The hot, dry conditions have reduced productivity in herds and also burned up a large portion of available feed supplies, which is driving up input costs.
The average live-hog weight in recent weeks declined from from 278 pounds to 273 pounds, according to Chris Hurt, Purdue University economist.
“Pigs don’t like hot weather. They eat less,” Ron Plain, University of Missouri livestock economist, said last week at a meeting in Bloomington hosted by the Illinois Pork Producers Association. “Given the forecast, (slaughter) weights are going to keep falling.”
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration seasonal forecast last week predicted the drought would persist or intensify through Oct. 31 in all of the Corn Belt with the exception of northern Wisconsin, northeast Minnesota, and eastern Kentucky.
“During the hot and humid weather the first week of July our cows dropped around 10 percent on (milk) production,” said Kyle Koester, a dairy farmer from Dakota in Stephenson County. “Production has come back some and we currently are 3 to 5 percent off normal.”
“Heat stress causes cows to produce less milk, in addition to other problems with health and reproduction,” said Thomas Overton, a professor of animal sciences at Cornell University.
Overton recommended farmers continue to implement cow-cooling strategies to help prevent heat stress. Koester noted his facilities are equipped with fans and sprinklers to keep the cows cool and maintain feed intake.
Unfortunately, a heat dome is expected to cover most of the Corn Belt again this week.
The conditions have burned up a large portion of pastureland and sapped yield potential from most feed crops. A staggering 83 percent of pastures in Illinois last week were rated poor or very poor.
“Increased temperatures have increased plant water use and exhausted limited soil moisture reserves,” said Dennis Todey, South Dakota State University Extension climatologist.
Many livestock farmers, as a result, are struggling to find adequate feed supplies and in some cases water to maintain their herds.
“Feed costs are going through the roof,” said Missouri’s Plain. “It’ll force downsizing in the livestock and poultry industries.”
Every dime increase in the price of corn adds about $1.70 to the cost to raise a hog, Plain reported. Current futures prices suggest hog farmers could lose about $20 per head in coming months.
Cimeron Frost with the Illinois Beef Association
told the RFD Radio Network last week that some cattle feeders are losing $200 per head.
“Sale barn (managers) are telling us there’s already been a big influx in the number of cows coming in every week (as some farmers are culling cows),” Frost said.
December corn futures in recent weeks increased 55 percent while soybean meal futures climbed 24 percent.
“Higher feed prices have to be absorbed,” Hurt added. “Losses in animal industries will be enormous over the next year.”
IL Drought information