No one will argue that the drought of 2011 was anything less than crippling to Texas agriculture. From cotton farmers in the plains to cattle producers from Texarkana to El Paso, crops were decimated, herds were culled and pastures and fields were parched and dried up.

As the summer of 2012 turned the corner into the fall season, global climate conditions began to change from prevailing La Niña conditions, widely blamed as a major contributor to the drought of North America, to El Niño conditions, a global climate condition most often associated with periods of greater rainfall for much of North America. In Texas alone, rainfall accumulations ranging from one inch to as much as 12 inches have helped bring relief from the drought and hope that the winter and spring season may bring better soil moisture and improved growing conditions.

In south and coastal Texas particularly, the possibility for cooler season forage is greater than it has been since the winter of 2010, perhaps earlier, and according to Nueces County Extension Agent Jeffrey Stapper, now is the time for ranchers to plan and even plant for late winter and early spring forage growth.

Stapper writes a weekly column, “Coastal Bend Agriculture Briefs,” and in this week’s issue he talked about winter forage for South Texas pastures, an optimistic look at the return of winter forage to an area parched from the drought over the last two years. 

In the article, Stapper says although cool-season annual forages can be expensive to plant and grow, they can be a less costly substitute for supplements “found in a bale, sack, or tub.” In a recent report, Stapper says several options are available for cool season forage, and all have pros and cons.