This fall’s weather has turned dry in many areas, which means pasture conditions have declined. That has increased competition for winter wheat grazing, and many stocker operators have been forced to look at feeding alternatives.

Fortunately, USDA’s Weekly Weather and Crop Bulletin shows 95 percent of winter wheat acreage was planted and 82 percent of planted acreage has emerged. That’s slightly behind a year ago, but above the five-year average. In terms of winter wheat crop conditions, 46 percent was in the fair to excellent category, while 16 percent of acreage was in very poor to poor condition. However, drier weather is expected in many areas of the country this winter, which could impact wheat growth unless it is irrigated.

According to NOAA’s Drought Outlook through Feb. 15, the northern Central Plains should see improvement over the coming months, while the southern half of the country will see developing and persistent drought.

Brad Pugh, meteorologist with the NOAA, says that with the strengthening and expected persistence of La Niña conditions through early 2008, the current Drought Outlook leans heavily on precipitation anomalies that typically occur during La Niña episodes.

“Forecasts favor improvement across the northern Great Basin, northern Rockies, and northern High Plains. The odds for improvement diminish farther south, with drought persisting across central and southern California along with the Southwest,” he says. “A widespread area of drought development is expected from the southern Rockies into the southern Plains, GulfCoast, and Florida. Year-to-date rainfall deficits range from 15 to 20 inches in the area of exceptional drought centered in northern parts of Alabama and Georgia. Drought will likely persist in these areas along with the Carolinas. Prospects for improvement increase farther north including north Tennessee, eastern Kentucky, and southern New England. Improvement is also forecast for the Great Lakes and Hawaii.”

To view the drought outlook, follow this link.