Poor pasture conditions, low hay stocks and drought

Cattlemen fear what a drought could do to the beef industry in 2012

May 17, 2021

3 Min Read
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Drought conditions continue to be historically bad for this time of year and recent USDA data confirms that the situation is critical for the beef cattle industry.  USDA reports pasture and range conditions from May through October and the initial reports this year show that U.S. pasture conditions are the worst ever for May in data back to 1995 with 44 percent of pastures reported in poor and very poor condition.  Among the worst state conditions are Arizona (90 percent poor to very poor), North Dakota (75 percent), Utah (71 percent) and New Mexico (65 percent). 

Regional aggregations compiled by the Livestock Marketing Information Center show the West region (AZ, CA, ID, NM, NV, OR, UT, WA) with 51 percent of pastures in poor to very poor condition.  The Great Plains region (CO, KS, MT, NE, ND, SD, WY) has 43 percent of pastures in poor to very poor condition.  The Southern Plains (OK, TX) has 29 percent of pastures in poor to very poor condition.  These three regions account for 60.6 percent of the total beef cow inventory and currently 40.1 percent of all beef cows in the country (12.67 million head) are in states with 40 percent or more poor to very poor pasture and range conditions.

The most recent USDA crop production report included May 1 hay stocks. The hay crop year runs from May-April so the May 1 stocks are the beginning stocks for the coming year. Total U.S. hay stocks for May 1 were 18.0 million tons, down 11.8 percent year over year and are 13.7 percent lower than the five-year average from 2015-2019.  Among major hay states, Colorado May 1 hay stocks were down 43.9 percent year over year and were down 60.3 percent from the five-year average.  Kansas was down 35.9 percent year over year and was down 11.7 percent from the five-year average. Missouri was down 29.1 percent year over year and down 13.7 percent from the five-year average. Nebraska was down 27.5 percent from one year ago and was down 13.0 percent from the five-year average. Texas was down 38.5 percent from one year ago and is down 44.4 percent from the five-year average. 

Folloing the regional aggregations above, the West region had May 1 hay stocks down 24.9 percent year over year and down 34.1 percent from the five-year average. Hay stocks in the Great Plains region were down 20.1 percent year over year and down 6.4 percent from the five-year average. The Southern Plains region May 1 hay stocks were down 28.8 percent from last year and were down 29.3 percent from the five-year average.  

Beef cow slaughter has increased sharply in the latest data to levels not seen since fall cow culling last November and December.  Weekly beef cow slaughter increased 13-14 percent in the latest two weeks of data over the previous six week average It appears that herd liquidation is already happening and more can be expected.  Poor pasture conditions now, reduced hay stocks and limited potential for pasture and hay production all suggest that additional beef cow herd liquidation is imminent.

 Rancher’s Thursday Lunchtime Webinar from February 4th covers Feeding Alternatives to Stretch Forage Supplies (Dr. Paul Beck); Managing Cool Season Forages in Late Winter in Drought Conditions (Brian Pugh); and Drought – Making Efficient Use of Limited Moisture for Warm Season Pastures: The Planning Starts Now (Leland McDaniel). https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1cjLc8jpn2A

Derrell Peel says there are more cattle than packing capacity and the industry is working through it on Sunup May 15, 2021. http://sunup.okstate.edu/category/lm/2021/051521-lm

Source: Oklahoma State Universitywhich is solely responsible for the information provided and is wholly owned by the source. Informa Business Media and all its subsidiaries are not responsible for any of the content contained in this information asset. 


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