I'm not sure cattle ranchers up and down the Central Plains are exactly ready to do the sloppy buck-and-wing through pasture puddles like the incomparable Gene Kelly, but you can bet they wholeheartedly identify with the high-stepping enthusiasm he displayed in the 1952 movie classic.
Although the 2014 grazing season got off to a slow and chilly start, grass potential has soared since Memorial Day thanks to the best June rainfall seen in years. While California remains locked in stifling drought, critical beef herd states like Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma and Texas have received "million-dollar rains" over the last 30 days, invaluable waterings that promise the first full stocking season in several key areas since 2010.
For example, pasture and range conditions ratings as of the week ending June 29 estimated Texas grass at 80% fair or better, significantly higher than 59% in 2013 and 57% in 2012. At the same time, U.S. pasture as a whole was rated 85% fair or better, up from 75% in 2013 and 57% in 2012.
No, a 30-day wet spell does not constitute a drought breaker. The summer ovens of July and August could turn ranch conditions brown all too quickly. Nevertheless, we are off to a great start, one that could both prevent premature feedlot placement activity and critically nurture fragile plans of herd expansion.
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