From Texas A&M AgriLife Extension
Texas’ hay season has been a mixed bag for producers with results heavily dependent on Mother Nature and timing, said Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service experts.
Vanessa Corriher-Olson, Ph.D., AgriLife Extension forage specialist, Overton, said conditions for hay production have been good in East and Central Texas with decent rainfall, though moisture has been scattered.
Most hay producers have made their first cutting to clear cool-season grasses for warm-season forages, she said. The first cutting is typically one of the best regarding total digestible nutrients because, many times, it is a mix of ryegrass and warm-season grasses.
Producers who were able to access pastures likely made good first cuttings and are set up well for a good second cutting. Some may be making a second cutting soon, if not already.
“It should’ve been a good first cutting for producers who were able to cut and bale a few weeks ago,” Corriher-Olson said. “But many producers are having to work between rains, and that can be difficult when you’re cutting and need to let it dry down before baling.”
Corriher-Olson said a few producers cut pastures that received surprise showers before the hay could be baled. Sitting in the field for days reduces the nutritive value in the forage.
Scattered rain has left some areas soaked while others remained relatively dry, she said. Wood County reported 7 inches during one recent storm front while areas in nearby counties received trace amounts.
Soggy pastures have led to delays of pasture maintenance like fertilizer and/or herbicide applications and timely cuttings, she said. Timely cuttings can make or break nutritive quality as well.
“There’s a window for cutting to get peak nutritive value; that window of time can be species specific,” Corriher-Olson said. “Rain delays can push pastures past their prime.”
Warm-season weeds were becoming an issue for producers, she said. Continued wet conditions could exacerbate those problems. They could also delay fertilizer applications that would help maximize production.
Below normal nighttime temperatures in May might have delayed some growth as well. Bermuda grass performs best if nighttime temperatures are above 60 degrees consistently, and soil temperatures are 65 degrees or warmer.
“Cool nights with temperatures in the low 50s were not ideal and may have slowed growth, but I think a lot of areas had soil temperatures at or above 65 degrees, and I think that factors into growth enough to negate low nighttime temps,” she said.
Corriher-Olson said producers who can access pastures should be spraying for weeds and fertilizing to maximize production. But they should also be preparing for Bermuda grass stem maggots to arrive earlier than usual.
“We’re still a ways out for stem maggots,” she said. “They usually arrive around early July, but I’ve seen reports of early infestations in southern Georgia, and those conditions usually align with what we will see.”
The district received rainfall, and totals ranged from trace amounts in the northern parts to as much as 1.3 inches in the central parts of the district. A few farmers planted irrigated cotton, and others were waiting for soil temperatures to rise. Corn started to emerge, and some producers were pre-irrigating fields to get ready for planting. Cattle were in good condition.
Northern parts of the district reported adequate topsoil and subsoil moisture. Central areas were short on topsoil and subsoil, while southern areas reported very short subsoil and topsoil moisture levels. Pastures, rangelands and winter wheat were in poor to good condition. Wheat was headed out, and corn had been planted and was in good condition. Cotton planting was progressing.
Topsoil moisture levels were mostly adequate with some reports of surplus moisture. Thunderstorms brought varying amounts of rain, with some areas receiving 1.25-4 inches of rainfall. Winter wheat was doing well and was starting to turn. Corn experienced substantial growth following rains. Cotton was up and doing well, and early planted beans looked good. Most ryegrass pastures were starting to thin. Hay producers were baling as much as they could. Rain was in the forecast and was expected to slow the baling progress. Livestock were in good condition. Pasture weeds were emerging.
Temperatures ranged from daytime highs in the high-90s to nighttime lows in the mid-50s. Precipitation averaged between 0.25-5 inches. Hail damage and high winds reportedly caused damage to crops, property and out buildings. Cotton planting started to pick up where there was enough moisture. Many fields do not have enough moisture to plant, and irrigated fields were having a hard time delivering water below the soil surface. Dryland fields were too dry to plant cotton. Chinch bugs were reported in the Clint area. Corn and sorghum were holding on and looked decent. Watermelons were starting to take off. Alfalfa looked good. Pecan trees were doing well as producers continued to monitor pecan nut casebearers. Some pecan orchards were spraying zinc. Livestock conditions remained fair. Ranchers continued to rotate pastures with weaned calves and cows. Some producers pulled their bulls from the cows as well. Pasture conditions worsened by the day in dry areas.