Week 2 of the PBR Monster Energy Team Challenge Gets it Done Despite the Heat

Week 2 of the PBR Monster Energy Team Challenge Gets it Done Despite the Heat

Action during the sixth day of Division A play at the Monster Energy Team Challenge PBR. Photo By: Andy Watson @BullStockMedia.
All images are courtesy Andy Watson/Bull Stock Media.

PBR Stock contractor JW Hart, is all heart…and soul; pouring energy and passion into insuring the bucking bulls he raises on his Hart Cattle Company ranch in Marietta, Oklahoma are well cared for, high quality, and…rank buckers.  Right on the heels of a high-powered weekend at the PBR Monster Energy Team Challenge in Las Vegas, Nevada June 12, 13, 14 where he hauled bulls he’s in partnership with TNT Bucking Bulls, David Hale, Randy Wood, Ogden Ranch and Mick Plummer, Hart is giving the bulls a weekend off at the Oklahoma ranch.  Hart started the herd in 1995 and has developed the partnerships in the past three years.  “My partners love the bulls like we do,” Hart shared.

Livestockwx.com’s Amy Hadachek talked with JW Hart early Tuesday evening, June 16th.  One of his favorites is Armed and Dangerous, although that bull was actually one of the few that managed to buck off the number one bull rider in the world; Jose Vitor Leme in just under two seconds, this past weekend in at the PBR Team Challenge at the Let ‘Er Buck Saloon at South Point Arena in Las Vegas.  Otherwise, Jose Vitor Leme had largely stellar performances. “I’m glad it didn’t hurt Jose, but that’s the kind of performance we like to see in our bulls,” said Hart, adding, “Armed and Dangerous is one of my favorites.  I was pleased.  Another favorite is Pontotoc, who got three trips out there (including bucking off Derek Kolbaba.)  Other Hart partnership bulls at the PBR Team Challenge were Dynamite Cap ridden by Mason Taylor for an 88.00 score, and Paint the Town ridden by Jordan Spears.

Note: click or mouse over all the graphics in this article to get more information

JW Hart won the PBR World Finals in 2002.  When we asked him Tuesday, June 16th, 2020 how many years he rode bulls?… “Too damn long…” responded Hart, “Professionally 18 years.” Hart prefers stock contracting.  “I don’t get near as nervous now, at bull riding time…” said Hart.  Hart Cattle Company and partners have impressively built up their program.  “We started out with one small 30-foot gooseneck and hauling 10 bulls.  Now, besides quality, we’ve been honing in on getting our numbers up.  With our partners, we have two semis and can haul 40 deep (our big line-up), although all total we have 150 bulls. But we have 40 that Cody Lambert (former professional bull rider and a co-founder and Vice President of the PBR) will let us take,” said Hart.

As a livestock and weather website, Livestockwx.com also talked with Hart; about the Las Vegas heat and gusty winds during that PBR weekend.  “We had two days that it was 104-108 degrees, we had shade up, then the wind picked up (20mph gusting to 30mph) and we played merry go round with the shade tarps,” said Hart.  “We went and got sprinklers and kept it on the bulls.  They probably didn’t need all that, but I’d rather have it – and not need it, than not have it…and need it!” he exclaimed.  “When the wind blew at 30 miles an hour, we wanted to keep dust out of their nose and eyes…which was blowing off the gravel parking lot. South Point (Hotel) ran water trucks to keep it all upwind of us,” Hart said, adding, “People don’t realize the care that these bucking bulls get…it’s second to none.”

The heat also ‘cooked’ their feed in the top of the semi-trailer.  “The bulls are picky eaters.  Luckily we had hay which filled the gap.”  At least the air was dry instead of being humid.  The dewpoint (the measure of moisture content) was about 25-degrees much of the weekend.  By 11:00pm Saturday, wind gusts diminished down to 14 mph.

Inside the saloon, the all-in sweat equity combined with a uniquely gallant team spirit produced two action packed nights of bull riding followed by a Sunday morning round in the Las Vegas spotlight culminating in three teams clinching the Division A bracket during the second weekend of PBR’s Monster Energy Team Challenge presented by U.S. Border Patrol; Friday and Saturday nights; June 12, 13, followed by Sunday morning; June 14.  A dominant 6-0 record catapulted Team Cooper Tires to seize the number one team slot, while outscoring their opponents 1535.25-430.25.

First to clinch the Division A title Saturday evening; June 13th, Team Cooper Tires beat Team Las Vegas with a 259-0 shut-out victory at Las Vegas.  Despite the loss, Team Las Vegas finished divisional action number two with a 4-2 record; and will also advance to the playoffs.

Team Challenge Division A: Rider Stats Through Week 2

Number-three Team Can-Am managed to accomplish a jaw-dropping 0.75-point victory against Team Union Home Mortgage, with a 173.50 to 172.75 finish.  So, the three advancing teams are Team Cooper Tires, Team Las Vegas and Team Can-Am, who all head to the PBR Team playoffs, to compete against the three advancing teams from Division B.  Competition begins Friday, June 19.  Division B has its own games before advancing to the playoffs to join the Division A teams.

Each Sunday in June, the third game of the broadcast is the ‘Game of the Week,’ when the telecast moves from CBS Sports Network to CBS.  The top three teams from each division will compete in July before fans in Sioux Falls, South Dakota at the Denny Sanford PREMIER Center. 

Although each bull rider competes for the MVP slot, a key concept in June is the team plan, which includes four riders on each team in a bracket-style competition…and fast becoming a robust concept. “I like that the guys get to trust and depend on each other’s performance.  It’s not anything like we’re used to in our sport,” said Hart.

Keyshawn Whitehorse rides "Bring the Heat" during the sixth day of Division A play at the Monster Energy Team Challenge PBR. Photo By: Andy Watson @BullStockMedia.

LivestockWx.com also asked nine-time PBR Stock Contractor of the Year Chad Berger; (in his partnership with Dakota Rodeo/Berger/Struve/Heald Pro Bulls)  about the team idea. “It was made for people who don’t understand the sport…it has a lot of lights…I thought if we get the people who watch who normally don’t and see the team concept – it might help the sport in the long run. It has to have a shorter set of teams otherwise you spread out too much talent,” said Berger, adding, “It’s all a trial by error. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and as you learn by your mistakes, you get it all tuned up.”  Several bull riders agree, it’s been a game-changer at this time.

“All of us really bought into the team format, and it has been great,” said bull rider Sage Kimzey on CBS Sports Network, after his Team Cooper Tires clinched the Division A title. After getting bucked off, and appreciating the bullfighters warding off the bull still bucking nearby, bull rider Silvano Alves of Team Union Home Mortgage told CBS, “I thank God, and I thank Mason (Taylor) for his help.” Even CBS Announcer/2-time PBR World Champion bull rider Justin McBride exclaimed, “These young rodeo guys are excited to be here.”  The energy was contagious, as Derek Kolbaba rode Acting Crazy to the eight second buzzer earning an 88.25 and energizing his Team Yeti.

Bullfighters/the grounds crew did a stellar job; keeping bull riders safe.  When Colten Jesse of Team Wrangler wowed the ‘live’ audience while riding ‘Short Pop’ to an 89.00 point ride, the energy from just watching his ride, went through the roof. 

Team Challenge Division A: Week 1 & 2 Bull Stats

After nine qualified rides, world number one bull rider Jose Vitor Leme is still on top…and appreciative.  “I’m grateful to God,” he told CBS.  “We rode a lot of bulls.”  As McBride shared on CBS, “Cody Lambert always tells the young guys, ‘All it takes…is all you’ve got.’

Rides to Remember from Week 2

Keyshawn Whitehorse

Keyshawn Whitehorse’s million dollar smile lit up the saloon after his powerful ride brought 86.75 on the bull Bring the Heat.

