It is getting dry in too many places, say University of Missouri Extension economists Ron Plain and Scott Brown. Nationally, 28% of pastures were rated poor or very poor in mid-June. That compares to 27% poor or very poor the week before and 25% a year ago.
"We have seen over the past few weeks the result of limited moisture over the past year," says Frank Loschke of Cattle-Exchange, an online cattle listing service. "Cows once again are being relocated, along with grass calves, to areas that have adequate water. But 'cattle to town' has not happened...yet."
On the positive side, the beef industry may be seeing signs of herd expansion, due in part to declines in beef cow and heifer slaughter.
"Cattle slaughter during the first five months of 2012 was down 2.8%. Beef cow slaughter was down 7.2%, steer slaughter was down 2.1% and heifer slaughter was down 4.2%. The sharp drop in both heifer slaughter and beef cow slaughter may indicate the early stage of herd rebuilding," Plain says. Meanwhile, January-May dairy cow slaughter was up 4.4% compared to last year, leaving combined beef and dairy cow slaughter down only 1.7%, less than the drop in steer slaughter and less than the decline in the Jan. 1 cow inventory (which was down 2.2%).
When will rains come? The NOAA drought forecast for June 26-July 4 indicates below-normal precipitation is expected across most of the West, southern and central Plains, Midwest and mid-Atlantic states, with wetter-than-normal conditions expected in the northern Plains, New England, Florida and from monsoon showers in the Southwest. Tropical storm Debby is set to bring flooding rains in to Florida and the eastern area of the country.