What is the status of statewide hay supplies? It depends upon where you are, according to Dr. Larry Redmon, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service state forage specialist, College Station.
East of U.S. Interstate 35, all the way to San Antonio, and northeast of Interstate 37 to Corpus Christi, the rains have generally been significant throughout the season, and supplies are good, Redmon said.
“So a lot of people in that region have some full hay barns and are in pretty good shape,” he said. “But having said that, there are still some pockets, even within that region, that have not had the rains.”
And west of I-35, again the hay supplies are extremely site specific, Redmon said. There are parts of the Edwards Plateau that have received some good rains, and other parts of that same region have not.
“In the Vernon area, in the Rolling plains, essentially they are still like they were in 2011, the catastrophic drought year,” he said. “They have not changed at all; they are under exceptional drought.”
There is some hay moving from hay-surplus areas in the eastern parts of the state to the western, Redmon said.
“I looked at what Dr. Levi Russell, AgriLife Extension economist in Corpus Christi, is showing on his budgets. It kind of depends, but he was showing breakeven costs on Bermuda grass hay big round bales from $44 to close to $60,” he said. “So I’m assuming that for some people buying hay, they are going to be paying from $60 to $70, depending on the size of the bale, especially for any hay that has fertilizer costs associated with it.”
AgriLife Extension district reporters compiled the following summaries for the week of Sept. 22 – 29:
Central: Temperatures were cooler and soil moisture was generally rated as fair throughout the region. Overall, rangeland and pastures were also fair, and livestock and crops were in good condition. A few areas remained very dry, however. Earliest pecan varieties were expected to be harvest-ready in about two weeks. Irrigated small grains were looking very good, and more winter grains were being planted. The cotton harvest was well underway. Stock-water tanks were full, and forage availability was still good.
Coastal Bend: Some producers were spraying pastures and hay fields for fall armyworms and sugarcane aphids. They also continued planting winter pasture. Fieldwork resumed after rains, with the majority of harvested cotton fields needing to be cultivated or sprayed to control regrowth cotton. Sesame was mature and would soon be harvestable. Earlier rains brought a late flurry of growth to hay fields, and producers were taking a final cutting.
East: No rain and cooler temperatures were the rule around the region. Subsoil and topsoil moisture were short to very short in the northern and eastern parts of the region. Most counties in the southern and western parts of the region reported subsoil and topsoil moisture as adequate. Fields continued to dry out, allowing some hay to be baled. However, hay curing was taking longer because of cooler nighttime temperatures and morning dews. Most producers reported good hay supplies. Some had hay for sale. Preparation for planting winter pastures began in most counties. Henderson County producers were delaying winter pasture field preparation and planting due to low soil moisture. Fertilizer prices were high. Vegetable production slowed down. Weaning and selling of spring calves and cull cows continued. The cattle market remained firm on good quality feeder heifers and steers. There was about one replacement heifer offered for every two steers. Producers were keeping heifers back, either for herd restocking or waiting to grow out, or to be bred and sell as bred heifers or pairs. Livestock were in good condition. Fall armyworm activity picked up. Feral hog activity was reported with control in progress.
Far West: Rain earlier in the week resulted in damp, cool conditions for most parts of the area. Presidio County received 2 inches and saw some flooding due to water being released from Mexico. Reeves County also saw some flooding around the Pecos River, but there were no reports of damages to property or livestock on the Ward County side of the Pecos River.. Subsoil moisture remained adequate to short. Topsoil moisture ranged from short to very short. Pasture and rangeland were in fair to poor condition. Upland cotton was in fair to poor condition, with bolls opening. Corn in El Paso County was harvested, while grain sorghum was from 75 to 100 percent harvested. The sunflower harvest was finished, and winter wheat planting was in progress. El Paso County Pawnee pecans were at about 50 percent shuck separation, while Western pecans were at the end of the dough stage.
North: The region was rainless and drying out. Topsoil moisture varied widely throughout the region, with most counties reporting short to adequate. Temperatures dropped into the mid-50s in the mornings. The corn, grain sorghum and soybean harvests were wrapping up; yields were good to excellent. Producers continued harvesting hay and planting winter pastures. Overall, cattle were in good condition. Grasshoppers began to die off, but feral hogs were on the move again.
Panhandle: The region had cloudy and cooler weather, with a trace to as much as 3 inches of rain in some areas. The cooler temperatures and dampness slowed the progress of cotton. The sowing of Collingsworth County wheat slowed, but earlier planted wheat was emerging nicely. The peanut harvest was going strong; no thrashing began, but the crop was being dug. Deaf Smith County producers had a good week for fieldwork and preparing for harvest. Generally, corn was progressing well. Grain sorghum was also progressing well, with many fields colored well. Earlier planted grain sorghum was close to harvest. Sunflowers were looking great, with many fields having completed pollination and were quickly maturing. In Hansford County, the corn silage harvest was still in progress, with 21 to 27 bushels per acre yields reported. Randall County cotton was done, but was short on heat units. The potato and pumpkin harvests in Dallam and Hartley counties continued. Rangeland and pastures conditions ranged from poor to excellent, with most counties reporting fair. Cattle were in good condition. Ranchers began to provide supplemental protein to young cows to keep them in good body condition for winter.