Stetson Lawrence

Stetson Lawrence had a great 86.25 ride on Smokin Gun

Marcus Mast

Marcus Mast had an eye-opening 86.50 on Bubba G, one of the top PBR bulls.

Good Weather and Good Bulls for PBR’s Monster Energy Team Challenge Kickoff Weekend

Good Weather and Good Bulls for PBR’s Monster Energy Team Challenge Kickoff Weekend

Stetson Wright during the third day of Division A play at the Monster Energy Team Challenge PBR. Photo By: Andy Watson @BullStockMedia.
All images are courtesy Andy Watson/Bull Stock Media.

Busting out of the chutes in a unique team spirit at the opening weekend of the PBR (Professional Bull Riders) Monster Energy Team Challenge at South Point Arena in Las Vegas, PBR bull riders gave it their all during three consecutive ‘live’ bull riding televised weekend match-ups June 6, 7, and 8; with ‘Team Cooper Tires’ and ‘Team Las Vegas’ both ending up 3-0 and running neck and neck.  World No. 1 bull rider Jose Vitor Leme of Ribas do Rio Pardo, Brazil dominated Team Cooper Tires performance going head-to-head against three-time PBR World Champion Silvano Alves of Pilar do Sul, Brazil and Team Union Home Mortgage, which went into the showdown with a 1-1 record.

At the Pendleton Whisky Let ‘Er Buck Saloon at South Point Arena in Las Vegas, Leme rode The Tickler; a bull owned by partners Dakota Rodeo-Chad Berger/Clay Struve/Ken Barnhard for 88.5 points.  “All the rides are very important for us,” Jose Vitor Leme said on CBS following Team Cooper Tires’ first PBR Team challenge. “There are a lot of good teams, and I am so grateful for these guys to help my team win today.”

Hosting the team challenge was a first for almost everyone, but for 9x PBR Stock Contractor of the Year Chad Berger, just being AT the event was ultimately a very emotional ‘ride’ in his life, this year.

Livestockwx.com’s Amy Hadachek interviewed Chad the next morning, after the sensory overload three-day weekend.  When asked what Berger thought of the performances of his bulls; The Tickler and Rising Sun… “I thought they did okay,” he said. Pausing, a range of emotions kicked in for the nine-time PBR Stock Contractor of the year.

“I was pretty much under the weather from surgery I had…and still am, but I was happy to see any of my bulls buck.  Red Dawn was the best bull there – by far.  I really enjoyed watching it, because I didn’t know if I WOULD GET to watch anymore.  Just a lot of emotion,” acknowledged Berger…pausing…“and I was really proud of Red Dawn.  Yes; they’re still gonna have to deal with me for awhile…that’s what we get up in the morning for – to be the best we can.”

Just putting on this event – was an impressive feat.  “I want to thank Sean Gleason (who has served as CEO and Commissioner of the PBR since 2015) and the PBR for working so hard so the riders and bull owners can make the money.  They made it a little easier for us to get through this (COVID-19 pandemic.)  It would’ve been a lot easier for him to walk away and say this is too hard. 

He kept going up to the plate and kept going til he hit a grand slam…to make sure we got to go to Guthrie (Oklahoma,) and now to Vegas and it took a lot of hard work,” said Berger.  “It takes a special kind of kind of guy to do that, and get it done.”


Team Challenge Week 1 Rider Stats

Then we asked Chad, “Since this is also a livestock AND weather website…how has weather impacted handling bulls?…and their feed in Las Vegas?…”

    “We put shade up, you don’t want to get them too hot out there,” Berger responded, adding, “We keep them on a lighter ration, and you gotta know how to take care of your animals. Don’t get your feed too hot…take less of the corn and barley which makes them too hot.  In the wintertime back up in North Dakota, you use a lot of corn to keep them warm, but in summer you don’t,” noted Berger.  Having access to shade and airflow and cool, clean water is vital. 

Tools for Assessing Cattle Heat and Cold Stress

Beef Cattle Temperature Humidity Chart

A tool from University of Nebraska for calculating stress in excessive heat and humidity: https://beef.unl.edu/handling-cattle-through-high-heat-humidity-indexes
In Kansas, there’s the Cattle Comfort Index (for heat, or cold): http://mesonet.k-state.edu/agriculture/animal/

Good Weather and Good Bulls

At least Las Vegas weather was fairly cooperative for both the bulls and stock contractors, while hauling the bovines.  Saturday evening – during the PBR Team Challenge, temperatures were warm; in the mid 80’s but the dewpoint (the measure of moisture content) was in the upper 30’s, so at least it wasn’t humid or uncomfortable for the bulls. The wind was, a bit of a challenge at times; out of the south/southwest at 25 mph and gusting to 33 mph most of the early evening Saturday.

By Sunday morning, bull riders arrived at the arena, greeted by 70-degrees outside with a 35-degree dewpoint which made the dry air very pleasant, and the wind had calmed down considerably with a south wind at just 6 miles an hour.

Meanwhile, Day 3 inside the bucking chutes was ‘touch and go’ for awhile, as Luciano de Castro of Guzolandia, Brazil, of Team Union Home Mortgage tied-up the score as he also earned 88.5-points riding the bull Rising Sun, also owned by Dakota Rodeo/Chad Berger/Struve/Heald Pro Bulls.

Then, six-time PRCA Bull Riding Champion Sage Kimzey of Strong City, Oklahoma of Team Cooper Tires, despite injuring his right riding arm the previous day/Saturday, rode the bull Big Mac, owned by Hodges/Shuler, for 87.25 points; and Team Cooper Tires.

Team Challenge Week 1 Bull Stats

On paper, we are the favorites,” Sage Kimzey said on CBS during the PBR Team Challenge. “There is a target on our back and that is a position I like to be in. We are Number one and that is the position everyone wants to be in.”

So, with a 175.75-88.5 victory (over Team Union Home Mortgage,) Team Cooper Tires concluded the first weekend of competition a flawless 3-0, remaining atop the Division A leader-board.  There were rave reviews about the leadership of Jose Vitor Leme, with every bull rider looking up to Jose, who is still in control of the Built Ford Tough MVP race.

Stetson Lawrence, Jose Vitor Leme, Stetson Wright, Keyshawn Whitehorse, during the third day of Division A play at the Monster Energy Team Challenge PBR. Photo by Andy Watson

Also on Day 3, with a 3-0 lead, reigning PRCA All-Around Champion and Captain Stetson Wright of Milford, Utah propelled Team Las Vegas after his 87.5-point ride on the bull Dynamite Cap owned by stock contractor/former bull rider J.W. Hart Cattle Co./Randy Wood.  Then, Chase Dougherty of Canby, Oregon had a 87.25-point ride aboard Silent Night, also owned by Hart Cattle Co./Randy Wood.  The 174.75-0 win (against Team Wrangler) allowed Team Las Vegas to maintain their No. 2 rank in Division A.

Week 2 Schedule

Team Cooper Tires will look to earn its fourth win against Team Wrangler on Challenge Day 4 on Friday, June 12.  Team Las Vegas will next go head-to-head against Team Can-Am on Challenge Day 4 on Friday, June 12.

The PBR Monster Energy Team Challenge continues each weekend ‘live’ on the CBS Sports Network, but without fans due to COVID-19.  Each Sunday in June, the third game of the broadcast is the ‘Game of the Week.’  As such, the telecast moves from CBS Sports Network to CBS.  Then, the top three teams from each division; as decided by the games in Las Vegas, will compete in July before fans in Sioux Falls, South Dakota at the Denny Sanford PREMIER Center. 

The excitement is mounting this month with the countdown underway to have fans in the stands again; next month.  We asked Chad Berger, if he was looking forward to seeing the fans again – in South Dakota in July?

“You ain’t kidding…I’m ready.  There were a few times – I wanted to see my grand kids.”  There’s no doubt now; he gets to see them…and all the fans who will be waiting to appreciate the cowboys, and give Berger; in his healing; a grand show of support.

