Texas Field Reports: Forage Production Good Despite Wet Weather, Pests, Weeds

Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service photo by Adam Russell

Plentiful rains have been good and bad for hay producers this year, but 2017 looks to be a good production year overall, said a Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service specialist.

Dr. Vanessa Corriher-Olson, AgriLife Extension forage specialist, Overton, said hay producers in East Texas, the region where the majority of the state’s hay production occurs, faced several challenges, but summer rains have provided good conditions for forages late in the season.

Corriher-Olson said summer forages like Bermuda grass got a late start this year because of lower-than-normal temperatures. Grasses broke dormancy later than usual and were slow to get started.

“Some producers reported they didn’t get a first cutting until June or later,” she said. “First cuttings typically start in May.”

Rains have been timely and good for grass production, but they have also caused problems, Corriher-Olson said.

“It was a challenge for some producers to find a window to get hay cut, cured and baled in some areas because of the rain,” she said.

Rainfall also caused widespread weed issues in improved pastures, she said.

“I think producers spent more time and effort on weed control because fields stayed wetter, which allowed unwanted plants to germinate,” she said.

Cooler and wetter weather also created conditions for two common forage pests, armyworms and Bermuda grass stem maggots, to emerge earlier than usual.

“People were surprised how early armyworms came out this year,” she said. “They caught people off guard, but it was also tough for some producers to treat them because they couldn’t get into their fields to spray.”

One producer reported losing an entire cutting to armyworms because he could not access pastures to treat the pest, she said.

Another pest, Bermuda grass stem maggots, also posed more of a problem this year due to rainy conditions and a higher volume of forages, she said.

Despite the issues, Corriher-Olson said most producers have baled two to three cuttings and August rains could likely mean another cutting.

Corriher-Olson said 2017 would likely be a surplus year for hay, but the quality of hay remains in question because most producers focus on the number of bales produced per acre.

“Just because we have a lot of hay doesn’t mean the amount produced will meet their herd’s nutritional requirements,” she said. “So producers should concentrate on producing quality forages rather than the number of bales possible in the future. Focusing on quality can reduce or eliminate the need for supplemental feed.”

AgriLife Extension district reporters compiled the following summaries:

CENTRAL: Rain was hit or miss. Fields that received rain were drying out quickly. Rain kept things green, and forages were still strong. Grain harvests slowed down due to lack of elevator space. Harvests of beans and sorghum continued. Producers were still cutting and baling some hay. Some armyworms were reported. Farmers were preparing for fall and planting small grains. Second crops of corn silage under irrigation looked good.

Cotton looked good, and harvest should start soon. Livestock were in good condition. Cattle prices increased some. Stock tank levels remained steady. Most counties reported good soil moisture. Most counties reported good overall rangeland and pasture conditions, and nearly all counties reported good overall crop conditions.

ROLLING PLAINS: Rain and cooler temperatures arrived and helped pasture and cotton conditions tremendously. Reported rain amounts varied from less than 1 inch up to 7 inches. Stock tanks were full. Cotton was setting bolls and producers were getting in another cutting of grass and haygrazer. Pastures and rangeland began to green up with the recent rainfall.

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However, some pastures that missed the rains remained in poor condition. Livestock were in good condition as producers continued to feed supplement and move cattle around to greener pastures. Some producers began to seed winter wheat acres in hopes of getting wheat up and off to a good start with the recent rains.

Weeds, especially pigweed, continued to be a challenge with a significant increase from last year. Humidity and muggy weather caused a moisture problem for corn and sorghum.

COASTAL BEND: Extremely hot and humid conditions persisted throughout the district. Some additional rainfall would be beneficial. Cotton and rice harvests continued with corn harvests near completion. Soybean yields were in the 50 bushels-per-acre range. Cotton stalk destruction and other field work continued. Rangeland and pasture conditions varied in many areas. Livestock remained in good shape.

EAST: Scattered rain continued to fall across the district, some heavy at times. Marion County reported up to 14 inches of rain while Wood County received 7-9 inches. Ponds were full. Pasture and rangeland conditions were mostly fair to good with Rusk, Shelby, Marion and Gregg counties reporting excellent conditions. Subsoil and topsoil conditions were adequate in most counties.

Short conditions were reported in Houston County and surplus conditions in Shelby and Marion counties. Forages continued to do well. Hay harvests continued. Producers battled armyworms and Bermuda grass stem maggots.

Winter pasture planting preparation was underway in Upshur County. Cattle were in good condition. Cattle prices in Gregg County were holding steady to a bit higher. Weaning and selling of market-ready calves and cull cows and bulls continued in Polk County. Wild pigs continued to cause problems.

SOUTH PLAINS: Cotton reached cut-out stage in many fields after some timely rains. More rain was in the forecast. The crop looked good in both irrigated and dryland fields. Failed cotton acres were planted to sorghum, so there were many acres of pre-boot sorghum in the area. Remaining area crops were in good condition and continued to mature. Producers were conducting pest and weed management.

