Last week’s Crop Progress Report from USDA provided the first data point on 2022 pasture and range conditions. Like other crops, the Crop Progress Report shows the percent of pasture in very poor, poor, fair, good, and excellent condition. According to the report, 29% of pasture is in very poor condition. Combined, 56% of pasture is in very poor or poor condition. Last year, 47% of pasture was in very poor or poor condition. Clearly, on a national basis, pasture conditions are worse than a year ago.
There is a high degree of variability in range and pasture conditions across states. In the Southeast, for example, conditions are comparable to the previous 5-year average, with 10% of pasture in poor or very poor condition (AL 4%; AR 13%; FL 22%; GA 13%; KY 6%; LA 8%; MS 8%; TN 7%). In the Southern Plains, conditions are noticeably worse, with 57% of pasture rated as poor or very poor (KS 41%; OK 39%; TX 74%), a 79% increase compared to last year. Compared to last year, conditions in the West have improved, with 39% of pasture rated as poor or very poor, down 24% compared to last year.
Forage availability and forage production costs will be two of the most significant factors determining the trajectory of U.S. cattle inventories through 2023. So far, in 2022, we have already started to see the effects of deteriorating pasture conditions. Feedlot inventories continue to set records, partially a result of drought pressure. Beef cow slaughter is averaging 17% higher year over year. The next few months will be crucial to monitor.