It’s little wonder that cattle producers across the country are increasing their herd sizes and keeping calves on pasture longer before selling them to the feedlots. Thanks to this year’s renewed rainfall, ranges and pasture are in the best shape in years.
But that’s about to change. Seasonally, some grasses wither in the heat of summer, providing low-quality grazing for the rest of the year. There may be ample plant material, but the nutritional quality of the grass goes way down. This is why the pasture quality tends to go down starting about now.
Other grasses provide a more stable level of nutrition throughout the growing season.
Contained within the weekly USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service crop condition reports are assessments on the condition of ranges and pastures. Assessing the percentage of total pastures that were rated poor or very poor and then graphing the results gives a clear picture of what is going on and where.
The Livestock Marketing Information Center has done that, and the results clearly show the fewest pastures rated poor to very poor in years.
PASTURE QUALITY IMPROVING
The number of pastures rated poor to very poor has been higher in recent years because of an extended drought in the Southern Plains and at times part of the Southeast. California’s current drought also is withering pastures there.
However, as rain drenches parched grasslands, and improves overall pasture and range conditions, the percentage of pastures rated poor to very poor declines, as they did last year. As last year’s ratings get factored into the five-year average, the new normal of US pastures rated poor to very poor will decline, although there will be differences.
For instance, the five-year average of weekly ratings of pastures rated poor to very poor in the western region will tend to flatten, while pastures in the Southeast will continue to show a seasonal tendency to rise. Last year’s poor-to-very-poor ratings rose through the summer, mirroring the previous five-year average, although at a lower level.
In all areas, though, pastures improved last year and will pull the average poor-to-very-poor ratings down as they factor in statistically.
CASH CATTLE TRADE MOSTLY QUIET
Cash cattle markets were mostly quiet again Wednesday ahead of a holiday-shortened kill week. There were reports of a trade in Nebraska’s dressed market at $240 per cwt, compared with last week’s range of $238 to $242. The reports even were said to help deflate the futures market Wednesday.
However, the USDA reports only 120 head sold that way, a number that likely only brought about psychological pressure to futures prices.
Bids in live-basis market were expected near $148 to $150 per cwt, while asking prices were expected to hold at $152 to $153, versus last week’s $148 to $150.
Wholesale beef prices were up Wednesday, with the USDA reporting its choice cutout value at $256.12 per cwt, up $1.99, and its select cutout at $250.39, up $2.40. Volume was moderate with 110 loads of fabricated product moving into the spot market.
The CME Feeder Cattle Index for the seven days ended Tuesday was $227.88 per cwt, up $0.22, compared with Wednesday’s Aug settlement of $223.55.