Texas Field Reports: Recent Rains Boost Hay Production Outlook

Good quality cuttings of hay could be in the future for hay producers across the state following widespread rains.

Dr. Larry Redmon, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service program leader, College Station, said spring and summer presented subprime conditions for hay production on both ends of the weather spectrum.

Redmon said spring rains made it difficult for hay producers to access meadows and delayed or prevented first cuttings. The delays resulted in good quantities of hay but diminished nutrient values and quality.

The spring deluge was followed by 70-75 days of summer heat, including multiple 100 degree days in much of the state, that decreased moisture levels rapidly, Redmon said.

The lack of moisture slowed growth and in some cases led to dormancy in hay meadows. But then the rains came.

“I’m looking at fields that looked burnt up a week ago, and now they’re green and growing,” Redmon said. “It looks like producers might get a good second or third harvest.”

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Agriculture Statistics Service May 1 hay stock report, Texas had its highest surplus of fall/winter hay since 2008, 2.5 million tons, or 9 percent above 2015.

Redmon said producers who fertilized hay meadows based on forecasts that delivered rain would likely benefit most and see good new growth over the next few weeks. He said the next cutting would likely produce good yields and quality as long as fields are accessible when grasses peak.

Rangeland and pasture conditions around the state also improved following the rains and should provide adequate grazing in many areas until forages go dormant, according to AgriLife Extension agent reports.

AgriLife Extension district reporters compiled the following summaries:

CENTRAL: Conditions were wet and rainy. The district received 0.5-13 inches of rain, and temperatures were cooler. Sorghum harvest was completed but some corn was still in the fields. Cotton fields with open bolls were damaged. Water was standing on pastures and ranges. Many pastures that were turning yellow from extremely dry conditions have recovered. Pecan crops were looking good, and many producers shook some varieties to thin excess crop.

Armyworms were a major issue in hay fields. Livestock and cattle remained in good condition. Most counties reported good soil moisture. Overall range and pasture conditions were good, and overall crop conditions were fair.

ROLLING PLAINS: Cooler temperatures prevailed and slowed down cotton plant growth. The cooler temperatures were beneficial for livestock producers, and cattle were in good condition. Pastures and rangeland were in good condition as some counties received beneficial rainfall with some amounts totaling upwards of 5 inches. Some areas remained dry, and wildfires were still a threat. Wheat producers were preparing for fall planting.

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COASTAL BEND: Rains were a welcomed sight for producers as conditions were extremely dry. Rain amounts ranged from 3.5-12 inches in most areas. Wet conditions brought harvests to a standstill. Cotton quality concerns increased as open bolls were exposed to rain. The delay of harvest affected cotton fiber quality with yield and seed quality losses expected. Pastures were responding well to the rainfall. Livestock were in good condition. Fall cattle work continued. Calf weights appeared to be above average for the year.

EAST: The region received much needed rainfall. Pasture and range conditions were mostly fair to good with only Marion, Gregg and Shelby counties reporting excellent conditions. Scattered showers brought rain with total amounts between 0.01-8 inches. Many counties were experiencing extreme wetness. Subsoil and topsoil conditions were adequate with a few counties reporting surplus.

Forages were growing again and turned green almost overnight. Pasture forage harvests stopped due to the rainfall. Many ponds and lakes filled back up. Hay producers were expecting to make one more cutting for the year. Producers were on the lookout for armyworm infestations.

Producers were starting to plant fall gardens in Marion County. Jasper County reported fall gardens were doing well. Tree and plant issues were reported in Smith County related to the hot, dry summer days. Cattle were in good shape with excellent body conditions. Polk County producers were weaning and selling market-ready calves and cull cows. Feral hogs were active.

SOUTH PLAINS: Scattered showers were received in some counties. Rain amounts ranged from 0.4-1 inch. Subsoil and topsoil moisture levels remained very low in counties missed by the rain. Cooler weather helped grain fields recover slightly from extreme heat. However, the forecast was not favorable for cotton as warm temperatures were still needed to mature fields.

Cotton and sorghum continued to mature. Peanuts were in decent condition, but corn was very dry. Corn silage harvest was underway in Bailey County. Pastures and rangelands needed moisture, but cattle were in good condition. Rains helped dryland cotton, but not enough fell to restore a healthy soil moisture profile. Forecasts indicated a chance for rain.

Most cotton cut out and some natural boll shed was occurring. No open bolls were observed or reported but early bolls should open soon. Producers sprayed for stink bugs in some sorghum fields and adjacent cotton field margins.

PANHANDLE: There were near to slightly below normal temperatures for most of the district. Moisture was received throughout most of the district. Amounts ranged from a trace to 2.25 inches. Temperatures dipped below normal where rain fell. Dallam and Hartley counties received no precipitation and normal temperatures.

