Sunshine and No Rain Have Texas Producers Working Full Speed Ahead

Hay production in East Texas kicked into high gear last week as multiple days of sun dried out fields and provided a window of opportunity for cutting, raking and baling.

Dr. Vanessa Corriher-Olson, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service forage specialist, Overton, said there was a boon in activity last week following a month of delays for most producers in East Texas due to rain, cooler temperatures and soggy fields.

It was the spring’s first cutting for many producers around the region, she said. The first cut is considered a “clean-up,” when voluntary ryegrass and weeds are cleared from hay meadows to allow promotion of Bermuda grass. Bermuda grass and other preferred forages take water, fertilizers and ridding the meadow of competition for water and nitrogen, such as weeds.

Producers should fertilize according to soil test recommendations to maximize a meadow’s potential, she said. Herbicides can also be an effective method of treating weeds and other unwanted grasses.

“A lot of factors can impact production and number of cuttings,” Corriher-Olson said. “But decreasing weed populations and following soil test recommendations for fertilization are key. You have to have timely rains as well but that’s up to Mother Nature.”

Irrigation capability can boost grass growth in some parts of the state but it’s not prevalent among producers in East Texas, she said.

Producers want quantity but they also want quality in forages, Corriher-Olson said. More volume can be good for producers, but she said there is a balance because it is important for hay to meet livestock nutrient needs when producing or purchasing it.

Steps can be taken to provide Bermuda grass the opportunity to grow at an optimal rate and quality is based on many of the same factors, she said. But the biggest influence on quality is when producers cut the hay.

“Plants mature and then the quality starts going down,” she said. “It’s a balance. A producer might want more hay so they let it continue to grow but in the meantime they’re losing quality,” Corriher-Olson said.

“Most producers cut Bermuda grass at 12-15 inches tall, she said. But other forages are different, so it’s important to research the best time to cut other grasses.”

The summer sun and heat will slow growth without timely rains but it’s typically four weeks between cuttings if everything falls in place for producers, Corriher-Olson said.

“We’re a month behind the typical year,” she said. “Most producers should be making their second cutting right now, a better quality cutting, before temperatures get higher and grasses are slowed by excessive heat.”

AgriLife Extension district summaries can be found here.

Source: Texas AgriLife Extension

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