Rebuilding the Herd: How El Niño could lend the livestock industry a helping hand

Incoming wet weather could lend a helping hand to cattle producers. An expert from the University of Missouri Extension explains how a cold, wet winter in the Midwest could help grazing, and herd building in 2024.

According to Dr. Derrell Peel with Oklahoma State University, while usually linked to extreme weather events and an obstacle to agriculture, El Niño could also lead to vital herd rebuilding in the U.S. livestock industry.

“If the meteorologists are right with the El Niño pattern, it looks like this is maybe the beginning of that — from the way I understand it, we are going to have kind of a wet winter, maybe colder than usual,” Peel said. “Wetter in the Southern Plains and maybe not so much in the Midwest. But all of that suggests that we probably set up the idea for substantially better forage conditions next year, certainly for the first half of next year. And if that happens, then I do think we will begin to see more indications of heifer retention and herd rebuilding as we get into 2024.”

We’ll know more about current cattle trends in the upcoming Cattle on Feed Report which comes out November 17, 2023.

For now though, back-to-back drought seasons are limiting forage supplies for livestock producers.

According to the Missouri Department of Agriculture‘s Market News Manager, their website, which helps producers find hay when needed, has seen heavy traffic from both buyers and sellers lately. The website lists sellers by region and forage type, as well as bale type, number and weight. Sellers from states that are not in an ongoing drought, giving producers the ability to redistribute necessary resources to others where supplies are tight.

However, the University of Missouri Extension warns buyers to be cautious when buying hay from new sources and recommends testing and weighing hay before buying if possible. The best way to see if you have good hay is to have it lab tested for nitrate levels. Buyers can also look for pests, leafiness, weeds, and seed heads for signs of an over mature crop.

To access the online resource, CLICK HERE. For producers outside of the Midwest region, similar resources can be found through 28 other state extension services.

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