Grazing Conditions Improved with Less Drought Around the Country

Drovers TV 050919
A stocker calf grazing on fresh spring pasture. ( Wyatt Bechtel )

With above average moisture around much of the country during the winter and spring, grazing conditions have improved compared to the same time last year.

The USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service published the first weekly pasture and range conditions summary for the year on May 6 with the Crop Progress report. The top two categories for grazing conditions show that 11% of range and pasture is Excellent and 49% is Good. The Good rating jumped 12% from the same time last year, while the Excellent rating jumped 6%.

On the other end of the spectrum, Very Poor pasture and range condition was only seen in 1% of the country, down 4% from last year. Poor conditions were seen in 7% of pasture and range, a decline of 8% since this time last year.

The Livestock Marketing Information Center has calculated the data and compared how the percent of Poor or Very Poor range and pasture holds up to past years. Data indicates that on average grazing conditions are about 11% better for 2019 than average in the past six years.

Nationally, the U.S. spring/summer forage production and grazing season begins about May 1, even though the Southern states and

The improvement in pasture and range condition can also be observed when looking at the latest U.S. Drought Monitor where states like South Dakota, Nevada, Iowa, Arkansas, Virginia and many others did not register any sort of drought or dryness.

The only state in the Lower 48 to register at or above the D2 Severe Drought rating was New Mexico and that was only for 1.23% of land in the state. Compared to last year New Mexico had 81.14% of land at or above the Severe Drought designation. According to USDA, 64% of pasture and range condition in New Mexico is currently at or above a rating of Fair.

Drought conditions have improved drastically for 2019 (left) compared to the same time in early May 2018 (right)

Kansas is another state that has seen a drastic change in drought conditions from last year. At this time no part of the Sunflower State is considered to be in drought and only 0.15% of land is even considered D0 Abnormally Dry, the lowest rating for the Drought Monitor. Last year 81.65% of the state was experiencing at least D1 Moderate Drought. This improvement is reflected in USDA’s pasture and range condition reporting with 65% of grazing land designated as being Good or Excellent in Kansas.

For more on grazing conditions and how the extra moisture in the winter impacted hay inventories watch the above AgDay video featuring Greg Henderson, editor of Drovers.