Poor pasture conditions could limit growth of cattle herd
Pasture conditions have deteriorated the past few months and could limit the expansion of cattle herds..
Published: Jun 23, 2012
Any plans of expanding the beef cow herd this summer or fall could evaporate soon across much of Illinois and the Midwest.
Pasture conditions, which were promising earlier this year, have deteriorated the past few months due to a combination of hot and windy conditions and below-average rainfall.
USDA last week reported pasture conditions have worsened considerably since May 1. The percentage of pastures rated poor or very poor nationwide increased from 17 percent on May 1 to 28 percent last week.
In Illinois, conditions are even worse. Last week, 33 percent of pastures in the state were rated poor or very poor, 37 percent were fair, and just 30 percent were good to excellent.
A month ago, (May 27) Illinois’ pastures were rated 58 percent good to excellent, 32 percent fair, and just 10 percent poor or very poor.
“I am concerned about the streams in the pastures running dry (this month),” said Ron Moore, a FarmWeek Cropwatcher from Warren County.
Authors of the CME Group Daily Livestock Report believe another year of hot, dry conditions will limit growth of the nation’s beef herd. Many herds were liquidated last year in Texas and Oklahoma due to drought and corresponding feed shortages.
“Record-high feeder prices have provided a significant incentive to hold back heifers and expand the beef cow herd,” authors of the report noted. “But that will be difficult, if not impossible, to achieve without adequate grass on the ground this summer.”
Fortunately, the early start to the growing season allowed a number of farmers to harvest a decent first cutting of hay. Many already have started the second cutting.
“Normally we cut hay around Memorial Day, the Fourth of July, and Labor Day,” said Don Wood, a cattle producer from Champaign County. “Here, it’s not even the Fourth of July, and we’re already into our second cutting. It’s been a good year for hay so far.”
However, other farmers harvested just a fraction of their typical hay crop due to frost damage and other weather-related losses.
“Our hay wasn’t really good,” said Pete Tekampe, a Cropwatcher from Lake County.
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