Texas Field Reports: Livestock Producers Feeling the Heat

    Texas cattle and livestock are starting to feel the heat as summer temperatures climb past 100 degrees.

    Dr. Joe Paschal, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service livestock specialist in Corpus Christi, said livestock are entering a “summer slump,” where weight gains and body condition scores can dip as animals avoid the heat.

    Paschal said temperatures are reaching their typical triple-digit mark with regularity, which along with high humidity has animals seeking shade and cooling themselves in available water.

    Animals are spending more time trying to stay cooler and less time eating, he said. Additionally, the forage they are consuming is lower quality.

    “Heat stress lowers productivity,” he said. “It’s hot, and livestock, especially cattle, bunch up under shade trees or in water to stay cool, so they’re eating less. At the same time, grasses are turning brown. We’ve got plenty of it, but the quality is going down. It’s a double-edged sword.”

    Paschal said most cattle in south and central Texas experienced better-than-average conditions as spring rains brought plenty of moisture to ranges and pastures and water for consumption. But maintaining good body condition would depend on cattle’s ability to adapt to the heat as well as forage receiving timely rains to feed new, protein-rich growth on ranges and pastures.

    Dr. Bruce Carpenter, AgriLife Extension livestock specialist in College Station, said most ranges and pastures were faring well because of spring rains. It’s been hot and humid, and temperatures have topped 100 degrees a few times since late June but nothing out of the ordinary.

    Carpenter said intermittent tanks were still holding water for cattle but most of the area utilizes wells to water herds.

    “It’s been a pretty good year so far,” he said. “Most areas are green and better than average, especially for this time of year.”

    Carpenter said Angus cattle, other dark-hided breeds and cattle breeds not adapted to hotter conditions would likely have more difficulty.

    “That’s most of the battle, having cattle that fit the environment,” he said. “You’ll see problems in feedlots when you have cattle that aren’t used to cold or hot conditions they might be moved to. It works both ways.”

    Dr. Ted McCollum, AgriLife Extension beef cattle specialist in Amarillo, said there had been reports of heat stress and some animal deaths in feedlots due to higher-than-normal temperatures in the Southern Plains and Panhandle regions, but those instances had not been widespread.

    “We’ve had unusual heat – temperatures over 100 for several days – and set some records for daily highs,” he said. “It’s normal to see 100 degrees a few times but not a run of days like we’ve had.”

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    Nighttime temperatures are not dropping to usual lows either, he added. Temperatures typically drop into the high 60s to low 70s at night but have remained above these, with some in the low 80 degrees, which doesn’t provide as much opportunity for cattle to unload heat from their body.

    McCollum said parts of those regions are also behind on rainfall, and forages are not performing as well as in other parts of the state. Additionally, there has been little supplemental feeding so far.

    The forecast for the next three months shows equal chances of dry and wet weather, McCollum said. The outlook is normal for the season and producers are hoping for cooler temperatures and timely precipitation.

    AgriLife Extension district reporters compiled the following summaries:

    CENTRAL: Temperatures reached into the mid-90s with a heat index up to 108 degrees. Pastures were drying quickly with hot weather and strong winds. Pastures and crops started showing signs of stress. Producers were holding onto heifers amid a disappointing cattle market. Irrigation on cotton was in full swing. Cotton looked very good. Some hay was cut and baled. Corn was beginning to dry down and get closer to harvest.

    ROLLING PLAINS: Temperatures reached the high 90s consistently. Some counties received as much as 3 inches of rainfall. Forages continued to thrive in the wet summer conditions. There was a sizeable amount of hay produced, and some producers reported surplus availability.

    Pastures were green and deep in grass, so cattle were in better condition than usual for this time of year. Cotton looked good in counties that received rain but needed moisture in areas with no rainfall.

    COASTAL BEND: Extreme hot and dry conditions have dramatically changed soil moisture conditions in some areas. Sorghum harvest was in full swing, and growers reported good yields with averages of 4,000-6,000 pounds per acre. Cotton and soybeans continued to progress and some fields received insect sprays. Heavy bollworm pressure in cotton continued to be an issue for growers.

    Corn was drying rapidly, and harvest will begin soon. Rice looked the best among all crops. Some fields will be drained soon to prepare for harvest. Dry, hot conditions were ideal for field work, and many hay producers were active cutting abundant grasses.

    Range and pasture needed moisture, but cattle continued to enjoy an ample forage supply.

    EAST: Conditions around the region were extremely hot and dry. Pond and creek water levels were declining. Subsoil and topsoil conditions were adequate in most counties, but rain was needed throughout the region. A few counties reported short conditions.

    Panola County entered a fourth week without substantial rainfall. Pasture and range conditions were mostly good. Development of warm-weather grasses slowed. Grass was turning brown with little to no regrowth. Hay was cut. Some producers worried additional cuttings may be a problem due to very little moisture.

    Spring gardens were being removed in Jasper County.

    Gardens in Marion County were playing out.

    Fruits and vegetables were still being harvested in Smith County. Livestock were in good to excellent condition. Some producers were holding calves as replacements and watching market trends to sell their calves in a more favorable market. Feral hog activity slowed, but bee swarms increased.

    SOUTH PLAINS: Producers experienced very hot, dry conditions. Daytime temperatures were near or over 100 degrees, including a record-tying 109 degrees. Producers received light, spotty showers. Subsoil and topsoil needed moisture due to very high temperatures and windy conditions. Some counties reported heat was taking a toll on crops. Crops with available irrigation were receiving water.

    Peanuts were blooming and beginning to peg, with some showing good pod development. Irrigation in peanuts was critical. No insect pests were noted. Cotton ranged from six leaf stage to 14 true leaves with eight squares. Fleahopper and lygus ranged from zero to 15 per 100 terminals. Weeds seemed to be the most dominant pest. Grain sorghum had a few whorl feeding worms and corn leaf aphids but nothing to cause concern.

