Click on the thumbnail graphics for a trip down memory lane — US Drought Monitor maps from December 2010, December 2011 and December 2012.
From the Bent County Democrate (Candace Krebs):
Areas receiving a U.S. Department of Agriculture drought disaster declaration (which includes most of the Central U.S.) can sell cows and buy them back within four years without incurring a tax penalty. Or at least that’s true through Dec. 31. “If you are worried about grass production for next year, consider cutting back on those cows to take advantage of these provisions by the end of the year,” Deering said. “I don’t know whether they will be available after that.”
In addition to the micro-economic considerations so important to individual producers, economists are also watching the macro-economic impacts of drought on the U.S. cowherd overall. Even with cull cow prices at record levels, data indicates most of the cows being sold are going to new homes instead of being slaughtered, at least for now, Deering said. U.S. cow slaughter is expected be down about 4.5 percent in 2012 compared to last year. Beef cow slaughter is expected to be down almost 13 percent, while dairy cow slaughter is expected to be up about 6 percent. Declines in beef cow slaughter is significant, because the nation’s beef herd is already at its lowest level since the 1950s.
From the La Junta Tribune Democrat (Candace Krebs):
At a recent cow-calf meeting hosted by extension specialists from Nebraska, Kansas and Colorado, experts talked about a range of management decisions impacted by current conditions that have increasingly come to resemble the historic multiyear droughts of the 1930s and 1950s. Eastern Colorado received only 25 to 50 percent of normal precipitation in the last year and is in worse shape as you travel south. Nebraska is running a similar deficit. Pasture and range conditions over a wide area are in dismal shape, with at least 80 percent of the range rated poor or very poor across Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska and Colorado, states that all experienced a string of record-warm temperatures during the past year.
The implications are widespread, starting with a lack of forage and corresponding feed shortages, which have boosted hay prices to at least one-third above last year. “I’ve seen lots of people buying year-old hay for $150 a ton,” said Casey Matney, a Colorado State University range specialist in the Akron office…
Native grass species like buffalo can be grazed down to the ground and still re-grow fairly quickly, Matney said, while others like bluestem require more residue. Regardless, consequences of grazing the range bare include a lack of groundcover to provide shading that keeps soil temps cooler and helps catch snow in the winter. The looming dry winter is likely to take a toll on trees that provide shelter from wind erosion as well. “Junipers and shelterbelts will really be affected by this winter drought,” he noted…
Providing cattle with adequate amounts of fresh, clean water is already a challenge as the drought intensifies.