Texas Crop and Weather Report — March 28

Egg prices could rise slightly as Easter holiday nears

COLLEGE STATION –  Consumers might see a slight rise in egg prices as the Easter holiday approaches due to increased demand for baking and dyed eggs, said a Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service expert.

Dr. Craig Coufal, AgriLife Extension poultry specialist, College Station, said eggs are plentiful and prices are low as we near the holiday.

Egg prices are low, but increased demand for Easter baking, décor and hunts during the April 16 holiday could cause a slight increase in their cost. (Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service photo by Adam Russell)

“It looks like we’re on cruise control right now,” he said. “There are plenty of laying hens producing plenty of eggs.”

Coufal said the laying industry has fully recovered from an avian influenza outbreak that led to losses of around 35 million laying hens in the spring of 2015. Large numbers of laying hens were affected by the outbreak because hens are typically housed in large flocks, so if one facility is infected, many birds will be lost, Coufal said.

“Egg prices went crazy because there were so many birds taken out of production in March, April and May 2015,” he said. “We haven’t had any major outbreaks and those birds have been replaced, so over the past two years we’ve been in good shape.”

There are around 318.4 million laying hens in production as of January, up 6.4 percent from 299.3 million in production in January 2016, according to the March 2017 U.S. Flock Trends and Projections report by the Egg Industry Center in Ames, Iowa.

A dozen medium Grade AA white eggs averaged 87 cents in retail stores in the South Central U.S., which includes Texas, according to the March 24 U.S. Department of Agriculture National Retail Report. USDA market news reports for the region indicate the egg market is steady, with moderate to good demand.

Eggs were 5-8 cents higher, depending on size, than the previous report, according to the USDA market news report.

Coufal said consumers could expect a price spike around the April 16 holiday.

“People will be making dyed eggs for Easter egg hunts and baking for Sunday lunches and dinners,” he said. “That could mean a slight increase in prices because of demand, but prices should be back to normal soon thereafter.”

AgriLife Extension district reporters compiled the following summaries:

CENTRAL: The district was starting to dry out due to warm weather, high winds and limited amounts of rain. Summer grasses were growing, and wheat and oats were heading out. Also, weeds were being sprayed in many pastures. Field work continued. Fields were in good shape with corn planting finished and grain sorghum planting nearing completion. Cotton planting will start soon. Numerous small grain fields were negatively affected by the warmer-than-normal winter. Barley yellow dwarf virus was prominent in wheat and oat fields. Most counties reported good soil moisture. Overall rangeland and pastures, crops and livestock were in good condition as well.

ROLLING PLAINS: Extreme winds in the district dried the soil profile, but rain was in the forecast. Rain would help wheat fields and pastures going into spring. Some wheat began to head out. With the high winds came increased fire danger. Livestock were in good condition. Spring calving continued.

COASTAL BEND: Conditions were windy and warmer. Fields were dryer, which permitted planting of corn, grain sorghum, cotton and rice. Crops looked good so far. Producers were experiencing a challenge with weed growth due to the rainfall in early March. Pastures were lush, green and thriving. Hay was in abundance. Cattle were in good condition.

EAST: A front moved through the northeastern part of the region bringing rain and strong storms. Marion County reported 1.91 inches and Gregg County reported up to 1.75 inches. Warm temperatures continued to take a toll on ryegrass. Pastures and rangeland conditions were mostly fair to good with only Newton and Shelby counties reporting poor conditions. Excellent conditions were reported in Rusk and Gregg counties. Warm-season forages were making excellent growth. Producers in Gregg County were applying fertilizer as well as herbicides for weed control. Producers in Polk County were planning to make as much early hay as possible while the moisture was good. Hay was harvested in Upshur County. Wood County producers were getting ready to establish warm-season pastures. Subsoil and topsoil were mostly adequate. Land preparation was underway. Farmers were in the process of getting their fields ready. Gardens were being planted or prepared for planting. Cattle prices held steady in Gregg County and were stronger in Houston County. Prices remained about the same in Shelby County. Only Wood County reported supplemental feeding. Spring calving continued with a good crop of calves on the ground. Smith County reported horn flies on cattle. Homeowners were working on home lawns, gardens and preparing for spring weather. June bugs were emerging. Gopher and wild pig control was underway in Upshur County.

SOUTH PLAINS: The district experienced strong winds and blowing dust with peak winds recorded at 54 mph at the Lubbock airport. Afternoon highs were in the 80s with lows in the 40s. Light showers and some pea-sized hail were observed. Subsoil and topsoil moisture levels continued to drop due to dry and windy conditions. Pastures, rangeland and winter wheat needed moisture. Producers were preparing for spring planting.

