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Agriculture Risk Advisor

Agriculture Risk Advisor

May 2018


As the upper Midwest was hit by relentless winter weather this spring, the U.S. central plains were dealing with unforgiving drought conditions. As a result, some ranchers were forced to send their cattle to feedlots where they could be fattened with grains, thus speeding up the growing process and sending cattle to market earlier in the year than usual.

During February’s drought, farmers placed 1.82 million cattle in feedlots, up 7.3 percent from 2017, according to a March U.S. Department of Agriculture report. April’s average number of cattle on feed is expected to be 7.6 percent higher than the same time last year.

The increased number of cattle on feed has created a strong demand for grass-fed cattle. Yet, below-average April temperatures have led to a slow start for spring grass compared to previous years, pushing spring grass cattle purchases later than normal.

Grass-fed cattle producers looking to market lightweight, freshly weaned calves have been advised to take advantage of the strong prices in the near future, with the expectation that prices will likely begin softening once summer approaches.


Although the Corn Belt has experienced some freezing conditions after June 1, it is more common for late freezes to happen in May. Nonetheless, lingering cold temperatures have farmers wondering just how late a freeze could hit this year.  

According to a report from Purdue University, soybeans are more susceptible than corn to aboveground freezes because their growing points are exposed to the elements as soon as the crop emerges. The result could be complete death of the seedling. Although corn is more resilient, it is more susceptible to disease and other damage after a late freeze.


Although the weather is uncontrollable, there are actions farmers can take if a late freeze strikes corn and soybean seedlings this year.

  • Wait three to five days before checking for freeze or frost injury. That allows the seedlings time to recover so you can assess the actual level of damage.
  • For soybeans, watch for water-soaked lesions on cotyledons, leaves and hypocotyl. They’re likely to turn brown and die within a few days. In contrast, a soybean plant that is recovering properly will have firm, white tissue on its cotyledons and growing points.
  • For corn, look for soft, brown coleoptile and mesocotyl, which indicates dying tissue. If there is any damage to growing point tissue, the plants are unlikely to recover, especially if the seedling hasn’t yet emerged.