In the Western half of the U.S., beef producers are struggling with moisture conditions that haven't seemed to improve much from summer 2012 drought conditions.
Derrell Peel, Oklahoma State University Extension specialist, said the marginally improved moisture conditions will affect the large number of beef cattle that graze Western U.S. pastures.
Peel said the long, cold winter has extended negative carryover drought effects with additional demands for hay and more pressure on stressed pastures and ranges.
The May Crop Progress report contains the estimated hay stocks on farms as of May 1. The inventory of 14.2 million tons is the smallest since 2007 and smaller than any May 1 total in data back to 1973. Total hay stocks on May 1, 2013 for the United States are down 36% from the previous 10-year average.
Peel said in aggregate, these issues will likely pull forage production to below normal levels again this year.
The region from Ohio to South Dakota and south to Kansas and Missouri has the lowest May 1 hay stocks compared to the 10-year average from 2003 to 2012. Hay stocks for May 1, 2013 declined sharply from the average in these states, including: Illinois, down 52%; Indiana, down 44%; Iowa, down 62%; Kansas, down 58%; Missouri, down 53%; Nebraska, down 45%; and South Dakota, down 54%.
"Many areas are beginning the growing season with significantly worse pasture and range conditions than last year," Peel said. "For the entire country, 36% of all pasture and ranges are in poor to very poor condition, or twice as much compared to the same time last year."
The poor weather has also led to unexpected liquidation, Peel said, and larger than expected marketings of feeder cattle in some regions.
"In the short run, this is likely augmenting feedlot placements now at the expense of feeder supplies later in the year," Peel explained.
Additionally, Peel said some heifers designated as potential replacements on Jan. 1 have likely already been diverted into feeder markets, and beef cow slaughter has been well above year-ago levels for several weeks.
In sum, Peel said the next few weeks will determine whether or not there is a chance to stabilize the beef cow herd in 2013, provided forage conditions improve and beef cow slaughter declines.
News source: OSU