Cold weather slows pasture growth; west dries out

Producers in most parts of the state needed drier conditions while the Panhandle and Far West districts needed more moisture for pastures and small grains, according to Texas AgriLife Extension Service personnel.

Colder weather slowed growth of winter pastures and wheat, forcing livestock producers to increase supplemental feeding.

"Weather conditions remained wet and cold during the week," said Joe Janak, AgriLife Extension agent for Victoria County , southeast of San Antonio. "Haying of cattle is a must and still in relatively short supply. Up to 1 inch of rain fell this week, and while soils are very, very saturated, there was no flooding."

"Soil moisture levels remain in great shape after numerous rain events moved through the area over the last few weeks," said Lee Dudley, AgriLife Extension agent for Panola County , southeast of Longview. "Winter forages are doing better now that we have had close to a week of sunshine with more sun expected the rest of the week."

"This week has been cold but dry, which is good as we need some time to dry out after all of the rain we have received in October and November," said Rick Maxwell, AgriLife Extension agent for Collin County , northeast of Dallas. "Our wheat and oats and winter pastures are not doing well. The dry weather will help."

"Conditions continue to decline as lack of rainfall and cooler conditions have slowed the growth of cool-season forage," said Robert Pritz, AgriLife Extension agent for Taylor County , south of Abilene. "Supplemental feeding for livestock has continued to increase. Small-grain planting is being finalized."

"The cotton harvest is almost complete; a few fields have already been plowed and are being prepared for spring," said Janna Smith, AgriLife Extension agent for Dickens County , east of Lubbock. "Livestock supplemental feeding is ongoing as pastures are short. Wheat and oat fields are needing a good rain. Seeing lots of feral hogs."

"The wheat crop is struggling with no rain or snow," said Rick Auckerman, AgriLife Extension agent for Deaf Smith County , southwest of Amarillo. "The crop is being irrigated to increase forage for the stocker cattle that are being brought in daily. Heavily grazed fields are beginning to show signs of stress and overgrazing so the cattle are being moved around and shipped in some cases due to lack of feedstuffs."

The following summaries were compiled by AgriLife Extension district reporters:

CENTRAL: Livestock producers increased supplemental feeding as winter weather set in. Producers who were prevented from planting wheat were planting with oats. Hay was in short supply. There were a few reports of greenbugs in later-planted wheat but the counts were very low. Some counties still had wet soils making it difficult for farmers and ranchers to do field work.

COASTAL BEND: Very wet and cool conditions persisted, bringing all fieldwork to a standstill. There has been difficulty in places just hauling hay and feeding cattle. However, cool-season grasses looked good. Most cattle remained in good condition, and producers continued to provide supplemental feeding. Hay was still in relatively short supply. The pecan harvest slowed.

EAST: Colder weather brought the first frosts of the season in many areas. Producers in most counties could not do fieldwork because of wet soils. Winter forages were recovering from the cold, wet weather. Producers began to feed hay; some had to increase supplemental feeding. Livestock were in fair to good condition. The pecan harvest was completed. Feral hogs continued to damage crops and fields.

FAR WEST: The days were windy and soil-moisture levels, pastures and rangelands quickly deteriorated. Pastures were dry and area ranchers needed a heavy rain. With few exceptions, all of the cotton has been baled. Yields were better than average. The pecan harvest was finished.

NORTH: The weather was cold and drier, which helped dry out wet fields. Pastures were still wet and muddy. It was estimated that only 30 percent to 40 percent of the total acres for small grains were planted this fall because of the wet weather. What wheat, oats and winter pastures that were planted were not doing well, but the drier weather was expected to help the crops improve. Most of the acres not planted will be planted to corn or grain sorghum in the spring. The cotton harvest was 60 percent or more complete. Strawberries were being planted. Livestock were in fair to good condition and producers have been providing supplemental feed because of the weather. It is hoped that hay supplies will hold out through the winter. Insect and pest reports slowed, but feral hogs continued to be a major problem.

PANHANDLE: Dry conditions continued with the danger of wildfire increasing daily. Harvest activities were winding down. The cotton harvest was nearly complete. Average yields and low quality lint made for a poor return for producers. The wheat crop was struggling with no moisture. Early grazed wheat fields showed signs of stress from lack of moisture and over-grazing. Producers were irrigating some wheat fields to increase forage for stocker cattle. Rangeland cattle continued to receive supplemental feed.

ROLLING PLAINS: The weather remained mild with no reported moisture, but rangeland and pasture conditions held steady. The cotton harvest was nearly complete; a few fields were already plowed under, and producers were preparing for spring planting. Parts of the district had good cotton yields; other parts had decreased yields or none at all. All wheat acres were finally planted with the possible exception of a few acres going in behind some cotton. Most all wheat was up except for the most recently sown wheat, which could use a shower as the topsoils have dried out. Most wheat crops were used for grazing. Green bugs were reported but not too active yet because of cool temperatures. Wheat leaf rust worsened in several fields but was not at the economic threshold to require spraying. Livestock were in fair condition, and producers were supplying supplemental feed. Stock water supplies were excellent while hay supplies were rapidly dwindling.

SOUTH: Rangeland and pasture conditions were poor due to an earlier hard freeze. Cold temperatures kept perennial grasses dormant and increased winter weed growth. Soil moisture levels were good to above normal. Livestock tanks were not quite topped out but were filling as the rain continues. Field activity has been at a standstill in the eastern parts of the region due to continued rain. Livestock producers increased supplemental feeding. Hay was in good supply with prices stable at about $50 per round bale. Growers were actively harvesting cabbage and spinach in the western parts of the region. Wheat and oats progressed from fair to good condition because of light rains and cool temperatures. Most field operations in the southern part of the region were at a halt because of wet conditions. Tomato harvesting continued in some areas despite wet conditions.

SOUTH PLAINS: Temperatures ranged from highs in the upper 40s to mid-60s and mid-30s for the low. Soil moisture was short to adequate. The cotton harvest neared completion thanks to favorable weather. Winter wheat continued to mature. Pastures and rangeland were in fair condition. Cool-season grasses needed more rain. Livestock were in mostly fair to good condition with producers continuing supplemental feeding.

SOUTHEAST: Parts of the region received about 1 inch of rain followed by freezing temperatures. Topsoil was saturated in some areas. Damage to trees from a previous hard freeze became evident. Bermuda grass went dormant. Winter annual grass growth was good thanks to plentiful soil moisture. Winter pastures responded quickly to sunshine later in the reporting period. Pastures continued to be short in some places from overstocking. Producers have not been able to prepare land for spring planting because of wet conditions. Livestock were doing well considering the weather and forage shortages.

SOUTHWEST: Excellent moisture conditions and cool weather improved winter vegetable development. However, higher humidity levels and low light because of clouds and fog slowed growth and increased disease problems. Stemphylium leaf blight of spinach and lettuce drop disease has shown up in some fields. Wet fields have delayed harvests. The pecan harvest was completed. Yields and quality were high, but markets were down. The lettuce, cabbage and spinach harvests were ongoing with some harvest interruptions because of wet fields. Land preparation is under way for next year's potato crop. Planting was expected to begin after Christmas.

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