    Pasture and rangeland also needed moisture. Winter wheat continued to finish out. Cattle were in good condition. Cotton was squaring with some fields nearing bloom. Corn ranged from tassel to milk stage.

    Sorghum ranged from pre-boot to flowering. Sugarcane aphid pressure was minimal compared to a year ago when field scouting indicated a strong pest presence in young sorghum. Area corn was maturing nicely, and even dryland corn looked healthy. However, producers were worried continued dry conditions would not bode well for crops.

    PANHANDLE: Hot, dry and windy conditions persisted. Above-average temperatures were reported in most of the region. A few isolated showers were received, but amounts ranged from a trace to half an inch, and rain was needed. Unusually hot conditions dried out soil moisture but also helped cotton fields receive good heat units. Wind caused some burn, but plants were mature enough that cotton should recover. High temperatures had producers trying to keep water wells running to avoid getting too far behind.

    Wheat harvest was complete with many fields averaging normal to slightly above normal. Several reports on dryland yields were in the 35-50 bushels per acre range. Producers were addressing weed problems in wheat fields by plowing or spraying.

    Corn fields held their own with many acres yet to tassel. Irrigation was running on corn fields day and night. Reduction in grain sorghum acres and late plantings had sorghum producers behind in crop maturity. Sunflower plantings were almost complete. Milo and soybeans looked good. Cattle on pasture were doing well.

    NORTH: Conditions were dry and hot with up to an inch of rain reported in parts of the region. Topsoil moisture ranged from adequate to short. Daytime temperatures were in the high 90s and winds were very strong. Wheat was harvested with below-average yields. Corn, grain sorghum and soybeans looked good. Some corn started to turn in a few fields. Overall, it has been a very good year for wheat and oats.

    Hay producers were very busy with second cuttings, and the quality of second cutting should be much better than the first. Pastures still looked good, but as with grain crops, pastures could go downhill quickly if dry, hot, windy weather persists. Cattle fared well in the summer heat, with calves still gaining weight. There were no reports of aphid outbreaks, but some were spotted in quantities too low to treat. Fly and mosquito numbers were abundant but not unusual. Wild hogs caused damage.

    FAR WEST: The district experienced triple-digit temperatures and isolated thunderstorms with rainfall totals ranging from a trace to 2 inches. Pastures were green, and mineral consumption in cattle declined.

    Cotton started to bloom and set bolls. The watermelon harvest continued, and corn and sorghum were close to harvest. The first bean crop was maturing, and the second was well on its way. Pecan trees continued to need water. Water demand was high, with at least 500 gallons per day needed for grown production trees. Cotton fleahoppers were spotty.

    Pastures were holding up but starting to dry out due to the heat. Producers were busy repairing fences, roads, pipelines and wells.

    WEST CENTRAL: Triple-digit temperatures brought very hot, dry and windy conditions. Soil moisture conditions were declining rapidly, and fire hazards increased. Farmers continued spraying for weeds in cotton fields and for head worms and aphids on other crops. Row crops continued to progress. Grain sorghum was up and growing fast. Cotton was doing very well. Irrigation was used to maintain moisture levels. Some field preparations for fall grain planting was underway.

    Hay crops were coming on strong. First cuttings for hay crops had very good yields. Producers were busy getting hay out of fields as cutting and baling continued. The last bit of wheat was cut. Some wheat and oat harvest was disappointing due to excessive rains during harvest time.

    Range and pasture conditions remained good. Some showed signs of heat stress. Livestock remained in fair to good condition, and sheep and goats began to turn the corner on internal parasite problems. Cattle prices were down. Pecan crops remained in good condition.

    SOUTHEAST: The district received some rain, but conditions were drying out quickly. Soil moisture levels throughout the region ranged widely from adequate to surplus, with most ratings in the adequate range. Hay production was in full swing. It was the first cutting for many producers. Some hay producers got caught by scattered showers. Hot, dry conditions stressed some pastures.

    Cotton and soybeans needed rain, but producers were content to get the sorghum crop out and hoped to start harvesting corn soon. Livestock were in good condition, but pastures and hay fields could use more rain. Milo was harvested or plowed under for a loss due to flooding. Irrigation pumps were running in fields.

    There was no cotton, peanut or rice production in Harris County. Some producers started supplemental feeding of hay. Cattle and other livestock were in good condition.

    SOUTHWEST: Weather patterns remained hot and dry, which increased fire hazards. Grass started to brown and burn, and crops showed heat stress. On the other hand, lots of hay was being produced, and the milo harvest was about to start. Livestock remained in fair condition.

    SOUTH: Hot, dry and windy conditions continued throughout the district. Temperatures reached beyond 100 degrees in several counties. There were heat advisories in the Zapata County area. Pivots were running to keep up with the heat and wind.

    Peanut planting was completed, and preparations for grain sorghum and corn harvests continued. Corn crops were in the denting stage, and cotton bolls were starting to open. Some peanut fields continued to develop, and sorghum fields were maturing.

    Yield reports from test plots and farms indicated most grain sorghum fields were producing close to or better than 5,000 pounds per acre. Later-planted fields were expected to have reduced yields. Cotton was maturing well and was still expected to produce good yields.

    Range and pasture conditions continued to decline due to weather. Ample forage was available but may become a concern for wildfires. The harvesting of watermelons, cantaloupes and onions continued and was almost complete. Livestock supplemental feeding took place as some rangeland and pastures dried and lacked ample forage for grazing. Other range and pastures remained fair to good, but forage quality declined due to extremely dry conditions. Hay baling continued in some fields.

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