Interview with Chad Berger of Chad Berger Bucking Bulls

Interview with Chad Berger of Chad Berger Bucking Bulls

The PBR’s Last Cowboy Standing at the renowned Cheyenne Frontier Days saw amazing cowboys and also some amazing bull power.  After the event, LivestockWx.com talked with Chad Berger of Chad Berger Bucking Bulls about what went down in Cheyenne.  It was a big two days for Chase Outlaw who won the Last Cowboy Standing with a 90.5 ride on the bull Rising Sun

It was also a big event for Rising Sun’s owner; 8-time ‘PBR Stock Contractor of the Year’ Chad Berger, who was glad his bulls made it through this El Niño’s crazy muddy spring.  Coming off the great week at Cheyenne, Wyoming…Berger is thrilled that Rising Sun gave Outlaw – a great ride, and also that another one of his bulls bucked into the exciting spotlight. But it was another one of Berger’s bulls, Smooth Wreck, that stole the show on the bull side, helping Outlaw score a 93.5 in Round 2, setting him up for the eventual win. Winning at Cheyenne…is vital.  

“It’s real vital.  Not only did Chase Outlaw go to #1, so did Smooth Wreck; our bull; he went to #1.  It was a great event for us,” Berger told LivestockWx.com   It was also very cool for the TV audience; to hear Chase Outlaw publicly thank Berger for producing such great bulls.

Jose Vitor Leme rides South Texas Gangster of Dakota Rodeo/ Chad Berger/ Clay Struve/ Julie Rosen for 89.25pts during first round of the 19th Annual Dakota Community Band & Trust PBR Bull Riding Challenge event in Bismarck, ND - 6.14.2019 Photo by Christopher Thompson

PBR Cowboy Lucas Divino; who got second at ‘Last Cowboy Standing’ also got on one of Berger’s bulls; South Texas Gangster, but that bull bucked him off in the Round 4.  Berger knows all about the herculean task of dealing with roughstock at bull ridings and down on the ranch, but then – add in the bizarre 2019 El Niño frigid winter and muddy spring, and the word ‘rough’ takes on a whole new meaning. 

Thankfully, Berger has set-up partnerships and also ‘winters’ his bulls in climates that are warmer than North Dakota.   He owns South Texas Gangster with Clay Struve/and Julie Rosen.   345 Rising Sun is owned by Berger/Struve/Heald, which includes Chad Berger Bucking Bulls, along with Clay Struve, and Mike and Christina Heald.  Berger also owns both Smooth Wreck and Diamond Willow with Struve. These partnerships enable Berger-to keep his bulls all winter near Henryetta, Oklahoma. This past bizarre El Niño winter and early spring had an impact on their bulls; even down in Oklahoma.  The issue wasn’t snow or ice in Oklahoma, but it was…the mud.

2019: One of the Wettest Springs on Record

“The bulls are fine now, and we didn’t have floods, but in March we were muddy all winter in Oklahoma.  You just keep trying to keep the pens clean as they can…so they can get out of the mud and exercise,” Berger relayed.  “We didn’t have the bulls til May in North Dakota and then it was muddy up there and the bulls had to deal with that, but it’s fine now.”

Berger likes to ‘winter’ his bulls in Oklahoma, because North Dakota is simply too cold.  “It gets too cold up North…and the ground freezes, but in Oklahoma – the ground never freezes, and they can stay in better shape. Cool in the summer…warm in the winter…they go back to North Dakota in May.  Then, in October, they’ll be moving down near Henryetta.”

Berger’s bucking bulls’ breeds are what he calls ‘cross stuff…a lot of Brahma and Longhorn.”  As far as the question if he sells…“I don’t sell.  I like to own good bulls.”  Berger’s ‘Top 3’ most famous bulls?  “The ones going right now:  Smooth Wreck, Smooth Operator and Legit.”

And, the PBR’s most famous cowboy now?  Chase Outlaw is truly a ‘comeback kid’ after a nine-month recovery rebuilding his facial bones following a horrific bull riding accident last year.  But this summer, the healed and re-energized Outlaw shined brightly in the ‘Last Cowboy Standing’ during an emotional, highly charged successful ride to a packed crowd elated to see Outlaw buck to the 8-second mark.

For those in the area covered by the Grass-Cast Outlook and would like to see how likely your county could see average or above-average precipitation this summer we have provided the County Precipitation Analysis Tool below.  To do the analysis similar to the example, choose your state and county.  For the month choose August and for the number of months choose 3-months.  That will show a frequency distribution of precipitation from June-July-August for your county from 1895 to present.

Chase Outlaw preparing for PBR's Last Cowboy Standing at Cheyenne Frontier Days. Photo Credit: Nadav Soroker/Wyoming Tribune Eagle

Daddy of 'em All

“PBR’s debut at Cheyenne Frontier Days was a smashing success. The grandstands were packed and as energetic as any crowd I have seen at any Western sports event, anywhere.  Chase Outlaw’s dramatic win at Last Cowboy Standing in an arena where his career almost ended one year ago is one of the best stories in sports this year. Fans were going wild,” said Sean Gleason, PBR Chief Executive Officer, adding, “PBR is thrilled to help boost Monday and Tuesday within the Daddy of ‘em all.”

Berger is also feeling good about how his bulls did, and the riders on his bulls at Cheyenne – these past few days.  “They all ran at the top of their game and I was really proud of them.”  Being named ‘Stock Contractor of the Year’ eight different times at the PBR (2014 through 2018, and in 2007, 2008 and 2009)….Berger appreciates that support.  “It’s whoever has the best set of bulls in the world.  The bull riders vote on it, at the end of each season.”

Chad Berger Bucking Bulls became incorporated in 2003.  “We were also bucking bulls before then,” said Berger, who got started with his father.  Berger’s team is comprised of his family; with wife Sarah, and their children Lacey & husband JR Scott, John and Sadie actively involved.  Others vital to their bucking bull business…“Delbert Nose and Rex Meier are my full-time bull hauler and handlers. Juan Gonzalez takes care of my bulls, cattle and feedlot. They’re very vital, and without them – we wouldn’t have anything.”

Berger Family Photo (left to right): JR Scott, Lacey Scott, Sarah Berger, Chad Berger, John Berger, Sadie Berger. Front row Emma and Rand Scott and Kambri Berger. Photo Credit: Bull Stock Media

With the possibility of another El Niño next winter, too…Berger responded, “I hope not.”  As far as the next step for Berger and their prize bulls…“I’m just going to keep doing what I’ve been doing…work hard.”

To view Chase Outlaw’s World Championship ride at Cheyenne, July 23, 2019: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a_p4oXCvGT4

The Seasonal Outlook Indicates Potential for A Cool Summer. Could We See Better Feed Conversion?

The Seasonal Outlook Indicates Potential for A Cool Summer. Could We See Better Feed Conversion?

All eyes now are on the rapidly approaching summer season and how the temperatures could impact feed conversion for livestock producers and feedlot managers.  At this point, the latest Climate Prediction Center’s summer outlook (maps below)  indicates that we may see a cooler than average summer.  While cooler weather does suggest animals would be more comfortable, interestingly a beef specialist from the University of Nebraska advises, that’s not always the case when there’s a lot of moisture or high precipitation levels.  Sometimes when humidity is elevated enough, ranchers don’t necessarily reap a huge benefit from the cooler temperatures.

“A case in point:  more often than not – our wetter years will potentially create more heat stress, than our very dry years.  It’s cooler, but the cattle don’t get a chance to adapt to higher temperatures.  So, when we get a sudden change in temperature in late July or August – cattle can still be carrying a partial winter hair coat because they haven’t had a chance, at that point to adapt to hotter conditions,” said Terry Mader, Ph.D., president of Mader Consulting LLC., and Professor Emeritus; Livestock Specialist in Environmental Stress at UNL.

