The rainy weather that has been a major obstacle to getting spring crops planted this year has been a boon to pasture and range conditions across most of the U.S. At mid-year, 69% of U.S. ranges and pastures were rated in good to excellent condition according to the USDA-National Agricultural Statistical Service (NASS) weekly Crop Conditions publication. This was the highest percentage for a good to excellent rating in at least a decade for this time of year. At the other extreme, pastures rated in poor to very poor condition accounted for only about half as much of U.S. pastures as is normal.
States with 40% of pastures rated good to excellent account for 96% of the beef cow population. The usual seasonal slippage in this percent due to warming summer temperatures has been minor this year. A couple states have registered declining conditions during June. In the case of Ohio, it has been due to flooding instead of drought. Only one state is registering pasture conditions at the other end of the scale; 40% of pastures in very poor or poor condition. New Mexico reported that 26% of its pastures were in poor condition and 14% of pastures were very poor. A year ago, these ratings were 18% very poor and 48% poor. A year ago, 21% of the beef cow herd was in states with pastures rated 40% (or more) poor to very poor. This year that percentage is 1.5%. Last year, 64% of the beef cow herd was in states with pastures rated good to excellent compared to 96% this year.
A region that has seen marked improvement in pastures during the last month has been the Southeast. Deteriorating conditions from early May to early June were centered on Georgia and South Carolina. In Georgia, 7% of pastures were rated poor in the first week in May and by the first week in June, this figure stood at 26%. Since then the percentage of pastures rated poor has fallen back to 13%, which compares to 4% a year ago.
Feeder cattle prices in the Southeast have been weaker than the rest of the nation during the last two months. Georgia steer calf prices have fallen 17% from late April to late June. Similar calf prices in the Oklahoma City market declined by 14%, which is about the same as the decline in the August feeder cattle futures contract.dlr-07-03-19