Hay stocks were dwindling across the state, though the reports from some areas, such as East Texas and the Coastal Bend, seemed direr than others.
“As we go another week without any measurable rains and above normal temperatures, forage conditions continue to deteriorate under normal grazing pressure,” said Lee Dudley, AgriLife Extension agent for Panola County, east of Tyler. “Many producers have already culled once and are now looking to cull deeper into their herds as they are running out of standing grass.”
“We are in an extreme drought throughout most of the county,” said Clint Perkins, AgriLife Extension agent for Wood County, about 100 miles east of Dallas.
“Pastures and hay meadows are in bad condition. Feed prices for dairy producers are on the increase. Producers are talking about a serious cull of herd size if rainfall does not come.”
“Time is running out for larger producers to produce enough hay to meet their needs if rains don’t come soon,” said Mark Currie, AgriLife Extension agent for Polk County, east of Huntsville. “Hay purchases will likely be very costly with a high trucking bill, which will force increased culling of herds.”
“Karnes County has moved into Stage 4 drought and desperately needs moisture,” said J.D. Folbre, AgriLife Extension agent for Karnes County, southeast of San Antonio. “Sorghum and cotton crops still have a chance if moderate rainfall is received. The hay crop looks like it will be 60 percent to 70 percent of normal.”
“Ranchers are being forced to sell off cattle or invest in more acreage for grazing,” said Ryan Martin, AgriLife Extension agent for Motley County, northeast of Lubbock . “With no grazing, no hay supply and supplemental feed prices rising, ranchers have no choice but to sell off or downsize their herds. Residents are saying this is the worst drought they have ever been through.”
Greg Jones, AgriLife Extension agent for Garza County, southeast of Lubbock, said producers in his area are “pretty well stocked for drought conditions because they happen regularly in our area.”
Still, Garza County ranchers are actively culling. Jones recently held a meeting to assist ranchers in reducing herd numbers, adjusting stocking rates and alternative feeding programs during drought.
“Most of them have dealt with this before,” Jones said. “It’s just a little longer and more drawn out this time.”
More information on the current Texas drought and wildfire alerts can be found on the AgriLife Extension Agricultural Drought Task Force website at http://agrilife.tamu.edu/drought/.
AgriLife Extension district reporters compiled the following summaries:Central: Severe drought conditions continued. Crops were stressed, and pastures were in poor condition. Livestock were in fair condition. Dryland cotton had yet to emerge. Stock-water tank levels were the lowest in several years.
Coastal Bend: Crop and pastures continued to deteriorate without rain. Producers began harvesting sorghum fields that were lodging due to drought. Cotton was “cutting out” and shedding some squares due to moisture stress. (Cutting out refers to the final stage of plant growth prior to boll opening.) Thousands of acres of corn were being shredded and destroyed as crop-insurance adjusters and growers agreed on claims. Rice was the bright spot and was showing good yield potential as fields reached the heading stage. Hay production for the season was predicted to be 30 percent or less of normal. Livestock producers continued to reduce herds and feed hay to what cattle they kept. Many ponds were dry or very low.
East: The region did not receive any significant rainfall, and the drought deepened. Temperatures were well above average. Livestock producers were further culling herds. Many were feeding hay due to forage shortages. Some counties reported that farmers have only harvested a third of the normal amount of hay this year. Livestock were in fair to good condition with heavy supplemental feeding. Grasshoppers, feral hogs and armyworms were reported.
Far West: Conditions remained hot and dry. Pastures were dry, brittle and brown due to lack of rainfall and no new growth. The wildfire danger remained very high, and burn bans were in effect. Very little available nutrients remained in the standing dead grass from last year, and most nutrients that livestock needed had to come from supplemental feeding. Shin oak finally matured past the toxic stage in most areas and could be grazed. Pecan and hay producers were busy irrigating. Pecan nut growth began. Chiles were behind for this time of year.
North: Despite rains in April and May, soil moisture was short throughout the region. The weather was hot and windy, and crops and pastures began to show signs of drought stress. Earlier in the year, there was the chance for a bumper crop of corn, grain sorghum and soybeans, but the chances were reduced because of lack of rain. However, corn, soybeans, sorghum and winter wheat remained in fair to good condition. The warm, dry conditions allowed the wheat harvest to rapidly proceed. The harvest was nearly complete with above average yields reported. The wheat and oat harvests also neared completion. Hay harvesting was in full swing, with some producers reporting good yields, while others said they were getting about 40 percent to 50 percent of normal yields. Forage growth was at a standstill. Sunflower growers finished planting. The blackberry harvest was under way, and peaches looked very good. The prospects of good vegetable crop yields appeared doubtful. Purple hull peas were a total loss due to the dry weather. Cotton was in fair condition, while rice and peanuts were in very poor condition. Grasshopper populations were on the increase. Rangeland and pastures were in poor to fair condition. Livestock were in fair condition.
