Drought is hitting 25% of cattle country hard and the US climate prediction center isn't calling for much relief through the end of September.
The map leading this story from USDA shows the southwestern drought overlaid on a map of major cattle producing areas. It takes in much of the Southern Plains, including significant portions of Arkansas and Missouri, and also deep across the Southwest. Other maps on this same webpage show almost 25% of major hay-producing areas currently suffering the same drought issues.
A summary of expectations for the rest of the summer as of mid July remains ugly for the Southwest. The National Weather Service's Climate Prediction Center offers this explanation for the most cattle-populated areas of the Midwest, Southwest and parts of the Northern Plains:
"In the Midwest, a meandering frontal boundary is forecast to bring 3-7 inches of rain to portions of the region, favoring improvement and/or removal of drought. Unfortunately, during this time of year, crops demand a lot of water to grow properly and eventually produce good yields. If the rainfall received does not outpace the high water demand, this area would be prone to redevelopment of dryness and drought later in the July-September 2018 outlook period. Precipitation associated with this frontal zone is expected to reach Kansas and northern Oklahoma, promoting drought improvement and/or removal. The Dakotas are expected to be far enough to the north to miss out on the heavy rains associated with the meandering front early in the drought outlook period, and drought is expected to persist in that region. A weak tropical system now along the Texas Coast is bringing heavy rainfall to the area, warranting drought removal. In the Southwest, the climatological onset of the summer monsoon is approaching, and favors widespread improvement of drought conditions, especially in the Four Corners region and southern Rockies. The latest guidance suggests this will be a fairly robust monsoon, which will help elevate the confidence level for improvement. In the interior Northwest, with the dry season now in full swing, drought persistence is favored."
A study of the prediction center's outlook map shows it is less optimistic than its prose, predicting only an improvement in drought but by no means an elimination.