Warm temperatures were needed for fields to dry as corn silage harvests began. Subsoil and topsoil moisture remained adequate. Pastures and rangelands improved with recent moisture. Cattle were in good condition.

PANHANDLE: Temperatures were below normal. Most areas in the region received some moisture, and soil moisture was good in most areas. August brought above-normal precipitation and below normal temperatures. Producers shut off irrigation wells for more than two weeks with rain amounts from 2-5 inches and some isolated areas received up to 7 inches.

Most irrigated fields of all crops have enough stored moisture that most wells could be off for the remainder of the growing season. The corn crop was all but ready to harvest with most fields in the dent stage. Cotton needed some sunshine and heat units, but the forecast did not look good. Hail damage was reported in many fields in Ochiltree County, primarily cotton, which lowered the overall condition of those fields.

Wheat preplant activities continued in some areas, and plantings will begin as soon as it dries up enough to get into the fields. Many producers were ready to plant for some early grazing. Rangeland conditions continued to remain strong with rain and cooler temperatures.

NORTH: Topsoil and subsoil moisture levels ranged from mostly adequate to short, with some counties reporting surplus. Most counties received rain ranging from 2-5 inches. Fannin County received as much as 10 inches of rain in localized areas of the county. The rain slowed corn and sorghum harvests but was good for soybeans, cotton and other crops. Corn and soybean yields were above average. Pastures looked great for this time of year, and hay harvest continued despite the rain showers.

In Red River County, hogs were displaced due to the flooded creek bottoms. Livestock were in good condition and were showing relief with the cooler weather, but the moisture levels raised the humidity level. Armyworms were reported in some counties.

FAR WEST: Temperature highs were in the 90s and lows in the 70s. Rain amount reports were 0.3-6 inches. Heat units dropped over the last two weeks due to cool, cloudy conditions. Rainfall was very beneficial to stressed cotton, but areas that did not receive rain suffered crop losses.

Corn and sorghum harvests continued to make progress with various yields. In the northeastern areas of the district, low moisture levels have affected pecan trees. Snake problems were reported in some areas. Producers continued to feed livestock and wildlife. Moisture increased mosquito populations.

WEST CENTRAL: Hot, dry, windy conditions continued in some areas. Temperatures were very seasonable. Isolated showers were reported in most areas. Rainfall improved soil moisture. Field preparations for fall planting were underway, but some area producers were stalled by recent rains. Crop conditions improved. Some wheat and oat fields were prepared for fall planting. Hay cutting and baling continued.

Cotton fields were in fair to good condition. Much of the cotton was still in bloom stage. Early planted grain sorghum harvest began, but rain slowed progress. Forage crops were in mostly good to excellent condition. Yields were very high where rainfall was received. Forage volumes increased greatly from last year. Home gardeners were planning for fall planting as they finished up spring and summer crops.

Rangeland and pastures were in fair to good condition and were showing green-up and new growth. Stock tanks were in good condition due to recent rains. Livestock remained in fair to excellent condition. Cattle markets were soft but steady. Pecan crops continued to be in good condition.

SOUTHEAST: Livestock and pastures were in good condition. Many hay producers took advantage of the dry weather to harvest hay fields. The cotton harvest was picking up and looked good with yields averaging over 2.5 bales per acre.

In Brazos County, hot conditions persisted. Jefferson County was getting dry, but anticipated rain in the forecast should help with the drought-like conditions. Most yards were turning brown, and hay production was falling behind. Stock tanks were experiencing algae blooms.

Soil-moisture levels throughout the district ranged widely from adequate to very short with most ratings in the short range. Rangeland and pasture ratings varied widely too, from excellent to very poor with good ratings being the most common.

SOUTHWEST: Recent rains continued to help some areas flourish, but most counties reported desperate needs for rain. Temperatures were in the 100s. Some producers were supplementing livestock with protein and energy in more drought stricken areas. Weaning of lambs and goats was underway.

SOUTH: Hot, dry weather conditions and very short moisture levels were reported. Temperatures were reported to be well into the 100s in some areas. Pasture and rangeland conditions were good in areas that received recent rains and were favorable overall, but a little rain would improve conditions in drier areas. Supplemental feeding was on the increase.

Peanuts continued in the pegging stage, and cotton continued in the boll opening stage. Body condition scores on cattle continued to deteriorate.

In Zavala County, livestock producers with livestock grazing on native rangelands and pastures reported light supplemental feeding may start in the next 10-12 days if no rainfall was received. Producers continued to apply irrigation water to pecans, cotton and fall sorghum. Cabbage planting was expected to begin in the next 15 days, and some fresh-market spinach planting was expected to begin at the end of the month.

The cotton harvest continued but at a slower pace. Most producers were almost finished, and just a few late-planted cotton fields remained. Cotton yields varied, with 500-1,230 pounds per acre reported. Beef cattle markets remained steady with above normal offerings being reported.

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