Northern Plains Pasture, Range Conditions Dropping

In response to increasingly intense regional drought, pasture and range conditions in the Northern Plains dropped again, and the encroaching drought has many western Corn Belt crop watchers concerned.

The readings come from the weekly crop Report issued by USDA’s National Agriculture Statistical Service Monday

States with particularly poor pasture and range readings are Montana with 89% of its grasslands rated poor to very poor, North Dakota with 62% poor to very poor, and South Dakota with 79% in this category.  Nebraska also was affected with 65% rated poor to very poor.

For the week ended June 24, 31% of North Dakota pasture/range was rated as very poor and 30% was poor.  Five weeks earlier, only 1% of pastures in North Dakota had a very poor rating and 10% was considered poor.

Combining the very poor and poor condition categories, for the June 24 week, the percentage of pasture and range rated such was 53% and 26% for South Dakota and Montana, respectively.  Five weeks earlier, these percentages were 19% (South Dakota) and 7% (Montana).

For the week ending June 26 of last year, the combined percentage of very poor and poor pasture and range in North Dakota was 11%, South Dakota 13% and Montana 18%.




Pasture conditions in contiguous states were better but were declining rapidly.  The percentage of Nebraska pastures in late June rated poor or very poor was 8%, showing slight deterioration since early May, but declined sharply in the latest week to 65%.

In late June, 9% of Wyoming pastures were rated poor or very poor, somewhat improved from early May.  However, in one week, they had declined to 52% poor to very poor.

Oklahoma’s condition was rated about the same as in early May with only 4% very poor or poor, but by Sunday, they had dipped to 43%.

Nationally, pasture and range conditions remained much better than the 2011-2015 average, with only 17% reported as poor to very poor.  But the national picture is deteriorating because of declining conditions in the Northern Plains.




Regional feeder steer prices were showing the effects of the declining forage conditions, the LMIC said.  South Dakota feeder steer prices reported by USDA’s Agriculture Marketing Service were much weaker for lighter weight cattle than in Nebraska markets.  Steers weighing 600 pounds in South Dakota in mid-June were priced $9 lower per cwt than a month earlier.

Over the same time span in Nebraska, the price comparison for similar steers was up $10 per cwt.  Oklahoma City prices were $3 per cwt higher and Montana’s were down $4.




Fed cattle sales on the livestock exchange video auction Wednesday were very limited.  One lot sold in the south at $117.75 per cwt on a live basis, and one lot sold in the north at $117.25, down $1.50 to $2.00.

Cash cattle traded at $118 per cwt live, down $1 from the bulk of last week’s trade.  Dressed-basis sales were at $188, down $1 to $2.

The USDA’s choice cutout Monday was down $1.30 per cwt at $217.54, while select was up $0.16 at $202.67.  The choice/select spread narrowed to $14.87 from $16.33 with 109 loads of fabricated product sold into the spot market.

The CME Feeder Cattle index for the seven days ended Friday was $149.98 per cwt, up $1.79.  This compares with Monday’s Aug settlement at $144.67, down $0.35.