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Showers improve grass, hay outlook
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Mississippi's livestock producers are looking forward to adequate pasture grass and hay supplies going into the fall, leaving only one thing to worry about: cattle prices.
John Anderson, agricultural economist with Mississippi State University's Extension Service, said Mississippi livestock producers pastures are better than normal for this time of the year, unlike their counterparts' pastures in major cattle producing states such as Texas and New Mexico.
"The drought out West has caused many of those producers to sell their cattle, which is not helping the market in the short term," Anderson said. "If they don't start getting rain immediately, they will be selling even more and keeping pressure on the cattle market. There doesn't seem to be any let up in those weather conditions."
Anderson said plentiful feed supplies in Mississippi will encourage state cattle producers to hold onto cattle. The best hope for cattle prices is for exports of poultry to Russia to pick up soon to help move some excess meat off the U.S. market.
"We probably won't see a lot of aggressive buyers this fall because stocker and feeder cattle buyers lost so much money this past year. They may be having financial difficulty," Anderson said. "Plus, fall is never the best market season for cattle."
A recent report by the National Agricultural Statistics Service characterized 30 percent of Mississippi pastures as fair, 46 percent as good and 12 percent as excellent. About 40 percent of Texas' pasture and range crop condition is in poor or very poor condition. In New Mexico, the condition is even worse with 84 percent described as poor or very poor.
The recent southeast hay report indicated that summer rains have stopped supplemental feeding across most of the southeast.
Rick Evans, Extension livestock specialist with MSU's Prairie Research Unit in Verona, said some growers have hay leftover from last year that will need to be fed to cattle as soon as possible. Some growers may cut back on late-season harvests and be more selective based on quality. North Mississippi farmers now are having trouble cutting the fast-growing forages. While he anticipates plenty of hay this winter, the rains are causing in variable quality.
"It's hard to time the cuttings just right. Fields typically only need four to five weeks of growth, but most growers cut too late and nutrient value diminishes after maturity. Afternoon showers also rob quality from cut hay," Evans said. "The best news is that ample pasture grass should help cattle enter calving season and the winter in better condition."