Since the beginning of the year, the national drought picture has dramatically improved, but there are still problem areas in parts of the central and southern Plains.
“It’s really dry in Oklahoma,” said Clay Burtrum, a producer from Stillwater, Ok. “The cattle are doing fairly well on wheat pasture, but we’ve been in a drought the past two months since we planted wheat in late fall.”
Burtrum’s area has suffered from dryness for two months, but for the whole state, it’s been a year since it’s been drought-free. Some pockets have seen wildfires from the conditions.
“Guys are getting groundwork ready to plant spring crops,” said Burtrum. “Whether they have adequate moisture to plant those crops, I don’t know. Not only that, but we have a winter wheat crop that’s going to harvest later this spring.”
Producers in Mississippi say the drought has been taxing, especially for cattlemen. They say these are situations they haven’t had to deal with in several years.
“We’ve had to make some changes, and one of the things I’ve done is talk to some different people and see if weaning calves earlier is better than keeping them and how to deal with the lack of something for them to eat,” said Kenny Hinshaw, a producer from West Point, Miss.
Hinshaw says there’s a lack of forage, but it depends on the producer and location. A milk January is also helpful.
“I used up my February pasture in November,” said Hinshaw. “Now I have to feed hay, and I think I’ve bought enough hay to get me through.”
Mississippi’s drought has improved since in the last three months, but half of the state is still abnormally dry when it was drought-free in 2016. Hinshaw says in his area, the producers are culling earlier.
“I know some producers who had to sell out, mostly because they ran out of water,” said Hinshaw.
Tennessee saw some quenching rains from the last three months, erasing dry conditions in the state that fell victim to wildfires late last year. Despite these showers, producers say the fall drought still stings.
“It really impacted our fall grazing and hay production,” said Charles Hord, executive vice president of the Tennessee Cattlemen’s Association. “I’m afraid if we have a long winter, we may have farmers looking for hay stocks or being forced to sell.”
Like Oklahoma and Mississippi, Tennessee was also drought-free in 2016.
“We had a lot of farmers sell calves earlier than they would have or culled more than they would have in the fall because we did get so dry for a few months,” said Hord.
A new U.S. Drought Monitor will be released later in February.