While drought conditions in Texas continue at some level in many areas across the state, cattle producers are finding more and better quality hay is available than in recent times.

In fact, if early hay cutting reports are any indication, it could be an exceptionally good year for baled hay, especially in the eastern half of Texas.

"This year is a lot better than in 2011," says Don Beavers, a rancher near Bryan-College Station. "People were bringing in hay from North and South Dakota. We haven't had any difficulty this year."

With the first hay harvest of the season underway across large areas of East, Central, and Coastal Texas, the availability of hay is equal to the current demand, and quality is better than it has been in many years.

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"At this time of the year this is probably the nicest June we've had this century,"

reports Randy Britten, a Coastal Bermuda producer in Brazos County.

Britten, who has been producing Coastal Bermuda since 1970, says recently cut hay is almost ready for baling, but he warns buyers may want to stock up on hay bales while it is available.

"Nobody knows what the weather will be like later this summer," he said.

Britten, Beavers and others attribute the good crop of grasses and abundant early cutting this year on late season rains last year and substantial rains so far in 2014. While East Texas fared better in the drought in recent years than most places across the state, 2011 was “a disaster.”

The drought and blistering triple-digit heat in Texas left pastures and grazing lands brown and crispy, forcing ranchers to cull their herds to a bare minimum. While most de-stocked by as much as 50 percent, others cut even further with a few selling off all their stock, resulting in the smallest U.S. herd since the 1950s, a development that forced beef prices higher.