The summer pasture and grazing season is half over. USDA-NASS weekly crop progress reports pasture and range conditions for approximately 26 weeks starting in May and ending late October. The latest data reported July 27th is 13 weeks from the first report. The largest contrast between this year and last year has been the year-over-year improvement in U.S. range and pasture condition. The five year average, which now includes Southern Plains drought in 2012 and the Midwest drought in 2013, shows pasture conditions deteriorated quickly from the first of July through October. Rolling back to pre-2011, the five year average displays a similar pattern but is less severe. Regardless, past and present historical patterns indicate this year is a bit of a pleasant anomaly.
Nationally, pasture and range conditions have improved since the end of May. Poor and very poor conditions have dropped nearly ten percentage points since July 1st. The last two weeks have seen a small rise in U.S. poor and very poor conditions, but have only wavered two percentage points since the lowest score of the year at 15%. In fact, 15% is the lowest score in over three years. August 2010 was the last data point registering this low and 2010 was the best pasture and range condition year since 1997. It had an annual average very poor and poor rating of 15.9%, compared to 20%-45% annual average ratings of all other years for the last decade.
The average over the last 13 weeks is 18.46% of the U.S. rated as poor or very poor. The best conditions are in the Great Plains, Corn Belt, Southeast, and Northeast. Corn Belt and Northeast states reported only about 5% of pasture and range require supplemental feeding (i.e. rated poor or very poor). The poorest conditions are in the West, where nearly 40% of pastures are rated poor to very poor. California and Nevada are contributing the most to this figure. Extreme to exceptional drought has spread across over 70% of California and 50% of Nevada. If good weather continues to hold, U.S. overall conditions are expected to remain much better than the five year average and especially compared to the last three years.
In Kansas, pasture and range conditions rated 20 percent poor to very poor, 42% fair, and 38% good to excellent for the week ending July 27, 2014. Stock water supplies rated 22 percent short to very short, 77% adequate and 1% surplus.
Kansas alfalfa hay conditions were 13 percent poor to very poor, 37% fair, and 50% good to excellent. Alfalfa hay second cutting was 94 percent complete, equal to last year, and near the 98% average. Alfalfa hay third cutting was 29 percent complete, ahead of 15% last year, but behind the 39% average for this time of year.