U.S. pasture and range condition numbers begin in early May, it is part of the USDA-NASS Crop Progress report every Monday afternoon. It’s a survey based estimate on each state’s pasture conditions, as they relate to livestock grazing. Five categories: excellent, good, fair, poor, and very poor are assigned a value. Based on the amount of grazing land and livestock (sheep and cattle) inventories in the state a national condition index is calculated. Survey respondents are largely non-producers, generally USDA-FSA employees or county Extension staff, and respond as a representative of their county.

The latest pasture and range conditions (week ending May 20) indicated that although conditions have improved in some areas, trouble spots still exist in parts of the U.S. and conditions are nearly the same relative to a year ago on a national basis. This week indicated 19 percent of the 48 states pastures are in poor and very poor condition compared to 22 percent last year at this time. Over half (51 percent) the country’s pastures are in excellent or good condition, compared to 54 percent last year.

Regionally (assimilated by LMIC), the Southern Plains (OK, TX) have recovered to levels slightly worse than their five-year average. Good and excellent conditions have more than doubled since this time a year ago, while poor and very poor categories have been cut by over one-third. However, dryness has intensified in the Great Plains (CO, KS, MT, NE, ND, SD, WY) and western regions (AZ, CA, ID, NV, NM, OR, UT, WA), which the pasture and range report indicates are the only two regions showing above a year ago increases in poor and very poor conditions. The southeast (AL, AR, FL, GA, KY, LA, MS, NC, SC, TN, VA, WV) remains very dry but pasture conditions have improved slightly compared to last year at this time.

Pasture and range conditions will require close monitoring in coming weeks as many states have recently experienced very hot temperatures, wind, and little, if any, rainfall. If conditions continue to deteriorate, the weekly pasture and range conditions data will be an early indicator of livestock adjustments that will follow. Further, this report will be an indicator of regional non-irrigated hay production and hay needs.

Source: Livestock Marketing Information Center