Texas Crop Weather: Wet Conditions Continue to Delay Hay Harvest

Continued heavy rains through the South, Central, Southeast, East and North regions of the state delayed hay harvesting, said a Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service expert.

The current cool, extremely wet conditions in many areas of the state have led to a lot of cool-season crops producers haven’t been able to harvest, said Dr. Vanessa Corriher-Olson, AgriLife Extension forage specialist, Overton.

The problem with not being able to harvest ryegrass is two-fold, Corriher-Olson said. One is the potential loss of a high-value product: Cool-season varieties such as ryegrass have high nutrient values. Second, by persisting much longer than usual, ryegrass can shade and prevent warm-season forages such as Bermudagrass from coming out of dormancy.

In more southern areas, Bermudagrass has already broken dormancy, and farmers would ordinarily be gearing up to take a first hay cutting, she said. But with soggy, saturated soils, they can’t take tractors or even pickup trucks into fields without getting stuck.

In many cases, there really are no good alternatives other than waiting for fields to dry out. Even turning cattle into graze rather than harvesting for hay may not be an option, she said.

“Grazing is obviously still an option in some fields,” Corriher-Olson said. “It’s always better to utilize cattle to harvest these forages rather than a machine. Cattle are much more efficient harvesters than any machine.”

Heavy rains throughout the state have left soils saturated and water standing. Farm equipment was idled as fieldwork was shut down by the rains, according to Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service personnel. (Texas A&M AgriLife Communications photo by Kay Ledbetter)

Heavy rains throughout the state have left soils saturated and water standing. Farm equipment was idled as fieldwork was shut down by the rains, according to Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service personnel. (Texas A&M AgriLife Communications photo by Kay Ledbetter)

However, she said, there are many hay meadows that are not equipped to support grazing cattle. Either there’s no water source or the fencing isn’t sufficient or both.

“So what’s left is to play a waiting game,” Corriher-Olson said.

Unfortunately, as forages mature they lose nutrient value, she said. But farmers will still have to eventually harvest what in many cases may be a lower quality product to allow new growth to come on.

“It’s important to keep in mind that mature ryegrass will still have a much higher nutrient value than over-mature Bermudagrass,” Corriher-Olson said.

She emphasized that having hay samples analyzed during these delayed harvest conditions is just as important as during normal harvest conditions.

AgriLife Extension district reporters compiled the following summaries:

Central: Livestock, rangeland, pastures and soil moisture were all in good condition. Crop conditions slipped from a good rating the previous week to fair. Heavy rains continued to frequently fall across the region. Corn and grain sorghum needed sunshine and dry weather to progress. Oats and wheat were damaged by winds and rain, laying the crops down in some areas. Winds damaged trees, and muddy conditions were hampering livestock grazing. On a more encouraging note, stock-water tanks were full and lake levels were rising daily. The outlook for the summer hay crop was great, and producers were still planting or replanting cotton as conditions allowed.

Coastal Bend: Soils were saturated after recent rains, and more rain was forecast. Many fields had standing water. Die-out of emerged sorghum and cotton in the flooded areas was likely. Excessive rains during the past two weeks caused issues with wheat and oat quality, and made harvest basically impossible. Some early planted sorghum was beginning to head. Some corn was tasseling and in good condition overall. Wet field conditions inhibited herbicide applications, though some spraying was done on forages as weather allowed.
Pastures were lush, and hay yields were expected to be plentiful when it dried up enough to be cut. Cattle remained in good condition.

East: Fields and pastures were saturated. Fungi and other diseases were reported on vegetation. Trees whose roots were undermined by soggy soils were falling on fences in Cherokee County. Henderson County received another 11 inches of rain the night of May 17. There was major flooding with many county roads washed out. Approximately 6,000 head of cattle had to be moved from river bottoms to higher ground. Thousands of acres remain under water. Some crops and fields were destroyed due to flooding. Trinity County had 12 inches of rain in the last two weeks. Off-road travel was impossible, and rivers, creeks, lakes and ponds were overflowing. Erosion was becoming a huge problem as some sinkholes as large as trucks appeared. Panola County and Polk county producers have hay ready to cut but will have to wait until fields dry out. Herbicide spraying in pastures and hay fields was on hold as well. Livestock were in fair to good condition.

