After more than a year of enduring drought across cattle country, a recent poll performed by Drovers has unveiled a range of pasture conditions across the United States and Canada. These insights shed light on the complexities of climate, geography, and agricultural practices that shape the state of pastures.
According to data from the USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS), pasture and range conditions in the U.S. for 2023 are below the levels observed in 2019. However, they show improvement compared to the conditions witnessed in 2020, 2021, and 2022 during the same period.
The responses collected from producers reveal a diverse tapestry of pasture conditions. Variation exists both across different states and within certain states, emphasizing the intricate relationship between local climate and agricultural outcomes.
Areas like southern Illinois, southwest Iowa, western Michigan, southeast and western Louisiana, northwest Oregon, the eastern half of Texas, and northwest Washington continue to report poor pasture conditions. Although some improvement has been noted over the past few weeks, challenges stemming from inadequate pasture growth remain persistent.
Producers in southwest Alabama, north and west-central Missouri, the Kansas Flint Hills, central Arizona, southwest Saskatchewan, and southeast South Dakota also reported below-average pasture conditions.
Meanwhile, some regions like west-central Kansas, western and south-central Kentucky, central North Dakota, and east-central Saskatchewan, have witnessed conditions that seem to be holding steady at an average level.
Producers in western Arkansas, northern Georgia, northwest Kentucky, northeast Mississippi, Tennessee, southwest Virginia, northeast and western Colorado, northeast Kansas, much of Nebraska and Oklahoma, and south-central South Dakota reported excellent pasture conditions. However, in southwest Nebraska, lingering effects of the drought impact the potential for better pasture conditions.
Producers in north-central states including southeast Idaho, southwest and central Montana, and Wyoming have reported some of the best conditions they have seen in years.
Despite the mixed conditions, certain challenges persist. Producers in Texas, for instance, have noted that rainfall has been scarce since late June, causing ongoing drought conditions. The implications of these challenges extend beyond the present moment, affecting feed supply, water availability, and overall livestock management.
As the fall and winter months approach, producers must consider strategies to address forage availability. The National Weather Service's Weather Prediction Center forecast offers a nuanced outlook, with some regions likely to continue experiencing dry conditions in the near term. The Climate Prediction Center's U.S. Seasonal Drought Outlook hints at continued drought in specific states while hinting at improvements in others.