Below-Normal Temperature Outlook for June-July-August across Much of the Great Plains

Above-Normal Precipitation Outlook for June-July-August across Much of the Great Plains

If it stays cool, it’s a win/win for everybody.  “In that case, when temperatures are about three to four degrees below normal, then we could see a two to three percent improvement in feed efficiency,” noted Mader, retired from UNL, and actively consulted about his environmental stress work with cattle.

“Yes, I can see cooler conditions possibly translating into better feed conversions. However, if the pens are still in poor condition from the previous winter’s feeding period and are muddy, I can see mud offsetting any gains,” said Dale Blasi, Ph.D, Beef Extension Specialist-Ruminant Nutrition at Kansas State University, also manager and director of the KSU Beef Stocker Unit and Animal Identification Knowledge Laboratory, a facility designed to evaluate existing and emerging animal identification technologies.

“However, if we end up with a two to three-week period of high temperatures and humidity, it would negate all, or most of the benefit of the cooler temperatures we’ve had prior to that, in that case,” Mader advised.

Mid-July to mid-August would be the period we could potentially have the most disastrous effects when temperatures are high enough and humidity levels stay elevated.  “If temperatures spike by five to eight degrees above what we’ve been seeing…then you have about two days that the animals can handle that.  After that,” Mader says, “We’d start seeing animals being compromised.  If conditions persist for one to two weeks, then feed intakes become compromised by as much as 30 to 50-percent until the cattle get adapted to those conditions,” he added.

Influence of Weather and Climate

The way that that most cattle manage heat stress, is they’ve got to cut down on the metabolic load.  So, Mader says there are two things to consider:  “There’s metabolic heat load from metabolizing feed, and climatic heat load.  If the climatic heat load is high enough, the only way the animal can mange heat is to reduce feed intake,” said Mader.

This is particularly linked, not just when daytime temperatures get high, but when nighttime temperatures are high for an extended period of time (see map and chart below for examples).  “This condition means that the animals don’t have relief from the heat stress during the overnight hours (as they would usually during the summertime when the temperatures drop to, for example, 75-80 degrees F). Several days of heat stress with no nighttime respite can certainly lead to mortality,” explained Katrina Frank, Bioclimate Consultant with Applied Climatologists, Inc.  Mader also suggests…in summer, staying current on your cattle marketing.  “I advise not holding cattle for a better market particularly during July and August.  If they’re finished, get them to the packing plant instead of holding cattle and trying to recoup losses you may have had in late winter and spring,” said Mader.  The reason?  Holding cattle for a better market in September may not be cost effective, if cattle get heat stressed in July and August.

2018 Summer Min Temperatures Difference from Average

Counties in orange had higher nighttime temps compared to the long-term average.

1981-2018 Summer Min Temperature Trends for Satanta, KS

Red bars indicate years when nighttime temps were higher than average. The black is the five-year running average.

For the last couple of decades the trend has been for hotter summers so it will be interesting to see if we finally get a cooler summer.  We’re just getting into June and we will continue to track conditions as they evolve over the next three months.

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Amy G. Hadachek

Hadachek is a freelance writer who lives on a farm and cow-calf operation with her husband in north central Kansas and is also a meteorologist and storm chaser. She can be contacted at: [email protected]

In its Second Year Grass-Cast Continues to Improve: See What’s New in 2019

In its Second Year Grass-Cast Continues to Improve: See What’s New in 2019

A good tool in the tool box…is how Grass-Cast is being described, to predict how much grass ranchers might have for the grazing season.  Grass-Cast is a website tool which provides forecasts of grassland plant production for ranchers in the Great Plains, beginning in spring and updating the forecasts every two weeks.

“Hopefully, Grass-Cast helps them plan better throughout the season for their grazing. That’s true in both wet and dry times.  In drought, we try to be more conscientious about our dry resources, but it’s also true in our wet years, such as…if you’re expecting above average precipitation, what can you do to maximize your resources…” said Laura Edwards, South Dakota State University Extension state climatologist, who was instrumental in providing guidance for tailoring Grass-Cast to ranchers.

How Grass-Cast Works

Grass-Cast ( http://grasscast.agsci.colostate.edu ) offers three different “what if” scenarios, which may help livestock producers in making their stocking rate decisions, drought management plans, and triggers for implementing it. The maps show the potential range of grassland production (relative to an area’s long-term average production) which depends on whether rainfall over the remaining growing season is in one of these three categories: below-normal, near-normal, or above-normal.  “The hope is that Grass-Cast can reduce some of the uncertainty that ranchers face every spring when they have to guess about how much grass will be available for their livestock to graze during the upcoming growing season,” said  Dannele Peck, Director of the USDA Northern Plains Climate Hub in Fort Collins, Colorado.

Above-Normal Precipitation Outlook for June-July-August

Near-Normal Precipitation Outlook for June-July-August

Below-Normal Precipitation Outlook for June-July-August

What it Analyzes

“We estimate ANPP (above-ground net primary productivity, which you can think of as pounds per acre of vegetation at the peak of the growing season.) More importantly, we estimate how much ANPP during the upcoming growing season might differ from the long-term average for a given area. Our estimates are based on current weather (up to the date the forecast is made), and seasonal precipitation outlooks for the upcoming summer,” said Bill Parton, Senior Research Scientist in the Natural Resource Ecology Lab, and Professor Emeritus at Colorado State University.  Parton and Peck developed Grass-Cast with colleagues from USDA, and with several different land-grant universities.  Parton has spent the last 40 years studying primarily how weather, climate, and human activities like grazing influence grassland ecosystems.

Expanded Coverage: North Dakota to Texas

In an exciting addition, Grass-Cast this year was expanded to also cover grassland areas of the Southern Plains, including western Kansas, western Oklahoma, north Texas, and eastern New Mexico, in addition to the states it was introduced in last year (including: the Northern Plains—eastern Colorado, eastern Wyoming, eastern Montana, western North Dakota, western South Dakota, and western Nebraska.)

“The Grass-Cast team focused on the Great Plains region for two reasons. First, this region is where much of the nation’s rangeland cattle graze during the summer. Second, this region’s weather is highly variable, especially precipitation, so it has a big impact on year-to-year changes in grassland plant production,” said Parton.  In addition to expanding the regional coverage, Peck says they also improved how readers see Grass-Cast:  http://grasscast.agsci.colostate.edu   Last year they used a county-level scale. This year, they have a finer, sub-county scale.

How to Use Grass-Cast

The website also offers a webinar, as well as ‘FAQ’s’ (frequently asked questions.)  Grass-Cast caught plenty of attention when it was drier last year. Meanwhile, developers revamped it and added new features on the website to make it easier to understand.

It’s all about pounds per acre, which depends on how much water is moving through the soil and plants, also known as evapotranspiration (ET.). “Low levels of ET are a sign that vegetation might be struggling to grow. Higher levels of ET are a sign that vegetation is likely greener and growing more vigorously.  So if we have daily weather data (observed or forecast,) we can use it to estimate ET, to tell how green and vigorously the grassland plants should grow,” explained Peck.

Estimated Forage Production by County

For ‘techies’ and other curious folks, Parton details how the computer models came together to create Grass-Cast…“Long term remote sensing NDVI (grassland greenness) and climate data sets (1982 to present) were available to develop the correlations of ANPP to weather variables (April to August AET). DayCent model results were used to get predictions of actual water loss by the plants for the time-period which were combined with the NDVI data.”

Grass-Cast is supported by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Agricultural Research Service (ARS), Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and Northern Plains Climate Hub (NPCH), in addition to the National Drought Mitigation Center (NDMC). Scientific collaborators for the development of Grass-Cast include Colorado State University, University of Arizona, and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

Mouse over the interactive map to see average ANNPP for your county as well as see production for good and bad years.  When combined with the Seasonal Outlook these estimates are what the Grass-Cast uses to estimate productivity.

