Texas Forage Production Good Overall Despite Wet Weather, Pests, Weeds

Plentiful rains have been good and bad for hay producers this year, but 2017 looks to be a good production year overall, said a Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service specialist.

Dr. Vanessa Corriher-Olson, AgriLife Extension forage specialist, Overton, said hay producers in East Texas, the region where the majority of the state’s hay production occurs, faced several challenges, but summer rains have provided good conditions for forages late in the season.

Corriher-Olson said summer forages like Bermuda grass got a late start this year because of lower-than-normal temperatures. Grasses broke dormancy later than usual and were slow to get started.

“Some producers reported they didn’t get a first cutting until June or later,” she said. “First cuttings typically start in May.”

Rains have been timely and good for grass production, but they have also caused problems, Corriher-Olson said.

“It was a challenge for some producers to find a window to get hay cut, cured and baled in some areas because of the rain,” she said.

Rainfall also caused widespread weed issues in improved pastures, she said.

“I think producers spent more time and effort on weed control because fields stayed wetter, which allowed unwanted plants to germinate,” she said.

Cooler and wetter weather also created conditions for two common forage pests, armyworms and Bermuda grass stem maggots, to emerge earlier than usual.

“People were surprised how early armyworms came out this year,” she said. “They caught people off guard, but it was also tough for some producers to treat them because they couldn’t get into their fields to spray.”

One producer reported losing an entire cutting to armyworms because he could not access pastures to treat the pest, she said.

Another pest, Bermuda grass stem maggots, also posed more of a problem this year due to rainy conditions and a higher volume of forages, she said.

Despite the issues, Corriher-Olson said most producers have baled two to three cuttings and August rains could likely mean another cutting.

Corriher-Olson said 2017 would likely be a surplus year for hay, but the quality of hay remains in question because most producers focus on the number of bales produced per acre.

“Just because we have a lot of hay doesn’t mean the amount produced will meet their herd’s nutritional requirements,” she said. “So producers should concentrate on producing quality forages rather than the number of bales possible in the future. Focusing on quality can reduce or eliminate the need for supplemental feed.”

AgriLife Extension district summaries can be found here.

Source: Texas AgriLife Extension

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