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Bill Carr totes a bucket of feed to his cattle to make up for the lack of grazing prior to the recent rains.

Official: rains have softened the drought, but a wet winter may be in the offing


Mississippi cattle farmers may have gotten too much rain too late.

A two-month drought that scorched pastures lifted with a vengeance late last month.

For Bill Carr, that’s no real help.

And weather experts say that the recent rains may be a foretaste of a particularly wet winter.

Carr, who has a herd of 35 on his Choctaw County farm, said that the grass has greened up, but it’s summer grass and won’t grow in the winter.

Meantime, he has been supplementing his feedings with hay that he had planned to use during the winter.

And he is continuing to sell calves, but he said he “just about croaked” when he saw what he was getting.

Prices of calves in the 500-600-pound range have fallen $450 to $500 in the past six to eight months, Andy Berry, executive vice president of the Mississippi Cattlemen’s Association, said last month.

So cattlemen have second thoughts when it comes to trimming their herds to cut losses.

Farmers who had planted winter rye were hit hard by the drought. With the rain, it will be a couple of weeks before they know how much of the rye seed was able to germinate, then make a determination about reseeding, said Rocky Lemus, forage expert for the Mississippi State University Extension Service.

Eighty percent of the 550,000 acres planted in rye in south Mississippi had failed to germinate during the drought, he said.

Meantime, fescue, hit hard in north Mississippi may come out dormancy, but it will be pressed by the oncoming cold weather, Lemus said.

David Brown, a regional climate services director for environmental information for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, said that the state got rainfall last month ranging from 141 percent to 230 percent of the normal amount.

While none of the Mississippi levels set records “a big swath of the Southern plains and the Gulf Coast . . . has seen dramatic reductions or even elimination of drought in those states,” Brown said.

But, Brown wonders if “this is a precursor to a very wet winter” in Mississippi.

Particularly strong el nino phenomena favor a wet winter, he said. Usually they occur in the Pacific Ocean – warming waters and affecting weather patterns, Brown said.

It generally moved across the southern tier of states from California to Florida. “So one after another of these storm systems could come through,” he said.

What the region has seen in the past couple of weeks is typical of that kind of rainfall, he said.

“We may see more of this in the next three months,” he said.


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