This year’s edition of the South Central Texas Cow Calf Clinic in Brenham featured a lot of optimism and interest in the outlook for beef cattle production in the months ahead — a stark contrast to 2011 when ranchers in Washington County and surrounding areas were devastated by drought conditions.

“When it rains, we all look smart,” said Dr. Jason Cleere, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service beef cattle specialist from College Station, who moderated the event. “There’s quite a bit of difference between last year and this year.”

What’s different is a bumper crop of weeds across parts of Texas, and the trick to fend them off is to get to them early, said Dr. Paul Baumann, AgriLife Extension state weed specialist, College Station.

“From here to Dallas, there are a number of fields you can’t see a sprig of Bermuda because of all of the dove weed,” Baumann said.

When these weeds are at this growth stage, they form an umbrella and not only “are they sucking up water, they are also intercepting sunlight which is critical for Bermuda grass growth.”

Baumann said to keep in mind “for every pound of weeds you control, you gain at least a pound of forage in return. The key is to get the job done early on annual broadleaf weeds. Annual weeds have limited root systems and are easier to control than perennial weeds.”

This is not the best time is to control warm season annual broadleaf weeds, such as doveweed or broomweed. “By the time they have flowered, they have picked your pocket,” he said.

Products such as 2, 4-D and Grazon P+D can provide control. Mechanical shredding is an option, but has to be done early, and expense has to be factored, Baumann said.

“The longer you let weeds compete with forage grass, the longer they are going to detract from forage production,” he said.

For annual weeds, Baumann suggests spraying at 4 to 6 inches in height. “If they get larger, they will require more herbicide and will have detracted more from forage production,” he said.

Mechanical shredding will only get a top kill on perennial weeds, Baumann said.

Herbicides are much more effective on perennial weeds such as silverleaf nightshade or Carolina horsenettle.