Miller, MO. — You’ve heard the term the grass is greener on the other side. Well, farmers would say the grass is greener where it rains.

In Southwest Missouri, it hasn’t rained enough since June. The dry spell is impacting pastures, hay production and cattle. The drought will eventually affect the price of beef.

Traves Merrick grew up around his family’s farm. Today, he manages Gleonda Angus Farms in Lawrence County. He’s in the business of raising cattle and selling beef. This year, he had to make some adjustments to his hay production to ensure his cattle have enough nutrition through the winter.

“I kind of expected this year to possibly be drier,” Merrick said. “So, I planted some drought-tolerant forages which was a Sudan-Sorghum hybrid.”

The first cut in July wasn’t successful. But Merrick said thanks to some rain in August, things were looking up. In mid-September, about 35 acres produced just over 300 hay bales, which was more than what he expected.

Tim Schnakenberg, a field specialist in agronomy with the MU Extension Office, said that rain was a relief for many farmers across the six counties he tracks.

“We thought maybe that drought had broken, but here we are again,” Schnakenberg said.  

KOLR 10 Meteorologist Natalie Nunn says what’s happening is called a “flash drought.”

“If you remember, the spring was so rainy and then all of a sudden summer hit and it just became extremely dry, extremely quickly. Hence the name ‘flash drought,'” Nunn said. “We have been at a deficit since June. There’s been a few months where we’ve only seen half of an inch of rain in some places.”

A drought monitor from Sept. 22 compared to the latest report from Oct. 6 shows a much larger area of southwest Missouri is covered in red or maroon, which means they’re considered to be in an extreme or exceptional drought.

“For us, it’s a minor inconvenience,” Nunn said. “It’s dusty out; it’s dry. The fall leaves aren’t going to be as pretty. But for these farmers, this is life-changing.”

Schnakenberg said this drought also brings challenges for fall and winter pasture grazing and planting for forage next year.

“I always worry about putting seed in the ground shallow like we’re supposed to and then if there’s no more rain coming behind that, it just withers up and dies,” Schnakenberg said.

He added that another future challenge is that the ground will be too dry for farmers planting grain to be harvested next year.

Missouri is the third largest beef producer in the country and also contributes internationally. Schnakenberg says this drought could impact beef prices you see at the store and experts are already anticipating there could be a beef shortage as the drought has also affected other states that are big beef producers, such as Texas and Oklahoma.

But it’s not all bad news, as one sector could benefit from drier conditions. Schnakenberg says the harvest for corn and soybeans will be easier since we haven’t had a wet fall.

Merrick hopes the hay he did get will be enough and will keep him from having to buy corn or other commodities to feed his cattle through the winter.

“I think we just kind of count our blessings there and be thankful for what we did get,” Merrick said.

Nunn said the pattern is looking more promising for the second week of October, but overall, it looks like this month will also be significantly dry.