This year, some regions of the Western Corn Belt have seen too much moisture, others have not seen near enough. The area from east-central Kansas to north-central Missouri has seen little to no rain. Crops are withering in the field and livestock don’t have much to eat or drink.
Some areas are experiencing this drought worse than others. Farmers in Kansas and Missouri say the longer it doesn’t rain, the bigger the drought will get.
Producers have already begun culling cattle. They are making cuts where they can and have even had to dip into their hay supplies.
Kansas Farm Service Agency State Executive Director David Schemm announced last week that 43 Kansas counties are authorized for emergency haying and grazing of Conservation Reserve Program acres beginning July 16. Emergency haying in these counties will end Aug. 15, with emergency grazing authorized through Sept. 30.
The USDA May Crop Production report showed farmers had 36.8% lower hay stocks compared to last year.
Twenty-five states witnessed year-over-year declines of 30% or more for May 1 all hay stocks, with only the upper Northeast, the Deep South, and four western states increasing May 1 hay stocks from the previous year.
Furthermore, nine of the 10 top cow-calf states are experiencing serious drought conditions.
The Southern Plains were dry this spring and the conditions spread north and east.
Northern Missouri, for instance, has generally had only 4 to 8 inches of precipitation since mid-April, said DTN Senior Ag Meteorologist Bryce Anderson. This would be anywhere from 50% to 75% below average, he said.
The dry conditions now extend from the Southern Plains into northern Missouri. Additionally, the conditions have moved into southeastern Iowa and western Illinois. Missouri was hit the hardest of those states.
In certain situations, farmers are considering planting emergency forages when moisture conditions are rebound. These forages include millets or Sorghum-sudangrasses. This decision depends on the producer’s current forage supply and area.
Producers should also consider whether it is more efficient to move the cows to new feeding options, or to move the feed to the cows.
Culling cows to alleviate pressure on pastures is one strategy to decrease feed costs. But carefully evaluate which genetics need to stay on your operation.
Early weaning and selling of calves can help reduce feed costs. However, it can also hurt annual income so it is important to weigh the pros and cons.
We’re all hoping that there’s some rain in the forecast. If the drought continues, farmers will be facing some difficult choices.