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Agriculture Today

Expert: East, Central producers with hay will likely hold onto it

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August 8, 2012 | 3,571 views | Post a comment

By Robert Burns

In 2011, Midwestern producers were shipping hay to Texas as the state faced unprecedented drought and forage shortages, but don’t count on East Texas to return the favor this year as the Midwest undergoes its own drought, said a Texas AgriLife Extension Service expert.

Though it’s possible some East Texas producers could ship hay north, it might not happen for a number of reasons, said Dr. Vanessa Corriher, AgriLife Extension forage specialist.

“Anything is possible, but I’m not sure (East) Texans will be comfortable doing that even with the rain we had this year,” Corriher said. “I think we’re just running a little scared.”

Thanks to timely rains, much of East and North Texas had reasonably good hay production in 2012, she said.

As of July 24, about 30 East Texas counties comprised the only part of Texas not rated in either extremely dry or in one stage of drought or another, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. Early Drought Monitor reports show better moisture conditions for Central Texas. Associated with the better conditions were some good hay yields, according to Corriher.

But though hay stocks are up, prices high -- ranging from $60 to $100 per bale -- and stocking rates down in parts of the state, Corriher said she expected most producers east of Interstate 45 to be cautious and hold on to what they have.

“A lot of our producers, whether they had livestock or were strictly into hay production, depleted a lot of their stocks last year,” she said. “I think the attitude this year has been to rebuild those stocks -- to refill those barns they emptied last year -- and try to prepare themselves for winter feeding. And there’s always the potential for another extended drought in Texas.”

AgriLife Extension district reporters compiled the following summaries:

AgriLife Extension district reporters for the Southwest District, including Wilson, Gonzales, Guadalupe, and Bexar counties, reported recent rains improved sorghum-sudan stands and allowed producers to cut hay. Some producers were taking a second cutting and reported good yields though lower quality than with the first cutting. The corn and grain sorghum harvests to continue with the warm weather. Cotton was making good progress. Irrigators with shallow wells reported water shortages.

AgriLife Extension district reporters for the Coastal Bend District, including Karnes County, reported that there were no significant rains, and temperatures were above normal. There was a great difference in conditions between the northern and southern parts of the district. In the northern part of the region, producers were harvesting grain sorghum and corn, and reporting outstanding yields. Pecan trees were loaded with nuts, and some growers reported loads so heavy that limbs were beginning to break. The red-grape harvest ended with yields topping out at over 4.5 tons per acre. Conditions were ideal for making hay, and some producers were taking second and third cuttings. But in the southern part of the district, 80 to 90 percent of corn and grain sorghum were zeroed-out by insurance adjusters. Many cotton producers were shredding fields instead of harvesting. If they did harvest, they reported poor yields. The area desperately needed rain to improve deep soil moisture. Without runoff, stock tanks remained very low or dry. Livestock producers were already feeding hay in areas that had yet to recover from the 2011 drought. Many trees were lost due to drought stress.

Robert Burns has nearly 30 years’ experience writing about agriculture and agricultural-related research. He writes about Texas AgriLife Research and Texas AgriLife Extension Service activities at the Overton Center and centers in Stephenville and Temple.

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