Still Tweaking

It’s not perfect, acknowledged Peck.  “Grass-Cast has some important limitations. First, it cannot tell the difference between desirable forage species and undesirable plant species, so producers need to know what proportion of a pasture is occupied by weeds and how well those weeds respond to rain (or lack of rain) compared to the desirable species.  Ranchers and other rangeland managers should combine insights from     Grass-Cast with their knowledge of local soils, plant communities, topography and other conditions,” said Peck, adding, “They should not rely on Grass-Cast as a sole source for making management decisions.”

Interestingly, comparing last year to this year so far much of the Southern Plains in 2018 experienced moderate-to-extreme drought (see archived Drought Monitor maps for 2018 at https://droughtmonitor.unl.edu/Maps/MapArchive.aspx), while much of the Northern Plains saw near-average or above-average precipitation and grassland production. “These very different outcomes for the Northern and Southern Plains are shown in last year’s Grass-Cast map for July 31st (http://grasscast.agsci.colostate.edu/archive).

Valuable Tool

In contrast, the spring of 2019 has been abnormally wet and cold across much of the Great Plains. Above-normal precipitation is a good thing for grassland vegetation growth in our region,” said Peck.  However, abnormally cold temperatures may have caused some delays in growth.  “Despite this, the most recent Grass-Cast maps suggest above-average or near-average grassland production is still possible for many areas—as long as precipitation over the rest of the growing season doesn’t drop suddenly to below-normal levels.”

As Edwards put it, “Grass-Cast helps farmers and ranchers plan, that if they get ‘this much’ rain at ‘this time,’ what might their grass production be for their livestock.”   She said, “It’s a good way to put a number to it.”

For more information:





The current drought monitor:


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Amy G. Hadachek

Hadachek is a freelance writer who lives on a farm and cow-calf operation with her husband in north central Kansas and is also a meteorologist and storm chaser. She can be contacted at: [email protected]

Spring in South Dakota

Spring in South Dakota

“We calve on the range and are sure getting tired of the weather,”…South Dakota rancher Larry Stomprud summed up the latest seasons which have been affecting many South Dakota farmers and ranchers. Stomprud, of Mud Butte, who is also the immediate past-president of South Dakota Cattlemen’s Association, said ranchers have been dealing with a double whammy from this past late winter Arctic blast that challenged young calves and depleted the hay piles that cattle need to eat.

The big struggles have been mud, slow growing pastures, and death losses in calves due to mud or chilling snow and rain. “Fortunately, we’ve not experienced any health issues. After three blizzards within ten days in 2009, we made some changes that have addressed the problem of late winter or spring adverse weather,” Stomprud told LivestockWx.com. “We’re turning bulls out later than we used to. We also built several five to 10-acre ‘traps’ in our pastures to keep heavies confined during adverse weather events so we can watch them easier, and we installed windbreaks. Even with all that, we made the choice to bring all our heavies into our corrals during this last blizzard. It was a mess, but we didn’t lose any calves during that storm.”

90-Day Temperature Departures

90-Day % of Avg. Precipitation

Another South Dakota cattleman, Eric Jennings who ranches near Spearfish, S.D., said after two consecutive years calving in extreme winter conditions, several cattlemen and women are dealing with some sickness in calves, including scours and pneumonia.

“It’s been very similar to last year’s blizzard. Although snowstorms have been one to three day deals..I personally have not had any losses with the storms although I have talked to several ranchers who told me – the storms have been severe enough that cattle crowded into shelters…and some calves ended up with broken legs. One calf was injured in its middle. A few died,” said Jennings, also Vice President of South Dakota Cattlemen’s Association.

On top of February’s grueling  -56 degree wind chills, South Dakota has recently been dealing with flooding from the James River.   As eastern South Dakota is very flat, there’s been standing water in fields.

“We’ve had a lot of rain since the snow melted.  During early May, from west to east brought two to three inches of rain from Wall, South Dakota to Brookings.  No question; it was a really difficult calving season,” said Laura Edwards; South Dakota State University Extension State Climatologist.

Early cold weather beginning in January required producers to feed cows more hay and feed to help livestock through negative temperature degree days.  “Even with the extra feed, many cows didn’t come out of the winter in as good of body condition as we’d like them to be going into calving. This snowballed into more calving issues than normal; decreased colostrum quality due to thinner cows and calves not getting as much nutrition in their first hours of life as we’d like to see,” said Taylor Grussing, M.S., PAS, Cow/Calf Field Specialist at Mitchell Regional Extension Center; Mitchell, South Dakota.

Besides losing calves in the cold, death losses have also resulted more recently from the mud and rain.  “In fact,” Grussing relayed, “I heard just recently, of a producer losing three cows in the mud, and with that happening – we know that we’re losing calves too.  Also, with a late spring and delayed planting, many producers are still feeding cows as they wait to go to grass. That’s further decreasing the hay supplies.”

At least with excess moisture, South Dakota ranchers hope to have plenty of grass to graze when their livestock does get to pasture. Grussing also recommends: “Continue communicating with your management team of other ranchers, financial advisers, veterinarians, nutritionist. Remember you aren’t alone in this.”  She suggests monitoring for potential pneumonia cases or other chronic issues with livestock challenged by El Niño’s fierce later winter.

For cattle ranchers who need assistance, the livestock indemnity program has business management specialists within Extension and FSA.   “This program saved many livestock producers last year, and I expect it to do the same for some cattlemen, depending on which or how many snow or rain storms they got hit with in 2019 so far. We recommend taking pictures and documenting every death loss so ranchers have records if they decide to turn in losses,” said Grussing.  She also suggests communicating with a veterinarian who can stop by the ranch and review health protocols and assist with health documentation.

Photo credit:  Larry Stomprud: Calves from two-year old heifers.  Midnight, March 13, 2019. 

Photo credit:  Larry Stomprud: Featured image: After the March 2019 blizzard.

From the Wyoming border to near Chamberlain, looks like five to 15 percent above average in forage production for the season

Further challenging South Dakota farmers… uncompromising winter and spring weather has led to very little crop progress.  As of the May 20th National Corn Growers Association update, South Dakota planted corn had reached 19-percent; an improvement from the four-percent total during the previous week.

“In fact, I think most farmers here in South Dakota are a couple weeks (more in some cases) behind their typical field operations for this time of year.  In a few areas, there might be slight progress between rains, but for most, little to no fieldwork has occurred,” said Sara Bauder,  Agronomy Field Specialist; South Dakota State University Extension in Mitchell, S.D.

Additionally, soil temperatures were slow to warm up this year and didn’t reach the recommended 50 degree average (over several days) for corn, until recently, due in part to high soil moisture and air temperature.  “It takes more energy to warm up wet soils, so it isn’t surprising that in combination with cool air temps, it’s taken more time than we typically expect,” noted Bauder. “Many intended small grains will likely not get planted, due to the season getting later and later, passing recommended planting dates and insurance deadlines.”

Thankfully, there’s good news for forage.  From the Wyoming border to near Chamberlain, looks like five to 15 percent above average in forage production for the season,” observed Edwards.  And, there’s still opportunity to plant most forage producing warm season crops with little issue, as farmers work to gain tonnage and moisture, and don’t need to take them to grain.

“Corn silage is a popular forage for feedlot cattle in the area, and even if June planting dates get pushed back, corn planted for forage is still a feasible option,” said Bauder.  “But it depends on the rest of the growing season. If farmers are pushed way back or take preventive planting insurance, they can still plant grazing mixtures or forage for hay in most cases.  However, they can’t graze or hay until after Nov. 1 if they take ‘prevent plant’ and want a 100-percent payout,” advised Bauder.  “Before changing plans, producers should check with their crop insurance agent and take all deadlines into account and plan their forage choice accordingly.”

