For the first time in a while, not a single county in Texas is in Extreme or Exceptional Drought conditions (according to the latest US Drought Monitor). All of this extra rainfall has been appreciated but has also been cursed by many crop and hay producers. So what does all this rainfall mean for our forages?
- Weeds have matured and multiplied due to inability to spray at appropriate times. Once fields are accessible and there is a window of opportunity be prepared to control weeds whether mechanically or chemically. If using herbicides, some weeds may require a higher labeled rate for control since they are larger and/or fully mature. If annual weeds have already fully matured, use of a herbicide will not be effective long term since seeds may have already been produced and dropped. Be prepared next year to control those populations early. As always the label is the law. Read herbicide labels before using products. Pay attention to rain fast times to make sure you have a window of opportunity that will not be wasteful of your resources. 2014 Suggestion for Weed Control in Pastures and Forages ESC-024
- The first hay cutting may still be standing in the field. Some locations may still have volunteer annual ryegrass that has not yet been harvested due to rainfall events. Even mature annual ryegrass will retain some nutritive value. Harvest as soon as weather conditions allow opening of the canopy for bermudagrass. Be mindful that once you have cut the hay if the soil is still wet it will take longer for hay to cure/dry. How quickly forage dries depends on humidity, temperature, wind speed, and solar radiation. As long as forage moisture content is above 40 percent, hay will continue to respire, leaving less energy for the livestock that ultimately consumes the hay. It is better to wait for good curing conditions than to take a chance that rain will fall on mowed hay. Once baled protect your investment by storing hay in a barn. If barn storage is not an option consider hay tarps and/or make sure bales are stored off the ground, on a well-drained slope, in rows with the flat ends of the bales together to minimize exposure to the elements. The rows should run north and south to maximize east-west sun exposure to help dry them after rains. Hay Production in Texas
- Fertilize and apply limestone according to soil test recommendations once fields are dry enough to allow for heavy equipment to pass.
- Scout for fall armyworms. Fall armyworms can cause heavy forage losses, especially in highly managed bermudagrass hay fields. Have sprayers ready: cleaned, repaired and calibrated. Failure to detect and treat a developing fall armyworm infestation in a timely manner can result in a loss of a cutting of hay or loss of valuable grazing. Treatment is recommended when 3-4 or more larvae are found per square foot and leaf feeding is evident. Outbreaks often occur in late summer and fall and follow periods of rain, which create favorable conditions for eggs and small larvae to survive.