Don Day Video

Critical Weather Period Begins for High Plains

by Courtney Kibblewhite

Billings, MT – The biggest worry on the minds of producers across the west is drought. Rain was spotty at best through the month of April and its created concerns about forage production this year. This may require some producers to manage their herd sizes lower, potentially carry less yearlings through the summer and potentially selling some cows. Weather in the month of May will be critical for those of us in agriculture.

Northern Ag Network’s Colter Brown spoke with meteorologist Don Day, DayWeather for his outlook on what we can expect for precipitation this spring and summer:

“I always call May the ‘money month’ when it comes to precipitation in the western high plains Rockies,” Day says. “If you look statistically, May is usually the wettest month on average. In some areas of the western United States and the central plains get 25-30% of their annual precipitation. So if you don’t have moisture by June 1st you’ll be hurting through the summer. Bad news is that it looks like we’ll be continuing to have a weak La Niña. That’s basically when the sub tropical pacific is a little bit colder than normal. This leads to less precipitation especially in the Western States and that is what we experienced in the spring, summer and winter of 2020 and it looks like that is going to continue. ”

Moving Forward

May looks pretty dry for most areas, but Day says that it is possible that dry conditions start to lift,

“The good news is this: The La Niña pattern is weaker than it was last spring going in to the summer of 2020 which lends itself to the argument that we may be dryer than normal this Spring and Summer again. However, it may not be as severe as it was in 2020. It will likely just be a two-year La Niña. Most La Niña’s only last a year. If you go back to 2011 to 2012, a lot of us remember how dry of a period that was.”

Coming out of that 2012 drought we entered a pretty profitable time in the cattle industry so hopefully we see that market develop again. The situation does seem to be getting a bit more dire when it comes to moisture though as soil moisture is practically non existent through a lot of the region. Day says there is still time for it to get better,

“There has been some help, but if you look at North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, Wyoming, Colorado they are still in a drought situation. Keep a really close eye on those first two weeks of May that is a barometer. If May can end up being more stormy, the forecast for the summer certainly gets more optimistic.”

We’ll be watching the forecast closely and praying for rain clouds.

For more insight from Don Day visit Watch Colter’s interview with Don Day and catch the latest Livestock Market Report below.



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