Soybean planting had finally started and was at four-percent, as of the May 20th report.  Spring wheat is reported 70-percent planted but is behind the 92-percent total from last year. Oats are 61-percent planted, which is up from the 37-percent amount during the previous week…but behind the 90-percent rate reported last year.

Cool, wet conditions aren’t favorable for drying out in the field.  “We haven’t seen flooding like this in years.  River flooding is receding slowly, and a lot of fields are still saturated through their soil profile,” said Edwards. “We have several weather stations showing that many are saturated – down about 40 inches into the ground.”

At least there’s no drought in the state right now.  As Edwards summed up, “No one is talking drought.”

For more information:


 (a relatively recent rangeland grazing forecast system comparing precipitation forecasts to expected vegetation in the northern Great Plains.)


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Amy G. Hadachek

Hadachek is a freelance writer who lives on a farm and cow-calf operation with her husband in north central Kansas and is also a meteorologist and storm chaser. She can be contacted at: [email protected]

Corn Planting Delays

Corn Planting Delays

There’s growing frustration for farmers planting corn in the nation’s heartland; due to several rain delays and in some cases, severe flooding from El Niño’s wet spring.

For the latest, we take a look around the Corn Belt to see what’s going on with planting and how farmers are dealing with the excessive rainfall over the last several weeks.

30-Day Observed Precipitation (in)

*Shaded areas represent major corn growing counties

30-Day Percent of Normal Precipitation


In Kansas, corn farmers are just halfway there after waiting out nearly a week, from rain and then subsequent soggy soil.  Therefore, many couldn’t make much progress planting last week (week of May 6th.)

“If you look at Kansas Ag (agricultural) statistics, and the Crop Progress Report at the first of the week (May 13th,) Kansas is estimated to be planted at 46-percent, which increased from 41-percent during the previous week,” said Sue Schulte; Communications Director for Kansas Corn Growers Association. 

“Last year (2018) was also a late planting season in Kansas.  Meanwhile, we had widespread rains across the state last week (May 6-8.)  Based on the USDA/NASS Prospective plantings estimate of 5.7 million acres of corn in Kansas, that equates to 2.6 million acres planted. With the wet weather, planted acres only increased five percent, or 300,000 acres.

South central Kansas reported the greatest gain in planting, according to the USDA/NASS Crop Progress Report.  “This week’s weather outlook calls for warmer, drier and sunnier conditions, which will be a welcome change,” Schulte noted.

Schulte says not much corn could be planted as the month of May got underway because a large area of Kansas (and surrounding states) received several days of rainfall.  “Much of that was heavy rain, or flooding,” added Schulte.  “South of Wichita, the (Kansas) Turnpike was under water.”

River flooding also let loose into central Kansas fields in and near Salina.  Jaw-dropping flooding has been observed (May 9th) driving along Interstate 70 in Salina, where new ‘lakes’ had formed surrounding enormous highway billboard signs.  Also, a swather was stranded in the middle of one Salina flooded field that looked more like a lake.

In sum, 30% of U.S. corn has been planted to date in the 18 major corn producing states compared to 59% at the same time last year

“In central Kansas, farmers are just going to have to wait, and see how the water clears off and the fields dry up.  It’s a different kind of flooding than what was in Nebraska…(Nebraska’s March flooding occurred when ice jams melted and levees broke.)  It’s not on that proportion,” said Schulte.

Another potential concern in Kansas…“If corn has already been planted – there’s concern there, with worries about dirt crusting over and slowing the seeds from breaking through the soil,” she added.

In Kansas, corn isn’t all planted at the same time.  Southeast Kansas; a lower elevation, has a warmer climate and they plant earlier.  Northwest Kansas has a lot higher elevation, with a different climate and colder nights. 

 “I think everybody wishes the weather was better for planting season, but there’s still that window of time, although that window is getting smaller as we get toward the middle of May.  We’re getting to that point, where people really want to get in the fields,” said Schulte.  “But we’ve seen in the past, that when we get a nice dry spell, we can plant a lot of corn in Kansas in a short period of time…when those planters really get rolling.”


“Nebraska is (also) at 46-percent planted as of Monday; May 13th, so we only got 11% more of the crop planted, (from the previous week.) According to the USDA we were at 68-percent at this time last year and 72% for the five-year average,” said Boone McAfee; Director of Research and Stewardship with the Nebraska Corn Board.


Much of Nebraska received some rain over the weekend, and McAfee said they’re hoping warmer temperatures this week will allow farmers to get back in the fields.  “I’d say most of the overall planting progress has been in the central and western thirds of the state,” he added.

Also, areas that had sand and soil loss and infrastructure problems from Nebraska’s historic March flooding continue – in the clean-up and assessment phases.  “Some farmland right along the rivers have sand, and so any progress this year for those areas is still up in the air,” said McAfee.  “In the most impacted areas where severe topsoil washed away or where there’s sand near rivers that saw the most flooding…those areas are probably not planting this year.  They’re cleaning up and assessing what can be done.”


Iowa is almost running ‘neck and neck’ on corn acres planted with Kansas and Nebraska, with Iowa corn statistics just slightly higher at 48-percent.  That’s up from Iowa’s 36-percent during the previous week.

“Through innovation, technology and hard work, corn farmers are able to produce more with less,” said Iowa Corn Growers Association® President and Iowa farmer Curt Mether. “Our corn yield averages have steadily increased over the years; while trying to reduce our environmental footprint. As we ramp up planting, which is one of our busiest seasons of the year, we are working to create resources for a growing world while safeguarding our environment,” added Mether.

Remaining Corn Producing States

Out of the 18 corn-producing states, the National Corn Growers Association says Missouri’s corn is 52-percent planted. Illinois corn is 11-percent planted.  North Carolina tops the list at 88-percent, followed by Tennessee at 79-percent planted. Across the Tennessee border, Kentucky corn is 55-percent planted.  Colorado corn has reached 39-percent, and Texas is now 75-percent planted in corn acres.    Pennsylvania corn is 26-percent planted.

In the northern Plains, South Dakota’s flooding problems has only enabled farmers to plant just four-percent of their corn.  North Dakota is 11-percent planted.

Other states in the Upper Mississippi Valley that plant corn include:  Minnesota at 21-percent planted, Wisconsin at 14-percent planted, Indiana at six-percent, Ohio at four-percent, and Michigan corn which is five-percent planted as of the May 13th report.

These states make up 92-percent of U.S. corn acreage last year, which was just over 89-million acres. In sum, 30% of U.S. corn has been planted to date in the 18 major corn producing states compared to 59% at the same time last year.

2019 Texas Grazing Preview: South Texas and the Coastal Plain

2019 Texas Grazing Preview: South Texas and the Coastal Plain

Weeds are not always bad.  That’s the conversation lately in South Texas, concerning grazing and forage for cattle.

“Early spring weeds are very important especially in South and West Texas.  That bridges the end of winter feeding and the beginning of spring grass green up,” said Joe C. Paschal, Ph.D., Professor and Extension Livestock Specialist; Texas A&M AgriLife Extension in Corpus Christi, Texas who covers the area south of San Antonio known as the Rio Grande Plains and the Gulf Coast of Texas.

In addition to deer grazing on those winter weeds, Paschal said the weeds will produce seed for ground nesting birds like Bobwhite Quail, and cattle will ‘mop them up’ and enjoy foraging these weeds.  “There are good weeds and there are bad weeds.  People in ranching like to have their cattle on certain weeds that are called tallow weed with a high oil content.  Nobody would want to get rid of those…Particularly weeds in February to March…are high in protein,” added Paschal.

Percent of Average Precipitation Since October 1

Most of Texas has been wet for the 2019 Water Year that starts Oct. 1 2018 and runs to Sep 30, 2019.

Evaporative Demand Since January

Evaporative demand has been well below normal since January, which means much of the precipitation that has been received has been able to stay in the plants and soils.

