Range, Pasture and Corn Conditions
Thursday, August 4th, 2011
The seemingly endless saga of what we will feed the critters in the U.S. and how much those feedstuffs might cost — extended to forages this year by the severe southern drought — continues. And while the situation regarding concentrate diets (ie. those made up primarily of grains and protein meals) fed to simple-stomached animals carries a high price tag, the situation facing beef cow and stocker operations is, in many areas, critical.
USDA’s weekly Crop Progress update reported today that 35% of the nation's range and pasture land was in either poor or very poor condition as of Sunday. That percentage is not all that out of the ordinary since the average for the same week over the last 5 years is 32.8%. But two features of the ratings are important.
First, the percentage of failing pastures is MUCH HIGHER than last year when, nationwide, only 14% of pastures and range acres were rated poor and very poor during the same week.
Second, the really serious situation are in places that normally keep a LARGE NUMBER OF BEEF COWS. The Southern Plains (comprised of Texas and Oklahoma) has an almost astonishing 89.5% of grazing lands rated in the two worst categories. Think about that. It means that in these two states that on January 1 held 23% of all beef cows, only 9% of acres is rated Fair and 1.5% is rated Good. No acres in either state were rated Excellent.
The extension of this situation now is that many ranches are running out of water. Water tanks and ponds are going dry and even groundwater sources are drying up in many areas. There are things you can do when the grass is short but hauling water is impractical for most cow herds. As can be seen in the tables, more that 10 times the number of acres are rated poor and very poor this year while only 60% as many in good and excellent condition as of 8/1.
Meanwhile the condition of the nation’s corn crop remained steady last week with 62% of acres rated in good or excellent condition. This week’s percentage is also almost precisely equal to the average of the past 10 year for this week. Looking at the state level data, it is difficult to see how the national ratings held steady. G/E ratings in Iowa, Illinois and Indiana fell by 5, 6 and 5%, respectively, while those for Nebraska and South Dakota fell by 3%. Those are 5 of the top 6 corn states (MN is the other and its G/E ratings increased by 2%).
Several lower-acreage states saw G/E ratings increase but how they could overcome significant declines in such large corn states is a bit baffling. None of this means that the correct number should be 3 or 4 points lower. That is not likely the case at all. But even with last week when the crop in such important states suffers? It doesn’t add up. And even if the right number is 60%, this corn crop is still not in big trouble. And remember the disappointing yield last year — 72% of acres were rated G/E for this week in 2010.
The Daily Livestock Report