Dry conditions challenge MO forage production

Missouri’s farmers and ranchers say they are grateful for any rain, but it will take a decent amount to regrow pasture, produce a decent hay crop and fill ponds.

“We’re talking 2 to 6 inches of rain, not a quarter inch.”

Matt Van Schyndel has cattle, sheep and goats in central Missouri. He says the pasture growth has not taken off like it usually does in the spring due to the cool, dry conditions and livestock have moved through the available pasture and a lot of hay ground.

“I ran my farm in 10 days. It usually takes me a month or a little longer at the beginning.”

Van Schyndel says the timing and quantity of moisture can make it more difficult to catch up on forage needs later in the season and he will likely be searching for hay.

“I think the price of hay this year will be so extremely high it will be very tough for any livestock producer to be able to make it.”

Gary Irwin, who raises several hundred head of cattle and crops in southwestern Missouri, says this spring has been a continuation of 2022. He describes the dry pasture conditions.

“You won’t see it other than you know the grass isn’t as far along as it needs to be, but if we don’t get any rain out of the next few days, we’ll start seeing pastures shrivel up and not grow back at all.”

He says the next two weeks will be critical for the cool season hay ground.

“Once the weather starts warming up, it doesn’t grow as well. We have quite a few native prairies we bale and they need rain, but they’re a warm season grass.”

The ponds are extremely low as well. Irwin says he has already started to cull cattle, more cattle than last year.

“We would have culled cows in December and we culled more extensively in the last two weeks. We’ll do more culling,” he says. “We’ve identified the next round of cows that’s going to go if we don’t get significant growth this spring and depending on the hay amount.”

Irwin says feeder calves will probably go to market in the next 30 days.

The latest U.S. Drought Monitor shows more than half of Missouri is experiencing dry conditions, with a small amount of extreme drought on the map.

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