Most weeds can be beneficial, but when they take over a pasture, control may be necessary.   Another range specialist in South Texas recommends controlling the noxious weeds.  “As a good rule of thumb, treating annual broadleaf weeds when they are about six inches tall or less yields higher control, whereas perennial weeds often can be more easily controlled when they are a bit bigger with more leaf coverage. It is important to seek professional advice if necessary to identify your problem weeds and ensure proper treatment,” cautioned Megan K. Clayton, Ph.D.,Associate Professor and Extension Range Specialist at Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service/Department of Ecosystem Science and Management in Corpus Christi, Texas.

“If you are dealing with a mixture of weeds in a pasture, it may be necessary to either 1) pick what you are most mad at to treat first or 2) treat at different times during the season, making sure to not exceed the maximum application rate on herbicide labels,” Clayton advised.

Livestock producers who consistently graze cattle conservatively and leave about half of the desirable grass plants standing as forage instead of grazing to the ground, benefit from healthy soils, high rainfall infiltration into the soil, and grasses with healthy roots, Clayton pointed out.  “Setting yourself up with roots that can reach good subsoil moisture not only allows your plants to green up faster than the neighbors’, but also maintains growth for a longer period of time despite temporary dry periods,” she advised.

Much Too Early Map of Areas Greening Up Based on Satellite Imagery

The below map is from the MODIS Terra Satellite and the Normalized Difference Vegetation Index or NDVI.  The average value was taken between March 28 and April 26, 2019 compared to the entire data set from 2002 to present for March – April.  South Texas in particular is seeing plant growth well above what would be expected for this time of year.

While rainfall during the past couple of growing seasons in South Texas has been spotty, most of the area was fairly dry last spring/summer followed by a very wet fall/winter…and those dry/wet conditions can often lead to a huge weed crop as we  green-up, Clayton noted, with many reports of specific weed issues landowners do not remember dealing with in years past.

In deep South and West Texas, ranchers typically have less rain and more range with both native and introduced bunch grasses (and a fair share of invasive grass species as well.) 

“As you get closer to the coast, but still in South Texas, we see smaller pastures and more introduced and invasive grasses, mostly sod forming varieties. In both examples, these grasses are adapted to the rainfall patterns of both regions IF they are properly stocked and grazed,” observed Paschal.  “Typically ranchers in the south and west are better than those nearer the coast in doing this properly, so that when we do have irregular rains or intemperate temperatures, producers and their cows are less likely to be affected by significant (deteriorating weather) changes,” said Paschal.  

Recent drying trend in South Texas: Number of Days Since Significant Precipitation has been Observed

South Texas and parts of the Gulf Coast have seen a recent drying trend. Some areas have gone 25 days or more since seeing a quarter inch of rainfall. While this isn't cause for alarm, it is something to track as we enter summer.

Subsequently, Paschal found that these spring cows in the western and southern parts of Texas ‘wintered’ in better body condition even though they were fed less hay, while those in the eastern part required more hay and supplemental feed.

As Texas and several surrounding states have learned from this past El Niño winter and early spring, what compounding the problem was the dry spring in 2018 followed by the very wet summer and fall.  Ranchers throughout the coastal and extreme South Texas fed their first cutting of hay from 2018 to their cows in the summer and then it began to rain; preventing the second and third hay harvests, which led to a shortage of hay this winter. 

“Hay supplies were short and expensive, especially hay of any quality. The excessive rains (although not of hurricane levels) were persistent and kept hay equipment out of the fields and often caused problems in grazing. Grazing in the heavy clay soils along the coast caused compaction. Wet conditions increased internal (stomach worms and liver flukes) and external (horn, stable, and horse flies and mosquitoes) parasite burdens and in some cases increases in diseases such as the Blackleg, Redwater, and also Leptospirosis,” said Paschal.  Leptospirosis is a common bacterial infection of cattle, which can cause abortion, infertility, illness, and even death.

Because the cows (and bulls) were in poor body condition due to the prior drought and then the persistent rainfall, cow re-breeding rates were lower, as were calf weaning weights.  “It was a wreck all around for many along the Coast,” concluded Paschal.

Meanwhile, Paschal says this spring is showing much promise.   He said some of those early late winter/early spring weeds actually help replenish body condition on a cow or a fall born calf that wintered poorly.

Those that have been grazed and stocked properly have improved the most.....if there is a take home point to any article on the weather and grass production, that should be it.

Joe C. Paschal, Ph.D., Professor and Extension Livestock Specialist; Texas A&M AgriLife Extension in Corpus Christi, TX

“I agree that at some point they (some weeds) need to be treated, especially those that won’t ever be eaten!  Pastures and rangelands have shown great improvement this spring with the adequate rainfall, even with the erratic temperatures.  Those that have been grazed and stocked properly have improved the most,” said Paschal, adding, “If there is a take home point to any article on the weather and grass production, that should be it.”

Another management practice on ranchers’ minds this time of year is brush control.  “In about another month, we will be deep into mesquite and mixed brush herbicide treatments here in south Texas. “Whether you plan to individually treat trees with a leaf, stem, cut stump, or mechanical method or broadcast leaf herbicide, prior planning right now can set you up for success,” said Clayton.

Practically all brush in South Texas are resprouters, meaning they will sprout back from buds on the stem underneath the soil surface if top-killed or top-removed.  This makes for challenging management because simply cutting down the trees leads to a smaller, multi-stem tree that is harder to control later on, Clayton noted.  

Clayton recommends: identifying your target brush species, learning about your treatment options, and selecting the option that provides the best control the first time; while still realizing that some management funds will be needed for follow-up treatments next year.                                                        

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2019 Colorado Grazing Preview: Good Forage Year Expected

2019 Colorado Grazing Preview: Good Forage Year Expected

Colorado ranchers and climatologists are relieved that a large improvement in critical moisture occurred from snowpack during this past El Niño winter and early spring.  However, they’re cautiously optimistic and carefully watching weather developments; in hopes that Colorado’s water supply continues receiving periods of late season snowfall and ample rains.

“This year has been wetter than normal over the Colorado River Basin, particularly in the significant, high elevation areas that accumulate most of the snowpack that results in runoff during Spring. March was exceptionally wet in the western half of Colorado, where many SNOTEL stations report precipitation was the wettest, or among the wettest, on record,” said Paul Miller, Service Coordination Hydrologist; NOAA Colorado Basin River Forecast Center in Salt Lake City, Utah.  These wet conditions have led to spring runoff forecasts that are typically around 120% of normal.  Miller and other drought experts provided this information during a ‘live’ webinar, in late April.

In the Upper Colorado River Basin, precipitation so far this year is well above average throughout Colorado and Central Utah, and near average in the northern portion of the basin in Southern Wyoming.

Percent of Average Precipitation Since October 1

Unlike 2018, most of Colorado has been wet for the 2019 Water Year that starts Oct. 1 2018 and runs to Sep 30, 2019.

Officials also reported positive recent developments but cautioned that the Colorado River Basin is not out of the woods…yet. “While we are pleased to see the above average snowpack conditions in the Upper Basin and the improvement in the inflow forecast, which may lessen the chance of shortage in 2020, we are reminded that one  near- or above average year will not end the ongoing extended drought experienced in the Colorado River Basin, nor is likely to substantially reduce the current risk facing the Basin,” said the Bureau of Reclamation, through a statement.  The Colorado River Basin continues to experience its worst drought in recorded history, and the period from 2000 through 2018 was the driest 19-year period in more than 100 years of record keeping.      

A livestock specialist told LivestockWx.com that currently, things could go either way – and that Colorado has been on a roller coaster of drought since the early 2000’s with much time spent in D4 and D3 drought categories during three major cycles. 

