Pastures, Ranges Show Soil Moisture Generally Good

The USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service weekly crop report contains a chart that should never be overlooked, yet it is.

The weekly pasture and range condition chart can show the condition of soils across the country at a glance since grasses tend to show the effects of dry or super-wet weather sooner than many other crops.

In Monday’s report, pasture and range conditions showed some seasonal declines, yet remain above the same week last year.  This shows growing conditions in most states are better than they were a year ago when record crops were harvested.

Grass conditions also help explain why summer feeder cattle marketings have been tight; the grass was there to feed them longer for cheaper weight gains.  Anecdotal reports of cow conditions also show they are in good condition, having had abundant forage this summer.

In the latest week, range and pasture conditions were rated 5% very poor, 13% poor, 32% fair, 42% good and 8% very good.  A year ago, they were rated 6% very poor, 14% poor, 32% fair, 40% good and 8% very good.




With this year’s more abundant rains through the summer months, hay production also increased, trade sources said.  Much of this goes unrecorded, but those in the field report more stacks of grass and alfalfa hays to provide fodder for cows through the winter.

That will allow cow/calf producers to keep rebuilding their herds into next year.  If grass and hay had not been available, producers would have been forced to wean calves early and sell them at a lower weight than desired, receiving less per head than they would have if grass were available.

But there are issues with more abundant rain and grasses.

Oklahoma State University Extension Livestock Marketing Specialist Derrell Peel, warned that recent hot weather there could cause problems with toxin buildup in some forages.  He also said the abundant moisture this year could tend to wash out nutrients in the grass and alfalfa hays.

This year, test results have shown that Oklahoma hay harvested later in the summer tends to be better quality than that harvested nearer the wet spring and early summer, Peel said.

But those problems pale in comparison to the issue of having nothing to feed, as in drought years.




Many analysts now feel that more feeder cattle will be coming to market as pastures fade seasonally.  However, such marketings have been delayed all summer by the adequate-to-abundant forage conditions, and fall marketings may provide similar results until freezing temperatures nip the grasses for good.

But even then, fall marketings could be skewed to the heavier calves as winter wheat pastures become available.  Wheat planting will become active soon, and adequate soil moisture in many areas may provide grazing through the winter.

That provides another benefit to cow/calf producers in that feedlot demand is skewed toward the heavier calves because of unprofitable feedlot margins.




Cash fed cattle traded very lightly in the Plains Monday at $146 per cwt on a live basis, steady with last week.  Cattle were lightly traded last week at $146 to $147 live and $228 in Nebraska’s dressed market.  These prices compared with mostly $146 to $147 live and $232 to $234 dressed the previous week.

The USDA reported lower boxed beef prices Monday with choice down $0.98 per cwt at $242.24 and select off $0.91 at $232.04.  There were 82 loads of fabricated product sold into the spot market.

The CME Feeder Cattle Index for the seven days ended Friday was $206.35, down $3.50.  This compares with the Sep settlement Monday of $201.82, down $0.57.