U.S. Department of Agriculture: Agricultural Research Service, Lincoln, Nebraska


Date of this Version


Document Type



Agricultural Research 61(7): August 2013; ISSN 0002-161X


At the beginning of 2013, cattle-ranchers in the Northern Plains were among U.S. agricultural producers still feeling the lingering effects of the sweltering 2012 drought, the worst in half a century.

Beef cow numbers were at the lowest in 50 years as U.S. beef producers—severely affected by extended drought—tried to recover from some of the driest months on record.

Across the Northern and Southern Plains, beef producers hit the hardest by drought are threatened by limited forage resources for cows, which restricts calf growth, resulting in lighter calf weaning weights. In addition, drought can decrease cow body weight and condition and weaken immune functions that may affect overall health and reproductive performance.