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Agricultural News

Many Calling for Rain, But How Much Would it Help?

Mon, 01 Aug 2011 16:01:22 CDT

Many Calling for Rain, But How Much Would it Help? According to Oklahoma Mesonet data, the warm growing season to date this year (March 1- July 31) is the third driest on record with a statewide average of 10.39 inches of rain. That is down 8.29 inches, or 56 percent of normal. Regional, the western counties and the panhandle are about 30 percent of normal; central counties are about 50 percent of normal and the eastern counties are about 80 percent of normal. According to Dr. Derrell Peel, OSU Extension Livestock Market Economist, this is very dry but what makes it particularly devastating is that it follows a very dry fall and winter. The last year, from August 1, 2010 – July 31, 2011 is the driest on record for that 365 day period with an average of 22.47 inches of rain, less than the previous record of 23.19 inches of rain in 1935-36.

Many cattle producers have already destocked severely or totally. Many of the remaining producers who still have cattle are on the last dabs of water and forage and face destocking immediately. Current forecasts predict extremely hot temperatures for the next ten days and the longer range forecasts show no improvement in the drought situation. Of course, a rain is desperately needed, but the question is: how much would a rain really help? It is important to ask the question because the answer will depend on each producer’s circumstances.

Initially, any change in the weather that results in significant rain is likely to also indicate a significant break in the temperatures that we have been experiencing. That would certainly improve morale among producers and comfort for animals but would not really change to overall predicament that most producers face. A heavy rain event could replenish some stock water ponds and this would provide immediately relief of limited water supplies for some producers. Some warm season forages would resend quickly with new growth if rain happens soon. However, in most cases, there would be a limited amount of forage growth and little if any hay production is possible at this late date.   This would provide at most a small amount of time and flexibility for producers with cattle. Destocked pastures have a chance to recover a bit but would not likely have much potential for restocking this year.

There is time for enough rain to make early planted wheat possible and this could provide forage for fall and winter. However, the current weather forecast makes it unlikely and early planted wheat will be extremely risky in the face of current dry soil profiles and hot temperatures. Late summer or fall rains might also produce some cool-season perennial forage but total production in likely to be limited.

The bottom line is that while any rain, any time will be welcome, at this point, rain will likely be of limited value for the fall and winter from a cattle perspective. For many producers, the question now is how to get to next April and that question does not, in many cases, depend on whether we get rain anytime soon. Of course, it takes rain to begin the process of replenishing ground water and stock water supplies and to begin pasture recovery and it would sure be nice to start that process so producers can begin to devise recovery plans.

Our thanks to Dr. Peel for this latest analysis of the beef cattle marketplace- it's a part of the weekly Cow Calf Corner electronic newsletter that Dr. Peel and Dr. Glenn Selk of OSU produce on most Mondays.



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