Cold, dry weather is suppressing winter pasture growth and stressing cattle, reported Texas AgriLife Extension Service agents and specialists throughout much of the state.
"We've had some rain, but we need more to see good winter pasture growth," said Rick Hirsch, AgriLife Extension agent for Henderson County. "Ryegrass pastures are not looking very good, said Clint Perkins, AgriLife Extension agent for Wood County. "Producers are concerned about grazing, and fertilizer prices are high. It has producers worried about spring and summer. I imagine many producers will be cutting back if price does not come down."
"Winter pastures continue to struggle," said Kenny Rollins, AgriLife Extension agent for Titus County.
Southeast Texas did receive some heavy rains, but the region's winter annuals were short and not ready to yet to be grazed.
The cold weather and lack of winter grazing are causing beef producers to cut into hay reserves and feed livestock supplements at a high rate.
The following condition reports are from AgriLife Extension agents and officials from throughout the state:
CENTRAL: Moisture was short throughout the region with little grazing for cattle and wildlife left. Producers were providing supplemental feed and hay. Some counties are under a burn ban.
COASTAL BEND: Small amounts of rainfall were reported. However, much more is needed prior to planting season. Ryegrass and clovers are doing well. Plenty of hay was available, and producers continued to give supplemental feed to livestock due to lack of good grazing.
EAST: Cool to cold temperatures with light rainfall and sunny days were reported. Many counties noted that winter pasture growth continued to be retarded by low moisture and temperatures. However, other counties reported that winter pastures have active new growth due to recent rainfall. Heavy supplemental feeding of cattle continued. Hay supplies remained excellent, but consumption is very high, which means there's not likely to be as great a surplus of hay as anticipated. Corn toxicity and grass tetany were reported in Henderson County. Reports of feral hog damage continued to come in from Trinity County.
NORTH: Soil moisture was adequate to short. Weather conditions were dry and cold with temperatures in the 30s and 40s F. Rain was needed for small grain fields. The cotton harvest was completed, and the pecan harvest was nearly over. Wheat was in fair to good condition and continued to progress. Most winter pastures were looking good, though they were struggling from lack of moisture, grazing conditions were not yet critical. Some standing forage remained, but there was little volunteer ryegrass. Supplemental feeding of cattle continued. County officials have instituted a burn ban. Range and pasture conditions were rated fair.
ROLLING PLAINS: Dry conditions continued to affect crops and livestock throughout the region. Wildfire danger remained high. A few small grass fires were reported. Rain was needed in all counties. Producers continued to provide cattle supplemental feed. Greenbugs were becoming a problem. There was no pattern to the greenbug damage except that earlier-planted wheat was generally favored over later-planted fields. Beneficial insects were almost non-existent except for a few ladybugs, damsel bugs and parasitic aphids. Water tanks were getting very low. Livestock producers were supplementing with hay because of lack of grazing; very little winter grass could be seen.
SOUTH: Soil moisture conditions continued to be dry to very dry. These drought-like conditions have stressed wheat, oat and ryegrass. Landowners in the western parts of the region received about 0.5 inch of rain as cold fronts moved through. The cold fronts slightly damaged tomato fields, but the majority of tomatoes remained on the vine. Spinach harvesting was active. Producers were heavily irrigating onions, carrots and cabbage. Supplemental feeding of livestock continued.
SOUTH PLAINS: Weather remained dry and cold this week, with lows in the teens on several nights. Many area cotton gins were 20 to 30 days from finishing the crop. Field preparation for the 2008 crop is under way with producers doing some shredding of stalks and listing. Winter wheat was in poor to fair condition. Some irrigated fields were all right, but rain would still be welcomed. Dryland fields, however, were in desperate need of rain. Pastures and ranges are in poor to fair condition. The frequent cold fronts and cold nighttime temperatures have increased livestock stress and caused producers to supply supplemental feed.
SOUTHEAST: Two inches of rain were received with cold temperatures. There were many wildfires reported in grass pastures before the rain. Winter annuals were short and not ready to be grazed. Producers were feeding hay at high rates. Some heavy rains were recorded, with one county receiving 4 to 6 inches, which shut down field preparation work for a good while. Hay feeding activity was heavy. High feed, fertilizer and fuel costs are big concerns among crop and livestock producers.
SOUTHWEST: A light drizzle fell over the weekend, which helped reduce the danger of roadside wildfires. Otherwise the region remained very dry with less than 45 percent of the long-term cumulative rainfall since Aug. 1. Subsoil moisture is very low. The region will need above-average early spring rain to sustain crops planted under dryland conditions. Farmers were heavily irrigating. The cabbage and spinach harvests continued. The cold spell since mid-December, some early morning freezing temperatures and heavy overcast skies slowed almost all growth. Forage availability is below average as grasses have entered mid-winter dormancy. Onions appear to be showing some recovery from the mid-December hard freeze.
WEST CENTRAL: Temperatures were in the mid 20s to the 40s F, with no moisture reported. Conditions remained extremely dry. The cotton harvest continued. Small grain crops have emerged but need moisture for continued growth. Some field preparations were under way for spring planting of hay crops. Stock tanks were drying up. Supplemental feeding of livestock was on the rise. Livestock remained in good condition. The pecan harvest neared completion.