Texas crop, weather for Feb. 22, 2012

Spring calves and feeding hay

Rains greened up pastures during February, such as this one in East Texas. However, in many areas the green up was mainly cosmetic, and producers were still buying hay from out of the area as the spring calving season continued, according to Texas AgriLife Extension Service personnel. (Texas AgriLife Extension Service photo by Robert Burns)

Writer: Robert Burns, 903-834-6191, rd-burns@tamu.edu

COLLEGE STATION – Most of the state received rain the third week of February, further greening up pastures and winter wheat, according to reports from Texas AgriLife Extension Service personnel.

In some cases, the rains stimulated the growth of winter grasses and small grains to the extent that it relieved the pressure on extremely limited hay supplies.

However, in most areas, livestock producers still had to provide supplemental feed and hay to cattle. In many areas the hay they fed continued to come in from out of state.

Two-minute MP3 audio Texas crop, weather report for Feb. 22, 2012

“Wheat, oats and winter pastures continue to do very well with the rains and mild temps,” said Rick Maxwell, AgriLife Extension agent for Collin County, northeast of Dallas. “Cattle producers continue to graze winter annual pastures, which has cut down the use of hay, which is still in short supply.”

“Recent rains have stimulated cool-season annuals to start to sprout, and it’s nice to see some green in the pastures for a change,” said Logan Lair, AgriLife Extension agent for Navarro County, northeast of Waco. “For the most part, supplemental feeding is still going on around the county for beef cattle, mainly hay.”

“Good rains were received over most of the area this past week, and winter pastures were growing well,” said Hugh Soape, AgriLife Extension agent for Gregg County, Longview. “Many are still overgrazed. Cattle are beginning to rebound in some areas where they are not overstocked. Hay and feedstuff was still in short supply and expensive.”

“(We had) up to 0.5 inch of rainfall on Wednesday (Feb. 15),” reported Rick Hirsch, AgriLife Extension agent for Henderson County, Athens. “Muddy conditions are hampering field preparation for spring planting. Cool-season grazing was decreasing the need for hay which is severely short in supply.”

“We are moving moisture up to adequate,” said Neal Alexander, AgriLife Extension agent for San Saba County, north of San Antonio. “However, San Saba County has not progressed into non-drought conditions. It is a long way to the truck for our small-grain crop, and without a hay crop this year, we remain in a disaster. Yearling cattle are doing well. Small grains are keeping up with them so far.”

“Up to 1 inch of rain fell in the county last week,” said Joe Janak, AgriLife Extension agent for Victoria County, northeast of Corpus Christi. “The cropping area, which is about 40 percent of the county, is still short of moisture, having had less than 3 inches in the last three months. There is sufficient moisture to get the crops up but not to full production. Green forage is becoming apparent, but is still in short supply for grazing. It’ll take many days for full forage growth. Hay is still being fed.”

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 for Feb. 14 – 21.

Map of the 12 Texas AgriLife Extension Service Districts.

The 12 Texas AgriLife Extension Service Districts.

Central: Daytime highs were up and down, 70 degrees one day, then in the 20s, back up into the high 60s, then back down to the low 40s. Parts of the region received the first substantial rain and concomitant rise in soil moisture levels in two years. Winter wheat and grasses were providing good grazing for livestock. 
Many areas were going into spring with much better moisture conditions than last year. Livestock were in fair condition, with pastures greening up and winter annuals furnishing needed grazing. Producers had to feed less hay as a result. Peach trees were just starting to bloom earlier than most years. 
Cool-season legumes and grasses were growing well, and the body condition of livestock was improving. Producers in some counties may plant corn the last week of February if fields dry out enough. A lot of oats and wheat was farther along in maturity than was normal for this time of year. Producers who were considering applying fertilizer or herbicide “over the top” were advised to consider the growth stage of the small grains lest they damage plants.

Coastal Bend: The region received more rain, further improving soil-moisture levels. Row-crop farmers were preparing fields for spring planting. They were also applying herbicides in response to the flush of weeds following the rains. Cool-season forages responded well to the recent rains and mild temperatures. Livestock producers were still providing supplemental feed to cattle due to lack of forage.

East: As much as 4 inches of rain fell across the region. With this and recent rains, and warmer- than-normal temperatures, winter forages continued to improve. Some producers were able to graze cattle, but many were still having to buy hay from other areas. Pond and lake levels were much better. The calving season was ongoing. Feral hog activity remained high, and there were reports of armyworms.

