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Drought Stalls Herd Expansion

"Cow-harvest rates have picked up dramatically, indicating nationwide cowherd expansion has essentially stopped. In fact, if recent trends continue, the Jan. 1, 2007, U.S. beef-cow inventory could be slightly below 2006's," say Livestock Marketing Info Center (LMIC) analysts.

"The lack of moisture combined with concerns for tight forage supplies this winter has resulted in a larger number of cull beef cows in the harvest mix than under normal circumstances," say the LMIC folks. "At the same time, dairy-cow harvest has also increased in past weeks, not only due to tighter supplies of quality forage but also lower milk prices."

As Derrell Peel, Oklahoma State University Extension livestock marketing specialist, explained in a recent newsletter, "So far in 2006, the numbers suggest cow culling in the state could be running 1.5 to 2% higher than last year and we haven't even gotten into the traditional culling season. Many producers are just now assessing forage and hay availability and needs, along with water supplies, and there's no doubt more culling will occur."

What is most surprising about all this, Peel adds, is how well markets have held up.

"Feeder prices are steady to stronger and are likely to have less than usual tendency for seasonal weakness this fall. Cull cows have softened somewhat, but surprisingly little given the increased culling numbers we're seeing. I continue to worry most about potential impacts on the cull-cow market this fall. That seems to me to be the greatest risk for prices to show classic drought impacts," Peel says.

Though rains last week in some of the most parched areas of the South and Southwest boosted spirits, the die is likely cast.

For the week ending Aug. 20, according to the National Ag Statistics Service (NASS).

  • Corn -- 82% is at or beyond the Dough Stage, compared to 78% last year and 71% for the five-year average. Doughing was at or ahead of normal in all states, except Kansas. 44% has entered the Dent Stage, which is 6% ahead of last year and 11% ahead of average. 57% is rated Good or better, compared to 50% last year.
  • Soybeans -- Acreage setting pods or beyond advanced to 93% of the acreage, 1% behind last year, but 5% ahead of normal 4% of the acreage was dropping leaves, 2% ahead of last year and the five-year average. 58% is rated Good or better; 52% was at the same time last year.
  • Spring Wheat -- 82% of the crop is in the bin, which is 25% ahead of last year and 29% ahead of the five-year average.
  • Barley -- Harvest advanced to 72% complete, compared to 61% at this time last year and 53% for normal.
  • Oats -- 96% of the acreage is harvested, compared to 91% last year and 84% for average.
  • Sorghum -- 83% of the acreage is in the heading stage, which is 2% behind last year but 2% ahead of normal. 45% was at or beyond turning color, 6% ahead of last year and 5% ahead of normal. 30% is ranked Good or better, compared to 41% last year.
  • Pasture -- 19% is rated Good and 3% is rated Excellent, compared to 31% and 4%, respectively last year. 26% is rated Poor and 25% is ranked Very Poor, compared to 21% and 11% respectively at the same time last year.
States with the worst pasture conditions -- at least 40% of the acreage rated poor or worse -- include: Alabama (77%); Arizona (70%); Arkansas (63%); California (57%); Colorado (50%); Georgia (56%); Kansas (53%); Louisiana (41%) ; Minnesota (47%); Mississippi (55%); Missouri (73%); Montana (43%); Nebraska (66%); Nevada (56%); North Dakota (71%); Oklahoma (85%); South Dakota (66%); Texas (78%); and Wyoming (75%).

States with the lushest pasture conditions -- at least 40% rated good or better -- include: Idaho (49%); Illinois (48%); Indiana (65%); Kentucky (54%); Maine (89%); Maryland (50%); Michigan (57%); New York (61%); North Carolina (46%); Ohio (65%); Utah (54%); Washington (56%); and West Virginia (42%).

TAGS: Disaster