May 1st Beef Cows in Drought

Given what’s going on with the cattle market and smaller numbers of cattle being placed into feedlots we wanted to also take a slightly different look at beef cows and drought this week.  We usually show the US Drought Monitor, which is a compilation of multiple drought indicators, but given the potential for cattle spending a longer period of time on pasture this year we wanted to focus more on precipitation deficits, and so have used data from the Standardized Precipitation Index (SPI). 

SPI data are used in the Drought Monitor but so are other indicators which might not correlate as well with grass production.  Based on 2019 survey data from NASS, we estimate there are approximately 18% of beef cows are in at least Moderate Drought.  We do expect areas along the Texas Gulf Coast and into Louisiana to improve, however, parts of the Intermountain West and the West/Pacific Northwest could be headed for a long summer with somewhat limited grass production.