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Pasture Starts Season Further Back

Timely rains across the Southern Plains earlier this month lifted spirits and bought some producers more time to weigh their options, but it's still plenty dry.

"On a regional basis, pasture and range conditions in the Southern Plains are significantly worse compared to prior years, despite recent moisture," explain folks at the Livestock Marketing Information Center. "As of mid-May, about 42% of all pasture and rangeland was considered as poor or very poor compared to only 21% last year and the 2000-2004 average of 22%."

The same goes for the Western region where 8% more of the pasture is ranked as poor or very poor (18%) compared to last year, and in the Southeast where 13% is less than fair compared to 6% last year.

Likewise, drought is already taking a bite out of some crops. As an example, the Ag Marketing Service reported last week, "Harvest (for red winter wheat) is already underway in drought-stricken Texas, which will harvest the fewest acres in the state since 1925."

For the week ending May 14, according to the National Ag Statistics Service: Corn -- 85% of the acreage has been planted, which is 3% behind last year and 8% ahead of the normal pace; 44% has emerged, which is 5% ahead of last year and 4% ahead of normal.

Soybeans -- 33% is planted, 10% behind last year and 2% behind the five-year average; 9% has emerged, which is 1% back of last year and the average.

Winter wheat -- 62% was at or beyond the heading stage. That's 7% ahead of last year and 7% ahead of the normal pace. In Kansas -- the largest producing state -- 85% was at or beyond the heading stage, 17% ahead of normal.

Spring wheat -- 79% of the crop is in the ground, which is 9% behind last year but 7% ahead of the average; 46% of the crop has emerged, compared to 53% last year and 42% for the five-year average.

Barley -- 78% of seeding is complete; 4% behind last year but 7% ahead of normal. Emergence advanced to 36%, 10% off last year's pace and 5% behind normal.

Sorghum -- 34% of the acreage is sown, which is 7% ahead of last year and 4% ahead of average.

Oats -- 94% of planting is complete, which is 1% behind last year but 6% ahead of the five-year average. At this stage of the game, pasture conditions are lagging last year on average: Nationally, 52% was rated good or better compared to 55% during the same week last year, while 20% was deemed poor or worse compared to 12% last year.

States with the worst pasture conditions -- acreage rated poor or worse -- early on aren't much of a surprise, being areas where drought has lingered or eased back into gear: Arizona (76%), Colorado (48%), Florida (65%), Kansas (30%), New Mexico (59%), Oklahoma (39%) and Texas (44%).

On the wet side of the fence, states with the most lush pasture conditions -- rated good or better -- include: Alabama (85%), Arkansas (54%), California (100%), Georgia (54%), Idaho (82%), Illinois (86%), Indiana (82%), Iowa (73%), Kentucky (75%), Louisiana (55%), Maine (74%), Maryland (54%), Michigan (62%), Minnesota (83%), Mississippi (73%), Montana (63%), Nebraska (54%), Nevada (97%), North Carolina (55%), North Dakota (62%), Ohio (72%), Oregon (71%), South Carolina (54%), South Dakota (63%), Tennessee (73%), Utah (87%), Washington (86%), West Virginia (50%), Wisconsin (74%) and Wyoming (54%).