There’s little doubt that it’s dry. As of Jan. 25, the U.S. drought monitor showed 33% of the country was in some form of drought, according to Derrell Peel, Oklahoma State University Extension economist. As farmers begin looking to planting season, concerns are already developing about available moisture, stockpiling forage and the potential for wildfire outbreaks.
In the southern half of the U.S., late January rains barely stemmed the area from falling farther behind in moisture. According to the Jan. 25 U.S. Drought Monitor report, the county director for Wagoner and Mayes Counties in Oklahoma reported that all of the winter wheat crop was in either poor or very poor condition, and some producers were selling cattle early due to poor grazing fields.
Peel says cattle producers should be planning for the possibility that the current drought conditions will get worse in the coming weeks, and have adequate hay supplies and marketing plans ready.
Some farmers in the Southwest have been under pressure since summer 2017, as dry weather lowered yields for hay and soybeans, as well as deteriorating wheat and grazing conditions.
Several stations in New Mexico, Texas and Oklahoma report they have gone more than 100 days with no measurable precipitation, including Moriarty and Conchas Dam, N.M., Amarillo, Texas and Woodward, Okla.
Kansas State University scientists and the National Interagency Coordination Center are warning producers in the central and southern Plains there is a higher than normal risk of wildfire through April.
While some areas of the U.S. are prone to dry conditions in the winter, the Southeast this is usually the recharge season. But with below normal precipitation amounts, there is little evidence that moisture recharge is occurring.