Far West:Most counties received from 1 inch to 5 inches of rain. Pastures and rangeland continued to green up. Livestock were doing well. The Pecos River rose a few feet from all the rain. Days were warm, and nights were cool. Nighttime temperatures rose toward the end of the reporting period. Farmers continued to prepare fields for planting cotton. They were also gearing up for the wheat harvest. Some producers had already baled wheat for hay. Pecan trees were in full bloom, and orchard owners were spraying for the first generation of pecan nut casebearers. Alfalfa growers were taking a third cutting. Most counties had adequate to short topsoil and subsoil moisture.

North: Topsoil moisture was surplus to adequate. Temperatures were mild, but heavy rains caused some flooding, which put all farming activity to a standstill. Most wheat looked fair to good, except for leaf- and stripe-rust problems. Lodging has occurred in wheat and oat bottomland fields due to flooding and high winds. The rains greatly benefited all crops, pastures, stock-water ponds and reservoirs, but it prevented the planting of corn and grain sorghum, and early season hay harvests. If the rains persist, they will prevent wheat from being harvested at the optimum time. Corn that was planted early was in mostly fair to good condition depending on drainage. Grain sorghum that was not in standing water was in poor to fair condition. Some fields will have to be replanted. Stocker cattle gains were below average due to grasses being so wet from all the rain. Cow-calf herds looked decent. There was an incident on the Red Rive r where 30 cow-calf pairs were trapped on a small island and were being fed hay by the owner via boat. Some livestock were having foot problems due to the excessive rain. There were large numbers of horn flies, and wild hogs continued to cause damage.

Panhandle: Temperatures were near average and more rain was received. Soil moisture was mostly adequate. Planting was delayed throughout most of the region by wet conditions. Frequent rains and overcast conditions contributed to wheat disease. Because of delayed plantings, producers were considering shorter-season corn hybrids and perhaps adding more grain sorghum in their crop mix. Cotton plantings were expected to be short, and with the continued rainfall, the planting window was getting shorter. Winter wheat that survived the hail storms, disease and insect infestations was expected to have respectable yields. Most wheat fields had enough moisture to get the crop to harvest as it was headed and in good shape. Hansford County producers were getting back in the fields for corn planting. Corn that was planted had emerged and looked good. Irrigated wheat looked very good. Some dryland wheat looked good and bad. Dryland wheat heading was spotty in some fields. Hansford County has some playa lakes containing water for the first time in years. The calving season was mostly over. Cattle looked great with all the green grass to eat; some were being grazed on dryland wheat.

Rolling Plains: The region was recovering from drought because of the abundance of moisture since the end of March. Cotton fields, pastures and rangeland were saturated to the degree that any rain received now runs off. Rivers and creeks that hadn’t flowed in more than three years had a constant flow of water. Stock-water tanks were full, lakes were spilling over and pastures were green. However, some counties were experiencing severe flooding. Livestock were in good to excellent condition as pastures continued to outgrow grazing demands. Although the area was rebounding from drought, ranchers weren’t increasing herd numbers just yet, but were playing it safe. Cotton farmers were thankful for the rains but were concerned they would not be able to get into soggy fields to plant on schedule. Extreme weather accompanied the rains, including tornadoes in several counties. One county lost about 20 percent of the wheat crop . There was also damage to barns, pivots and homes. Producers were expecting high yields from hay pastures when returning to fields became possible. Pecan growers were spraying for casebearers. The peach crop still looked good.