There were reports of strong winds and some hail but not much damage. Corn was progressing well. Yield potential varied. Some estimates were for yields to be 20-30 percent below average. July heat hurt later-planted corn and corn planted with limited irrigation. Potato defoliation and harvest was underway. Yield potential on potatoes was also expected to vary greatly because of hot weather and high psyllid numbers.

Producers were making third cuttings of alfalfa hay and were making field preparations for wheat planting. Sunflowers were in bloom and looked good. Rangeland in some areas were drying out. Horn fly numbers on cattle increased. Fall calving will start soon for some producers. Cattle were in good condition.

Deaf Smith County producers started silage harvest with yields down 20 percent or more. Cotton was coming along with many fields in cutout. Some cotton progress was slowed by cooler temperatures. Grain sorghum fields in some areas were just now blooming. Sugarcane aphid numbers increased, and producers were applying insecticides. Cattle on pasture looked very good. Rangeland and pastures continued to vary in ratings from very poor to excellent with most reporting good to fair.

NORTH: Topsoil and subsoil moisture was mostly adequate. Rainfall amounts ranged from 1-5 inches. Temperatures did not get above the mid-80s for most of the reporting period. Rainfall helped rangelands and pastures but came a little late for corn and grain sorghum. Most corn fields were harvested and a large percentage of the grain sorghum was harvested. Yield reports on corn ranged from about 80-100 bushels per acre on dryland and about 150-200 bushels on irrigated fields.

No yield reports on grain sorghum were recorded. Some early planted soybeans were harvested and yielded 25 bushels per acre. A lot of late-planted soybeans were planted into wheat stubble. Cattle looked good. Some stocker operators were hanging on to some yearlings because of ample grass.

There was plenty of forage, and the cow-calf sector was in good shape going into fall. There were some reports of livestock stress due to high humidity levels, including some cases of pneumonia. There were a few reports of armyworms. Damage was not bad, but producers were scouting.

FAR WEST: Temperatures dropped to the high 80s and low 90s. Conditions were overcast with scattered showers over most of the district. Flash flooding occurred along the Rio Grande. Rainfall under 2 inches had little effect on dry range conditions. Rangeland fires remained a concern in some counties.

Cotton crops in Glasscock County were declining, and some dryland bolls started to open. Sorghum and corn harvests continued. Supplemental feeding of livestock and wildlife continued in some areas. Producers completed maintenance on equipment to prepare for fall work. Alfalfa producers were starting fourth and fifth cuttings. Pecan trees needed moisture.

WEST CENTRAL: Widespread rain fell around the district throughout the reporting period, but no measurements were recorded. Temperatures were much cooler. Stock tanks and ponds filled with some runoff occurring. Fire dangers decreased, and some burn bans were lifted. Preparations for fall planting were underway.

Most small grain fields were ready and fertilized for planting. Early planted wheat was expected to be available for grazing soon due to recent moisture. The majority of sorghum and corn was harvested. A few wet fields remained standing.

Hay producers expected to make a third cutting due to moisture. Farmers were optimistic about cotton yields with recent moisture. Rangeland and pasture conditions were improving. Livestock remained in fair to good condition. Cattle prices were high. Pecan crops were extremely heavy. Timely rains were expected to help pecan nuts fill out.

SOUTHEAST: Between 4-7 inches of rain fell in areas of the district. Rains prevented work in some fields. The rice harvest progressed but was delayed due to rain. Some burn bans were lifted. Rains allowed pastures to regrow after being consumed by armyworms. Soil moisture levels throughout the district ranged from adequate to surplus, with mostly adequate. Rangeland and pasture ratings varied from excellent to good, with good most common.

SOUTHWEST: Good rain arrived for most of the district with averages from 3-11 inches reported. Rains helped topsoil moisture levels. Warm-season grasses improved, and pastures responded well. Corn harvest halted due to rain, which was not benefiting cotton fields. Hay cutting halted also. Rangeland continued to show improvement. Livestock were in good condition. Weaning of sheep and goats continued.

SOUTH: All counties, except Cameron County, received rain. Flooding was reported in some areas. Rain measurements ranged from 1-10 inches. Peanut fields were in good condition and entering the pod-fill stage.

Water levels improved, and pastures and rangelands began to show signs of improvement. Conditions remained good for forage quality. Horn fly populations increased in some areas, but cattle body condition scores remained good. Lower temperatures brought relief to livestock in some areas. Livestock prices were expected to fluctuate because of improvements in grazing conditions.

Overall soil moisture conditions ranged from very short in Cameron County to surplus in a few counties. Rains also improved wildlife habitat. Wildlife populations appeared to be in decent shape for upcoming hunting seasons.

Cotton defoliation and harvests continued with less than 50 percent of acreage remaining in fields in most counties. Harvesting was expected to resume when fields dry. Producers were assessing fields with open bolls. Rains halted all field preparation for fall small grain plantings, as well as cabbage, onion and some early spinach, but was expected to help pecan growers during kernel development.

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