the Wheat Quality Council hosts the annual hard red winter wheat tour, with reporting stops scheduled in Colby and Wichita.