Rolling Plains: Winter wheat planting for grazing continued as most producers had enough soil moisture to get an adequate stand. Some producers were already spraying for insects. Cotton was maturing, with bolls opening and leaves dropping. Producers will likely begin defoliation of irrigated cotton in about a week. Irrigated cotton looked better than average, as did dryland cotton. In counties that received rain in past weeks, pastures improved dramatically. Cattle remained in good condition, and the hay supply was still good. The pecan crop looked good in the southern part of the district, but lack of moisture over the past six weeks on non-irrigated orchards may have affected kernel fill. Runoff water was still needed to fill ponds and lakes.
South: The region received more rain, with light to moderate showers in some areas and good downpours in others. In the northern part of the region, rain amounts varied, with most of the heavy showers occurring in McMullen County, which received from 1.25 inch to 5 inches. The rains brought some relief to drought-stricken rangeland and pastures, but there were still a lot of ranchers who were still considering selling off their cattle. Peanut harvesting began in Atascosa County, but was still two to three weeks away in Frio County. Spotty showers slowed down cotton harvesting in many areas. Soil moisture ranged from adequate to short. In the eastern part of the region, temperatures cooled and light showers helped green up rangeland and pastures. However, supplemental feeding of hay and protein was still needed because of low nutritional value of grazing pastures. In Jim Wells County, cotton harvesting was nearly completed. Soil moisture was generally short in Jim Hogg County, Jim Wells County, Kleberg and Kenedy counties. In the western part of the region, rainfall varied from less than 1 inch to 2.5 inches in some areas. The rainfall dramatically improved rangeland and pastures, and made planting of dryland oats and wheat possible. Producers were also planting onions, cabbage and spinach. In the southern part of the region, fields, range and pastures were saturated as a result of heavy rains. Flooding was reported in some areas, but fall crops, including corn and sugarcane, all benefited from the rain. In Willacy County, most fields had standing water. Soil moisture conditions were 100 percent surplus in Cameron County and 80 percent short in Starr County.
South Plains: Cochran, Floyd, Garza, Lubbock, Mitchell, Swisher and Bailey counties received from 0.5 inch to nearly 3 inches of rain. In many areas, subsoil moisture was better than it has been since 2010. Most counties also reported cooler temperatures, and the harvesting of all mature crops and crop maturation halted or slowed. Most cotton fields were showing regrowth after the rain, but hotter weather was needed to help the remaining bolls mature and open up. The grain and pumpkin harvests in Floyd County were expected to resume this week. The rain damaged some open cotton bolls. Excessive moisture was expected to cause indeterminate plants to begin growing again. Cotton that had not yet finished developing bolls should benefit from the moisture. Rangeland and pastures were in good to excellent condition after the rains. Livestock were in good condition as well, and body condition scores were expected to improve.
Southeast: Soil-moisture levels throughout the region were mostly adequate to short, with Lee County reporting 100 percent short. Rangeland and pastures were mostly in fair to good condition, with good ratings being the more common. In much of the region, spotty rains and heavy morning dews continued to delay the cotton and hay harvests. Some cattle producers were preparing to plant winter pasture, while others were waiting for cooler soil temperatures. Livestock remained in good condition. Soggy conditions in Galveston County were preventing the harvesting of hay. In Montgomery County, a few fields were cut for hay. In Orange County, the temperatures continued to be moderate. The cooler temperatures in Brazos County created favorable growing conditions for pastures and hay fields. Armyworms were still present in some areas. Winter annuals are starting to germinate in lower-lying areas.
Southwest: The region received average to above-average rainfall, as temperatures have cooled. Soil moisture conditions remain good. Sesame fields benefited from the scattered rains, as did other crops. The corn, grain sorghum and cotton harvests were completed, with average to below-average yields reported. Other areas are still very dry and dormant and in need of some more rain. Armyworm damage was starting to show. Livestock and pastures continued to remain in fair to good condition in the western counties. Bucks and rams are being turned out for breeding.
West Central: Days were warm with very mild nights. Scattered showers helped improve soil moisture in many areas. Many producers were doing fieldwork, including preparing land for fall planting. They were also planting small grains where soil moisture was adequate. Some were dry-planting wheat. Earlier-planted wheat showed good emergence. Sugarcane aphids slowed the grain sorghum harvest and damaged some haygrazer fields. Otherwise, the grain sorghum harvest neared completion, with fair yields in some areas. Cotton was maturing rapidly, and many bolls were starting to open. Some producers began to defoliate cotton, and harvest was expected to begin in a couple of weeks. Rangeland and pastures greened up, with some growth of fall forages due to the recent rains and cooler temperatures. Livestock remained in fair condition.