Missouri farmers still feeling effects of 2012 drought; crop production up

Saturday, August 10, 2013 | 6:00 a.m. CDT; updated 4:18 p.m. CDT, Saturday, August 10, 2013

COLUMBIA — This time last year, dead grass crunched underneath the hooves of farmer Bruce Loewenberg's livestock. Now, despite the mild, wet summer, he is still seeing the effects of the drought that swept the Midwest in 2012.

"We still see a lot of trees that have failed and died because of last year's drought," Loewenberg, owner of Show Me Salers in Clark, said. "The water didn't come soon enough to save them."

The 2012 drought that struck the Midwest in the early summer was one of the most severe in 25 years, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, affecting farmers, livestock owners and consumers. Prices for corn, soybeans and hay shot up because of the shortages, which led to some livestock owners to have to sell their cattle without adequate grains to feed them. The hay sold at the time lacked the quality of the year before, leading to less healthy calves.

"The calves that were born this year are still suffering from the deficiencies of last year's hay and the quality of their mother," Loewenberg said.

"Those calves born last fall that are being sold right now aren't as big as they could have been," MU Extension economist Joe Horner said. "The calves born this spring will probably be larger than average due to the lush pastures this spring and summer."

The calves will be larger because of the rich pastures Missouri has produced this summer. Livestock farmers have replenished their hay inventories, Horner said. 

"Feed prices have dropped by anywhere from 50 to 70 percent for grass hay from last year because we've gotten such a good growing season," he said.

One wetter season doesn't change everything, though. The smaller calves being sold can cause prices of beef to rise, affecting consumers. Pastures suffered because of over grazing, which means extra dollars are spent to replenish it, Loewenberg said.

"It's not a quick turn around, it takes time," he said. "Mother Nature does it that way."

Supervising editor is Shaina Cavazos.

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