The May Crop Progress report also contained the first spring estimates of range and pasture conditions.

“Many areas are beginning the growing season with significantly worse pasture and range conditions than last year,” Peel said. “For the entire country, 36 percent of all pasture and ranges are in poor to very poor condition, or twice as much compared to the same time last year.”

Regionally, the Great Plains region rates as worst, with 57 percent in poor to very poor condition, followed by the Southern Plains at 47 percent and the Western region at 37 percent.

“Pasture and range conditions in several individual states are actually worse than suggested by the regional averages,” Peel said. “Lingering cold weather and snow cover in many areas are the reason.”

In New Mexico, 91 percent of the ranges are in poor to very poor condition, followed by Colorado at 76 percent, Nebraska at 70 percent, Kansas at 67 percent, South Dakota at 58 percent, Wyoming at 55 percent, Montana at 54 percent and Texas at 53 percent.

“Too much winter was just too much for some producers, given their forage limitations, and has contributed to unexpected beef cow liquidation this spring and larger than expected marketings of feeder cattle in some regions,” Peel said. “In the short run, this is likely augmenting feedlot placements now at the expense of feeder supplies later in the year.”

Peel cautions the long-run effects on cattle markets may be troublesome.

“Some heifers designated as potential replacements on Jan. 1 have likely already been diverted into feeder markets,” he said. “Beef cow slaughter has been well above year-ago levels the past seven weeks and year-to-date beef cow slaughter has barely decreased at all compared to this time last year.”

In other words, another year of beef cow herd liquidation may already be inevitable, Peel suggests. The next few weeks will determine whether or not there is a chance to stabilize the beef cow herd in 2013, provided forage conditions improve and beef cow slaughter declines.


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