Far West: Precipitation in various forms yielded accumulations from 0.1 to 0.5 inch over most of the region. The moisture was received in the form of drizzle, rain, sleet and even some light snow. Val Verde County was the exception, where there were reports of as much as 2 inches in some areas. The cold front also brought very damp and windy conditions. Most areas experienced light to heavy fog and dew in the mornings. Low temperatures were in the 30s, with highs in the 50s and 60s. Areas that were bare ground due to drought and fire showed some regrowth in some counties. Others counties reported that pastures remained depleted. Overall, however, pasture and rangeland conditions remained very poor throughout the region. The condition of livestock was still generally poor. Most producers were in the calving season and still had to provide supplemental feed. They still found it hard to find alfalfa. When they can find it, the price is extremely high. Cotton farmers were putting down pre-emergent herbicide in preparation for planting warm-season wheat. Chile growers were preparing land for planting, with many fields already listed and pre-irrigated. Fall-planted onions came out of dormancy.

North: Fields remained too wet to even start preparations for planting. With frequent rains during the past month, wheat, oats and winter pastures continued to do very well. Producers continued to graze cattle on winter annual pastures, cutting down the use of hay that is still in short supply. Winter weeds were growing like crazy, with henbit in particular out of control. Trees were budding early, a concern for the fruit growers. Feral hogs continued to be a major problem.

Panhandle: The weather varied from mild to extremely cold. Soil moisture continued to be mostly short to very short. A few areas reported receiving some moisture. Farmers continued preparing fields for spring planting and were actively irrigating wheat. Most winter wheat was in fair to poor condition. Rangeland and pastures were in fair to very poor condition, with most reporting poor to very poor. Those producers who didn’t liquidate their herds during the drought began the spring calving season. They also continued providing supplemental feeding as rangeland grasses were sparse and wheat pasture was short.

Rolling Plains: From 2 to 5 inches of snow fell across the region. The moisture was welcome, but the western counties needed more to recover from the drought. Most winter wheat seemed to turn around overnight and grow a couple of inches. In the eastern counties, which have received more rain over the last few weeks, soil moisture was at surplus levels. The rains also filled most stock tanks, and the eastern counties were going into spring in much better condition than last year at this time. Livestock were in fair to good condition, pastures were greening up, with winter annuals furnishing needed grazing. Producers needed to feed less hay as a result. Cotton farmers were preparing land for planting. Parker County reported that peach trees began to bloom early.

South: Rain, mostly scattered showers, fell throughout the region. Atascosa County received about 2 inches, Kleberg and Kenedy counties, 2 to 4 inches, and Willacy County about 1 inch. Surrounding counties received slow precipitation and light drizzle amounting to 0.1 to 0.2 inch. Rangeland and pastures improved even where the rains were light, and were providing much-needed grazing. Soil-moisture conditions ranged short to adequate in the northern and eastern counties. In Frio County, some farmers were planting early corn. In Zavala County, spinach, cabbage and onions were all progressing well. In Hidalgo County, field crop activities were slowed by wet conditions, but some farmers continued pre-irrigating row-crop fields. Wet conditions also halted spring planting preparations in Starr County. In Willacy County, farmers were preparing to plant.

Southeast: Many areas received good rains, with some, such as Jefferson County, reporting several inches. Nighttime temperatures were in the low 40s; daytime highs in low-to-mid 60s. The rains were welcomed, though it slowed land preparation for spring planting. Pond levels continued to rise with the recent rains, with many full. Winter pastures were only in fair condition where they had to be planted late because of lack of moisture last fall. A very few were planted late December after the rains started and were in better condition.

Southwest: Additional rain produced excellent winter-pasture growth. Small grains made good progress. There were some reports of bloat in livestock due to excessive clover growth. The planting of corn and milo was delayed by the wet weather.

South Plains: Snow, sleet and light rain fell across the region. Measurable moisture ranged from a trace to 0.5 inches. This moisture benefited wheat and was expected to allow producers to do tillage work and reduce blowing sand. Much more moisture will be needed before spring planting can commence. Cool-season grasses on the range began to grow in low-lying areas. Livestock was in mostly fair to good condition with producers continuing to provide supplemental feed.

West Central: All parts of the district reported cooler temperatures along with snow and rain showers. Small grains remained in fair condition due to recent moisture. Wheat continued to improve and was providing very good growth for grazing. Rangeland and pastures also continued to show great improvement. Improved grazing conditions reduced the need for heavy supplemental feeding of livestock. However, livestock numbers remained very short. Fruit growers were pruning trees.

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