A week into "official" summer and many livestock producers are already worrying about hay supplies, according to Texas AgriLife Extension Service personnel.
As is often the case, whether yields are average or the situation is dire depends upon to whom one talks. The situation varied county-to-county or even from one part of a county to another. But generally, there were more shortages in parts of east, north and central Texas.
Darick Chabot, AgriLife Extension agent for Hamilton County, south of Dallas, said hay in the southern part of that county was doing alright as far as he was concerned, but in the northern part, things were dry and hay was short.
"In the southern part of the county, they've had plenty of rain, and most of those boys have got a cutting put up, and they're working on a second cutting," Chabot said.
The overall situation could be termed "average" if one looked at the Stephenville-area counties, he said. But average is a relative term. Where he lives, in northern Hamilton County, hay was "very sparse," he said.
"The thunderstorms have been very spotty," Chabot said. "In Comanche County, they're in great shape. In Somervell County, they're worse off than we are."
Chuck Jones, AgriLife Extension agent for Grayson County, north of Dallas, said his area remains on the intermediate stages of a drought.
"That's what's happening to our hay (and forage); we're just not getting any rain," Jones said.
Earlier in the year, the situation looked good. Despite a slow start because of wet weather, producers in his county made their first cutting.
"Things were well on the way to where they should be," Jones said. "But right now, they're not expecting a second or third cutting. A lot of producers in the area are already starting to feed hay."
Rick Hirsch, AgriLife Extension agent for Henderson County, west of Tyler, said "We have the lowest carryover that I've seen in 20 years."
Hirsch said producers in his county missed the first cutting—first to wet, cool weather that delayed growth, then a nearly bone-dry May.
"We are behind. We basically missed our first cutting. What should be our second cutting, they're harvesting right now, and yields are 50 percent to 75 percent of normal."
Recent rains greened pastures up, but a few producers have had to start feeding hay. Only part of the problem stems from this year's unfavorable spring weather. Last year, many producers in Henderson County and other parts of East Texas sold large parts of what they thought were surplus hay stocks to South Texas, which was then drought-stricken, Hirsch said. However, a cold winter meant East Texas producers had to feed more hay than normal.
"If we get some rain, things could normalize," Hirsch said. "However, there are no carryover stocks from last year. Most of the barns are still empty."
Other parts of the state fared better. Pastures and rangeland were in excellent shape in the Rolling Plains, fair to good in the South Plains and slightly above average in the Southwest part of the state.