Extreme winter weather in February and March and the devasting floods two weeks ago have hit Nebraska ranchers hard. Cold temperatures, rain, freezing rain, snow, high winds, and blizzard conditions have pummeled Nebraska resulting in higher mortality rates for both cows and calves this year. Even before the flooding, anecdotal reports suggested death losses for calves as high as 20-25 percent this year. The normal mortality rate for calves in Nebraska is 5 percent according to the USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA).
The USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service reported the number of beef cows that have calved on Jan. 1 were up 2 percent compared to last year. Assuming this year’s calf crop would have grown 2 percent under typical weather conditions, and applying a mortality rate of 20 percent, equates to a loss of over 357,000 head, roughly 268,000 more than what would normally be expected. Such a loss could equate to Nebraska ranchers receiving $291 million less revenues for October weaned calves based on current October feeder cattle futures prices and a typical basis. And, this figure doesn’t consider the loss of cows, loss of property, or increased costs due to the weather and flooding. Anecdotal reports suggest loss rates for cows twice that of what normally occurs. As the losses add up, the Nebraska economy will feel the effects.