“Most recently, 2018 hit the western part of the state and a sizeable portion of eastern Colorado.   As a headwaters state that depends on agriculture and irrigation of crops and forage throughout the region, this sort of alpine drought hits twice; once in the growing season when rainfall is short and the second in the winter when a lack of snowfall limits water storage reserves. If this sort of drought continues into the next year, severe and irreparable harm could come of the agriculture industry,” advised Terry R. Fankhauser, Executive Vice President; Colorado Cattlemen’s Association.

If all the meteorological signs align, Colorado will have a good forage production year from native grasses and harvested forages

Terry Fankhauser, Executive Vice President, Colorado Cattlemen's Association

Much Too Early Map of Areas Greening Up Based on Satellite Imagery

The below map is from the MODIS Terra Satellite and the Normalized Difference Vegetation Index or NDVI.  The average value was taken between March 11 and May 9, 2019 compared to the entire data set from 2002 to present for March – May.  Southeast Colorado in particular is seeing plant growth 130% above average, or more, of what would normally be expected for this time of year.

On a positive note, Fankhauser says, thankfully, the winter of 2019 has diminished the impacts of this drought with a several decades-strong snowpack in the mountains and good moisture in the Plains. “In a high mountain desert like Colorado, this will bring a green and growing start to spring forage.  Several key elements exist in order to maximize the snowpack and moisture that fell during the winter months. The first is that the snow does not melt too soon. So warm winds, dust settling on the snowpack and quick warm-up (could, in that case) spell concern, (as snowpack would melt and run out of the state too quickly.) Conversely, a gradual warming with adequate additional moisture (would) stretch snow melt out for the better part of the summer, and the Plains will benefit from the continuous irrigation water and likely rainfall,” advised Fankhauser.

Evaporative demand has been well below normal since March, which means much of the precipitation that has been received has been able to stay in the plants and soils.

Colorado Climatologist Becky Bolinger is also optimistic following the wet El Niño winter and early spring.  “Cooler and wetter El Niño winter and spring conditions were experienced across all of the eastern plains of Colorado. In fact, east of Denver, near Byers and surrounding areas received a record high amount of precipitation for the February-March time period. For March, temperatures were three to six degrees cooler than average across Colorado’s eastern Plains,” said Becky Bolinger, Ph.D., Assistant State Climatologist; Colorado Climate Center, Colorado State University Department of Atmospheric Science in Fort Collins.

The cool and damp conditions meant that evaporative losses are very low (see evaporative demand image above). “Reports from Kiowa County show top soils are nice and wet, in good condition. Reports from northeast Colorado (near Akron and surrounding areas) are that the cool temperatures mean that the region is slightly behind on growing degree days,” noted Bolinger.  She said winter wheat growth appears slightly behind, but not of concern yet.  Unfortunately, adverse weather conditions can have long-term effects.

“I did hear of an impact of malnourished cattle because of drought last summer, lack of available water and poor grazing lands (around the ‘Four Corners’ area) which has likely contributed to an increased number of calf deaths – like being born already dead,” Bolinger said. She advised others to be aware of this possibility if they experienced prolonged drought conditions last spring and summer.

March brought a high number of precipitation events in northeast Colorado.  In April, mostly dry and warm conditions followed.  “But thanks to the wet start to spring, fire danger and blowing dust have mostly been minimal. I’m sure most farmers have welcomed the drier conditions for field work to begin soon,” added Bolinger.

Colorado’s current status and early indications – are welcome news. “If all the meteorological signs align, Colorado will have a good forage production year from native grasses and harvested forages,” said Fankhauser.  “This will balance out hay prices and stop any herd reductions due to lack of forage.  Optimism is in the air and producers are looking forward to an ongoing spring and mild summer with adequate rainfall.”

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2019 Oklahoma Grazing Preview

2019 Oklahoma Grazing Preview

There’s encouraging news for cattle producers in northwest Oklahoma regarding native grass, small grains pasture and areas recovering from last year’s wildfire.

In northwest Oklahoma, this past El Niño winter and early spring have brought very good soil moisture leading to excellent conditions for forage growth.  This is encouraging news because for the first time in a number of years, very little drought is present across Oklahoma.  In fact, parts of the state have been too wet.

Percent of Average Precipitation Since October 1

Evaporative Demand Since January

“However, the fluctuating heat has led to delays in native grass growth so we’re about two weeks behind, which may delay ranchers putting cattle out on native grasses,” said Dana Zook, Northwest Area Livestock Specialist; Oklahoma Cooperative Extension based in Enid, Oklahoma.

In addition, ample moisture has allowed small grains forage such as wheat, rye, and triticale to have tremendous growth this spring, giving cattle producers additional spring grazing opportunities. “Producers who choose to graze their small grains rather than take them to grain harvest, have an option to bridge the forage gap in areas of slow native pasture growth. Small grains forage are an excellent nutrient source for all stages of cattle; given some precautions of bloat and appropriate mineral intake,” said Zook, adding, “Luckily, delays in turn-out on native pastures can be made up with some   graze-out opportunities if available.”

Much Too Early Map of Areas Greening Up Based on Satellite Imagery

The below map is from the MODIS Terra Satellite and the Normalized Difference Vegetation Index or NDVI.  The average value was taken between March 28 and April 26, 2019 compared to the entire data set from 2002 to present for March – April.

Areas affected by last year’s widespread wildfires are also benefiting from plentiful moisture. “Weed growth is present in areas that were significantly burned, but producers are encouraged by native grasses fighting their way back,” Zook said.  She noted that re-establishment of native grass communities will take some time, and that grazing areas are expected to return in many ways, better than before.
Regarding the weather conditions, timely rains over the current water year (Oct. 1, 2018 to current) have kept any significant coverage of drought and even abnormally dry conditions to a minimum according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. 

“Most areas of the state are from near normal to as much as 10 inches above normal since Oct. 1, 2018.  When a problem area does seem to pop up, beneficial moisture tends to alleviate those conditions eventually. It has helped that our region has seen cooler than normal conditions as well, resulting in diminished water stress on the soils and surface water when dry spells did arise,” said Gary McManus, State Climatologist; Oklahoma Mesonet and Oklahoma Climatological Survey. 

However, McManus said, that for Oklahoma – this El Niño has been fairly weak and late arriving.  “So, that suggests some other factor at play for Oklahoma’s wet, cool winter and early spring,” concluded McManus.

For warm-season pastures, Alex Caldeira Rocateli, PhD., Forage Systems Extension Specialist and Assistant Professor at Oklahoma State University said, “in Oklahoma, bermudagrass is our main warm-season pasture; however significant acreage of alfalfa is harvested from spring to late summer.”  “Last year, low rainfall during summer decreased warm-season forage yields, and high rainfall during early fall impacted hay curing and bailing during last cuts. Therefore, the state experienced a shortage of hay during winter months, but this year, excessive rainfall was observed during early spring resulting in soil soggy conditions in winter-wheat pastures. Under this condition, wheat fields under grazing were prone to soil compaction,” said Rocateli.

The recent increase in temperatures is leading warm-season grasses to green up. Soil moisture is currently high, and good forage production is expected from warm-season pastures during late spring and early summer.  “Fertilization might be a good strategy to optimize forage production under the current favorable soil water condition,” Rocateli suggested.

As Zook put it, with patience, things will get better. “You may have heard, [the expression] that ‘Mother Nature will cover the ground,’ she said.  “It will take some time for those native grasses to recover.”

As mostly wet as this spring has been there is an area in the OK Panhandle that has recently started to trend dry.  The below map shows the number of days since at least 0.25″ of precipitation has been observed.  Areas in the Panhandle are going on 50 days or more since they’ve seen significant moisture.  Once the hot temperatures kick in, they’re going to need every inch.  It’s an areas that bears watching.

That completes our check-in on Oklahoma.  Keep checking back as we continue to update our grazing previews across cattle country.

Number of Days Since Significant Precipitation has been Observed

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