Panhandle: The weather remained extremely hot, dry and windy, and the danger of wildfire remained high. Soil-moisture levels were very short in most counties. Corn and cotton were struggling with high winds and daytime temperatures above 100 degrees. Most farmers with irrigation were pumping continuously on all crops just trying to keep up with evaporation losses. Rangeland and pasture conditions were very poor. Livestock producers continued supplemental feeding. Some producers were dispersing herds.
Rolling Plains: Hot, dry and windy weather persisted across the region. All aspects of agriculture were suffering. Wildfire danger continued to be very high. The wheat harvest was finished, with lower-than-normal yields reported. Both irrigated and dryland cotton producers continued to plant. Alfalfa producers were heavily irrigating due to lack of moisture. Hay prices were up due to increased input prices and high demand. Pastures were in poor to very poor condition. Ranchers were being forced to sell off cattle or invest in more acreage for grazing. Some producers who hadn’t culled herds had to haul water in for cattle.
South: The region continued to experience very hot, windy and dry weather, with temperatures above 100 degrees. Soil moisture levels remained very short. Poor rangeland and pasture conditions, lack of forage for grazing and very low stock-tank water levels had livestock producers busy supplying supplemental feed to their animals. Many producers continued to cull their herds as the price of hay increased. High cattle prices also affected their decision to cull herds. Producers were heavily irrigating in the attempt to salvage as many crops as possible, but pumping costs had many concerned. In Frio County, the potato harvest was ongoing, peanut planting was in full swing and the watermelon harvest began. In Jim Wells County, sorghum and sunflower growers were preparing to harvest. In Zavala County, extremely hot conditions were favorable for corn to mature and dry down as harvest time neared. Also in that area, cotton progressed, the cabbage harvest continued, sorghum under irrigation turned color, and watermelons and cantaloupes were doing well. Sorghum producers reported dryland sorghum had failed due to the drought. In Hidalgo County, harvesting of sunflowers and grain sorghum picked up, and farmers were actively irrigating cotton and pastures. In Willacy County, 70 percent of the sorghum crop had been harvested.
South Plains: The region received some scattered showers this week. But with triple-digit temperatures and high winds, most of the moisture received had evaporated by the next day. Most cotton was planted, but much was only planted to meet insurance regulations. Dryland plantings had yet to emerge as there was no moisture to bring them up. Most counties were still under burn bans, and new wildfires were breaking out daily. Some wildfires were started by lightening strikes from storms that raced through the region. Cotton planted prior to May 17 suffered from the chilling effect of almost constant irrigation. Thrips infestations were light, but the added stress of the insect was still expected to have an effect because crops were drought-stressed. Cattle herds were being downsized or sold off. No forage was available, and hay supplies were limited and costly.
Southeast: Some counties received as much as 0.5 inch of rain, but others remained dry. Pasture and hayfield conditions continued to deteriorate. Producers continued feeding hay, but supplies were dwindling. Stock-water tanks levels dropped lower. Most field crops were expected to fail soon if they hadn’t already.
Southwest: The region remained almost completely dry. High temperatures and winds aggravated drought conditions. Unless rain is received soon, San Antonio, which was already under Stage 2 water-use restrictions, may enter Stage 3 restrictions by June 16. Dryland crops have failed. Irrigated corn, sorghum and sunflowers were drying down, with harvests expected to start in early July. Peanuts, cotton, sweet corn, cantaloupes, watermelons, pecans, grapes, peaches, sod and landscape nursery crops continued to make good progress under heavy irrigation but at high pumping costs. The peach harvest gained momentum. The onion, potato, watermelon, cantaloupe, green bean and sweet corn harvests were ongoing. Onion yields and quality were excellent, but onion market prices continued to be weak. Tomatoes, onions, squash and other spring vegetables were being harvested and sold at roadside markets. Grass growth stopped in pastures and rangeland as a result of drought. Forage availability remained below average. What livestock hadn’t been sold required supplemental feeding.
West Central: Record-breaking temperatures continued throughout the week. Hot, dry, very windy conditions further depleted soil moisture. Wildfires remained a problem in all areas. Rangeland and pasture conditions were deteriorating. Hay grazer was turning blue and wilting. Irrigated coastal Bermuda grass was in fair condition. Cotton planting was under way. Most dryland cotton was not expected to make a crop without some rainfall soon. Stock-tank water levels continued to drop. Producers gave up on fields planted for hay and turned cattle in to graze them. Having to continue to feed livestock and haul water for cattle was making livestock production very costly. Many producers were reducing herds.