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How Wheat’s First Hollow Stem Phase Affects Profits

By Macy Shoulders

What to know for the 2024 season

Wheat producers across the state are closely monitoring fields for signs of first hollow stem, the maturity stage of the plant that indicates the time to stop grazing cattle. Paul Beck, Oklahoma State University Extension beef cattle specialist, said first hollow stem is right around the corner.

Timing is crucial in late winter and early spring. If stocker calves are pulled off grazing fields too early, producers risk losing the weight gain on their livestock. If calves are left on pastures too long after first hollow stem, wheat profit potential will drop.

OSU Extension agricultural economist Eric DeVuyst said research shows producers should remove cattle from grazing fields before first hollow stem.

By the numbers

DeVuyst said grazing just one day after first hollow stem could cost $6.26 per acre in wheat yield loss. Producers could see a loss of $41 per acre if fields are grazed one week after first hollow stem.

According to DeVuyst, Oklahoma-grown wheat would need to bring $2 per bushel and stocker calves would need to produce $1.90 per pound at finishing weight for producers to break even at harvest. Wheat would need to sell for $5.50 per bushel and stockers would require a market price of $5 per pound to justify grazing past first hollow stem.

For more information, catch Paul Beck on “SUNUP,” the production agriculture television show of OSU Agriculture. Eric DeVuyst also discusses the financial aspects of grazing first hollow stem in a recent “SUNUP” segment.

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