Oklahoma is increasingly becoming a tale of two states as moisture in the eastern half of the state contrasts with continued severe drought conditions in the western half of the state. Easter weekend rains set up farther west than recent rains and many areas along and east of I-35 in Oklahoma received significant rain. Much of the I-35 corridor received 1 to 2+ inches of rain over the weekend. Parts of eastern Oklahoma that have received earlier rains are now looking at localized flooding threats. Much of the eastern one-third of the state has received from 4 to more than 10 inches of rain recently. Many areas, west of I-35, however, remain critically dry impacting the current wheat crop, crop planting conditions and pasture and hay production.
The good thing about this time of year is that moisture will have almost immediate benefits for those who receive rain. Producers who have held onto cattle can expect rapid increases in forage quantity and quality. Of course, starting with a forage deficit means that careful pasture management is needed to prevent overgrazing and pasture damage. Moreover, one rain does not eliminate the longer term moisture deficit and while the current rain buys critical time, it may not eliminate drought management needs depending on weather in the coming weeks.
Producers who received little or no rain may still see some benefits from rain in adjacent areas. Increased pasture and hay production nearby may make more hay available for producers seeking to buy hay and may increase the availability and feasibility of relocating cows temporarily. Evaluation of these options needs to be part of each producer’s comprehensive drought management plan. Perhaps most important, squeezing the size of the drought area will reduce drought forced sales of cattle and will lessen cattle market impacts. This will, in particular, help to maintain cull and breeding cow values for producers who may yet be forced to reduce stocking rates. Hopefully, the La Niña grip on the southern plains will weaken further and the drought area will continue to shrink.
Source: Derrell S. Peel, Oklahoma State University Extension Livestock Marketing Specialist