PANHANDLE: Temperatures were above average. Soil moisture ratings varied from very short to adequate with most reporting short. A good general rain was needed throughout the region. Deaf Smith County producers were preparing for corn and cotton plantings. Fertilizer rigs were running as land preparations were ongoing. Producers were strip tilling or putting down dry fertilizer and watering it in. Producers were running irrigation on winter wheat trying to help it green up. Dryland wheat was in bad shape with no rainfall and little in the forecast. Stocker cattle were grazing many acres of dryland wheat and some irrigated fields as producers try to salvage as much as possible. Hansford County was very warm and windy. Enough rain fell in the southeast part of county to put out a fire. Rangelands needed rain, especially in burned areas. Cattle were supplemented on all rangeland acres.

NORTH: The topsoil and subsoil moisture levels ranged from adequate to short with a few counties reporting surplus. Spring-like temperatures were the norm, and rainfall amounts ranged from 0.25-2 inches in the district. Pastures were starting to green-up, but moisture levels were drying out due to the high temperatures and windy conditions. Wheat fields, rye and clover looked good. Corn started to emerge, and producers were starting to fertilize. Cattle and spring born calves were in good condition. Feral hogs were active and caused damage. Flies were active on livestock and caused some discomfort.

FAR WEST: Temperature highs were in the 90s with lows in the 40s. Precipitation reports averaged 0.5 inches. Damaging winds were reported with gusts of 50 mph that caused damage to crops and made working conditions hazardous. Some cattle were on wheat in a few places across the district. Producers continued to prepare fields for cotton. A good portion of corn was planted, and sorghum will be planted shortly. Wheat was progressing quickly and heading out. Supplemental feeding continued for livestock and wildlife. Lambing and kidding was finishing up. Late-bred goats will be kidding through April. Dry weather continued to degrade pasture and range conditions. Mesquite trees began to bloom.

WEST CENTRAL: Temperatures were warmer than normal with very high winds. Soil moisture continued to dry out. Fire dangers continued to increase. All areas needed rainfall. A few areas reported some strong scattered thunderstorms, but no rain totals. Field work continued to increase as producers prepared fields for spring planting. Producers plowed fields and sprayed for spring weeds. Wheat and oat pastures were mostly in good condition. Most were expected to be grazed out and some baled for hay. Some small grain fields were cut for hay. Some wheat streak mosaic virus and rust were showing up in wheat fields. Rangelands and pastures remained in fair to good condition. Most summer forages were breaking dormancy. Wildflowers were in full bloom with more expected in April. Producers reported an increased number of rattlesnakes under buildings and on the move. Livestock remained in fair to good condition. Some small acreage producers were beginning to see internal parasite problems with sheep and goats. The cattle market was very active, with a large group of buyers on hand. Prickly pear spraying was almost complete. Mature pecan trees finished bud break.

SOUTHEAST: Rains of up to 2 inches halted planting in areas of the district with more precipitation in the forecast. Some other areas did not receive any rain. Rice was planted, and planted rice was irrigated. Livestock were in good condition. Soil moisture levels were holding well and ranged from adequate to surplus. Overall pasture and range conditions were mostly fair but ranged from fair to excellent.

SOUTHWEST: Temperatures were warmer, but subsoil conditions remained adequate. Prior rain allowed warm-season grasses to flourish. Wildflowers began to bloom. Recent warmer conditions allowed field work to resume, and corn and milo planting neared completion. Pastures were doing fair. Spring lambing and kidding continued, and livestock and wildlife were in fair conditions.

SOUTH: Many areas of the district showed signs of spring – green rangeland and pastures and flowers in full bloom. Weather conditions were windy and mild to hot with temperatures reaching the 90s in some areas. Wheat fields were in the heading stage and under irrigation. Potato fields were in full bloom and under irrigation. Corn planting was completed with most fields already emerged. Sorghum planting began and was nearing completion in some areas. Pasture and rangeland conditions were fair to good. Most pastures were green, and native flowers were in bloom. No measurable rainfall was reported. Previous rainfall and warm temperatures helped boost great spring conditions for pastures. Body condition scores on cattle continued to improve with most herds in good condition. Soil moisture conditions ranged from adequate to short with reports of very short topsoil moisture. Cattle sale numbers decreased in some areas, while other areas remained average. Overall, Brooks County cattle prices remained steady. Coastal Bermuda grass was about ready for the first cutting of the season in some areas. In Zavala County, dry conditions forced corn, sorghum, wheat and oat producers to apply irrigation to fields. No supplemental feeding was reported in most areas. Fresh-market spinach production continued. The latest reports indicated some spinach harvesting may continue into late April and early May. Also in Zavala County, onions did well, cabbage harvesting was still active, and pecans reached the bud-break stage. Cotton planting continued in some areas. Harvesting of sugarcane, citrus and vegetables also continued.

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