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Ohio Ag News Headlines
Southeastern Drought Expansion
Ohio Ag Connection - 09/14/2023

Drought conditions have swept across the Gulf Coast region in recent months, sounding alarm bells for the agricultural community. Areas in Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana, and Texas have witnessed a rapid deterioration in pasture and hay conditions. The consequences are dire, with many producers facing tough choices like relocating or selling cattle and seeking alternative feed sources.

The U.S. Seasonal Drought Outlook paints a bleak picture for the Southeast. Persisting drought is anticipated in most affected areas, and the outlook for the next three months is equally grim.

The Climate Prediction Center, a branch of the National Weather Service, issued this outlook, highlighting the troubling drought situation and even mentioning recent tropical storm precipitation.

According to their report, the middle of the country is likely to experience a very warm and dry September, further exacerbating drought conditions. This trend is expected to continue until the end of November, albeit with somewhat lower confidence for the latter part of the forecast. The Northeast Region may also witness drought persistence, but any existing drought by the end of September is anticipated to improve over the following two months.

In southern and western Texas, the initial concerns about drought development have been mitigated by heavy rains from Tropical Storm Herald in late August. However, the odds still favor subnormal precipitation in that region for September.

The repercussions of this expanding drought are significant, with parallels to the situation in 2022. In the face of expanding drought and rising input prices last year, many beef cows and heifers were liquidated. While beef cow slaughter totals have declined in 2023 compared to the exceptional levels of 2022, the Southeast has not been immune. High calf prices can incentivize cattle producers to retain cows and heifers, but this is only viable if pasture conditions allow. If dry conditions persist throughout the fall, the severe drought areas could once again experience elevated culling rates, impacting the livestock industry and agricultural sector.

As the Southeast grapples with this drought expansion, the resilience of farmers and ranchers will be put to the test. Mitigation strategies and careful management will be crucial to weathering this challenging period and safeguarding both livestock and livelihoods.

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