Missouri drought forces ranchers to make tough decisions, Parson ‘ready to act if things get worse’
Jefferson City, Missouri— More than half of the Show-Me State is showing signs of drought.
According to state drought monitor, the southern part of the state and part of the middle part were classified as abnormally dry or facing “moderate drought”. Parts of Carter, Oregon, Ripley and Howell counties, located on the Missouri-Arkansas border, have been classified as facing severe drought.
63% of the state shows signs of drought.
The drought has impacted hay growth in particular, according to the Missouri Department of Agriculture’s Weekly Market Report released earlier this week. The hay market itself is still stable, with hay not being too hard to find or buy.
The real problem is that many farmers use the hay they cut to feed their livestock, including cattle.
“The downside is that the drought is causing some (farmers) to already think about feeding something now or the most common solution is to start culling cows and reducing herd size,” the report said.
This statement echoes the problem that many ranchers are facing this summer across the state. Should they cut the hay and slaughter their herd? Or should they wait for the possibility of more rain to cut the hay later and keep their herd?
For many farmers, this can be a difficult choice.
The livestock market has become oversaturated with supply. An influx of cull cows from neighboring states also experiencing drought and the high number of cattle being slaughtered within Missouri’s borders has taken a toll on the market. This makes slaughtering livestock a risky and potentially costly choice.
“Many growers are forced to reduce herd size because there is simply not enough grass to maintain inventory levels, and feeding so early in the year is not possible given the declining hay production,” the report said. “The market took a hit mid-week.”
Waiting for rain can be just as risky, as the drought has shown no signs of letting up in parts of the state.
“There were definitely years, no doubt, when people had to start giving hay in August. But starting to feed hay in June or July 1 is pretty tough,” said Christi Miller, communications director for the Missouri Department of Agriculture. Miller and her husband raise cattle in Miller County, near Eldon
“It’s difficult to continue all year. If you have to start feeding your hay and expect it to last all winter, then that’s pretty tough,” she added.
Miller and the Department of Agriculture are aware of the difficult decision facing many ranchers in some parts of the state. The choice to slaughter their cattle and sell at a low price in a saturated market or risk running out of feed for their cattle.
“So now you have to make this decision – Do you feed hay? Do you find a place where there is grass, something to feed these cows or send them? said Miller. “The market is not as good, so no one wants to give away their cattle. When there is a rush to lower market prices, it is also a challenge for our producers. »
When asked what a farmer should do when faced with an ugly reality like this, Miller invoked the classic philosophy that many farmers are known for. Their optimism in the face of seemingly insurmountable obstacles.
“Farmers are the most optimistic, aren’t they? We are the eternal optimists, whether we put a seed in the ground or raise cows, or whatever we do, we are always eternal optimists,” she said. “We’re in it because we love it. I mean, people in agriculture do it because they like it or because they don’t stay in it very long. So, we sure like it, but those are tough decisions.
The solution to the problem may not be as simple as getting a few inches of rain on any given day. While a heavy one-day downpour is welcome, it would take a longer, sustained period of rain to produce an amount of hay that would reassure farmers, Miller said.
The Missouri Department of Agriculture offers a hay directory, accessible to any farmer who needs hay. The purpose of the directory is to help any farmer in need of hay by helping them find hay available near them. While not a silver bullet, the directory is still a valuable resource for getting hay to farmers who need it and perhaps saving them from having to make tough decisions.
Governor Parson is also stepping in, which is unsurprising given that the former Polk County Sheriff owns and operates a cattle operation near Bolivar, Missouri, in the southwestern region of the state.
“This administration, the Department of Natural Resources, the Department of Agriculture, and the Department of Conservation are monitoring the drought situation in Missouri very closely,” Parson said. “We are ready to act if the situation worsens. As a farmer, I know the detrimental effects a drought can have on Missouri farmers and agribusinesses, and as governor, I will do whatever I can to help in any way I can.
The new Missouri Drought Index will be released later this week, providing new data on current conditions. The trend does not seem to stop, as the heat and dry weather are expected to rage until the end of summer.
Editor’s Note: Governor Parson announced a press conference regarding the drought at 3:45 p.m. Wednesday afternoon. The press conference will be held in the governor’s office in the Capitol building and will take place at 2 p.m. Thursday.
Featured Image: Courtesy of: Gov. Parson Facebook