South: Warm temperatures, overcast skies and scattered showers continued throughout the region, with many counties receiving thunderstorms and significant amounts of rain. In the northern part of the region, wheat was maturing, corn was silking and in good condition, and cotton planting continued. There was also an increase in field preparations for peanut planting. McMullen County received more than 6 inches of rain, which helped replenish stock-water tank levels. Also in McMullen County, there was flooding along the Nueces River. Soil moisture was adequate to surplus throughout the northern counties. Rangeland and pastures throughout all of the northern parts of the region were in good condition, while cattle remained in good to excellent condition. In the eastern part of the region, heavy rains – as much as 9 inches — caused flooding, and cropland was under water in some areas. Landowners continued supplemental feeding of livestock and wildlife with hay and protein. In Kleberg and Kenedy counties, producers were able to do some planting. Soil moisture throughout the eastern counties was adequate to surplus. Rangeland and pastures continued to improve. The western part of the region had localized flooding, further delaying the planting of crops. The harvesting of wheat, cabbage and onions was halted. Zavala County onions will most likely be lost, as producers will not likely be able to harvest the crop soon enough to save it. Soil moisture was mostly adequate to surplus. The southern part of the region had high humidity and temperatures reaching 90 degrees. Corn and cotton continued to make good progress. About 80 percent of the corn crop was silking. Livestock remained in excellent condition. In Hidalgo County, sugarcane harvesting continued on the drier fields. In Starr County, row crops were progressing well, but hay baling slowed down due to the rain. Soil moisture was adequate to surplus throughout the southern part of the region.

South Plains: The region received more rain on top of already saturated fields in many cases. Floyd County farmers were unable to plant cotton or finish planting corn and grain sorghum. Producers were concerned as they were nearing the last of the planting window, and more rain was forecast. Farmers in Scurry, Mitchell, Lubbock, Garza, Hale and Cochran counties had similar problems with delayed plantings. Garza County producers also received from 0.5 inch to 2.5 inches of rain along with small- to medium-sized hail and high winds up to 60 mph. Some fields were eroding and it will be some time before low-lying areas can be farmed. Despite the planting delays, there was significant improvement in pasture, rangeland and winter wheat. Warm-season grasses were taking off and in excellent condition. Weeds were taking over spots in pastures laid bare by the drought. Cattle were in good to excellent condition.

Southeast: Soil moisture was mostly in the surplus range, with Fort Bend, Brazos, Hardin, San Jacinto and Walker counties having 100-percent surplus levels. Rangeland and pasture ratings varied widely, but were mostly excellent to good, with good ratings being the most common. Walker County continued to be under flash-flood warnings. Vegetable crops were in jeopardy of water logging. Pastures were in good shape. However, cool-season forages could not be harvested for hay due to wet conditions. Well-above-normal rains in Brazos County were beginning to adversely affect crops. Madison County soils were saturated. Ample rain on a daily basis prevented most farmers from taking the first cutting of hay. Montgomery County also had flooding. Waller County corn is 1 foot to 2 feet tall thanks to warmer temperatures and good moisture. Chambers County producers had to replant crops that were flooded out a second time. In Fort Bend County , producers had to file for prevented planting on cotton and sorghum. Livestock were in good condition with plenty of grass to eat.

Southwest: Frequent and heavy rains left standing water in ditches and low-lying areas. Some places received from 3 to 6 inches of rain. However, there was no severe flooding. Horn fly populations continued to rise. Commercial orchard owners sprayed for pecan nut casebearers. Farmers had cultivated fields earlier, but conditions were too wet for spring plantings of corn and cotton. Planted corn and grain sorghum were in good condition.

West Central: Days were warm with mild nights. Most areas continued to receive scattered showers. The ground is saturated, and creeks were running full. Soil-moisture levels were very high. Stock-water tank levels were improved by heavy runoff. No field activities were possible due to wet conditions. Farmers were anxious to begin harvesting wheat and plant cotton. Winter wheat was in excellent condition, but as the crop was rapidly maturing, fields intended for hay may be harvested for grain instead because of the wet conditions. Most summer annuals were planted and emerged. Rangeland and pastures remained in very good condition and continued to improve. Producers were treating sheep and goats for internal parasites, which were worse this year because of the persistent wet conditions. The pecan crop looked promising, and producers were monitoring for and/or spraying for casebearers.

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