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Drought’s impact on cow inventory

Nevil Speer August 2018 Drought Outlook
There is now fully one-third of the U.S. cowherd in states rated poor or very poor for pasture conditions. That will play out in a number of ways this fall.

It’s not really a new story, but it’s sure an important one. The drought continues to worsen in the western and southwestern United States. To see the extent of the drought, check out the most current drought monitor.

Last week’s Industry At A Glance addressed the importance of drought from a feedstuffs perspective. USDA’s May 1 hay inventory pegged total hay stocks at 15.7 million tons – nearly 9 million tons short of last year’s mark. As such, we went into this year’s haying season with a sharp deficit.

To make matters worse, continued dry conditions in key hay producing areas are making it difficult to backfill that deficit – dry weather and irrigation shortages will prove to be a limiting factor. Moreover, the drought means hay will be in even greater demand. As noted last week, dry conditions likely mean feeding cows well ahead of the normal fall/winter feeding season. 

This week’s illustration addresses that very issue. The graph depicts the proportion of the beef cowherd that reside in states with pastures categorized as either poor or very poor versus good or excellent, while also depicting year-ago rates. 

Nevil Speer

At the beginning of July, nearly two-thirds of the cow inventory resided in areas rated good or excellent. That’s since declined to less than 50% as the month progressed. Meanwhile, there are now fully one-third of the cows in states which are categorized as poor or very poor. 

Clearly, ranchers are feeling the impact of the 2018 drought. That said, how are you making adjustments to deal with this year’s dry weather conditions? How is the feed situation playing out in your area? Are you planning on altering your marketing plans for this coming fall because of weather? Leave your response in the comments section below.

Nevil Speer serves as an industry consultant and is based in Bowling Green, KY. Contact him at [email protected]


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