Texas pastures, ranges lacking rainfall

Cotton, corn, sunflower and soybeans planting went into high gear for Texas farmers this week. Some are irrigating and others hoping for rain to germinate the seed, according to Texas Cooperative Extension reports.

But the state’s pastures and ranges - at the whim of nature - are either bone dry or heading in that direction, Extension sources said.

“Pastures and ranges are in poor condition,” said Jett Major, district Extension administrator in Lubbock. “A good general rainfall is needed for more range recovery.”

“All counties are desperate for significant rainfall as the range and pasture conditions continue to decline,” added Galen Chandler, district Extension administrator in Vernon.

In the Dallas area, the normally wet month of May received very little rainfall, according to Tony Douglas, district Extension administrator there.

“Early season hay yields are low, and pastures are suffering because of the dry weather,” Douglas said. “Ranchers are baling hay at a frantic pace, trying to harvest forage while they have it.”

Very little growth was seen on ranges and pastures in Texas’ West Central region this week, according to Scott Durham, district Extension administrator in San Angelo. Ranges and pastures in that area are “declining and continuing to dry up,” he said.

Unseasonable is an understatement for weather in the Southwest, according to Jose Pena, Extension economist in Uvalde.

“The region missed spring. Most pastures and ranges remain brown, as if in mid-winter dormancy,” he said. “Lawn grasses survive only with frequent irrigations, but most have been lost to the very dry period.”

Extension officials around the state reported these conditions for the past week:

PANHANDLE: Temperatures were 10 degrees to 20 degrees above average. Isolated thunderstorms occurred, though only trace amounts of rain were reported. Soil moisture is mostly very short to adequate. Corn stands are fair to good. Spider mites and western corn rootworms were reported in a few fields. Cotton is about 75 percent planted, and stands are poor to good. Thrips are a problem in many fields. Peanuts are about 75 percent planted, and stands are mostly fair. Sorghum is about 35 percent planted with mostly fair stands. Soybeans and sunflowers planting continued. Wheat harvest got under way, but the crop was mostly poor to very poor. Range conditions were mostly poor to very poor. Cattle were in fair- to -good condition. Supplemental feeding was required in many areas.

SOUTH PLAINS: Hot, dry, windy weather decreased soil moisture at a rapid pace. Average daily highs hovered around 100 degrees. Soil moisture was very short to short. Corn was in fair to good condition. Cotton planting was winding down. Many of the dryland acres did not have enough moisture to germinate the crop. Peanut and sorghum planting continued. Livestock conditions were mostly fair to good with limited supplemental feeding.

ROLLING PLAINS: Hot and dry conditions were the norm. Windy conditions severely dried out grasses and soil moisture. The wheat harvest continued and was about 60 percent complete in most of the 24 counties. In Wilbarger County, cotton planting progressed well, but fields were in need of rain. Subsoil moisture was lacking in the top 4-6 inches, and newly planted seed germination slowed. In Dickens County, early planted cotton fields looked good. Most of the livestock were in fair to good body condition.

NORTH: Soil moisture ranged from very short to adequate, and crops and pastures were in poor to good condition. Crops were beginning to show signs of stress due to the extreme dryness and heat. Cornfields started tassling. From 25 percent to 60 percent of oats were harvested. Wheat harvest began, but yields were far below average due to the drought. Livestock were in good condition, but lack of water was a rising concern for a lot of livestock producers.

EAST: Very dry conditions prevailed. Grasses and pastures showed signs of stress due to lack of rain and high daytime temperatures. Hay harvest continued but pastures and meadows that have been cut were not showing a lot of growth. Cattle were in fair to good condition. Damage caused by hail in mid-May showed on fruit and tomato crops.

FAR WEST: Soil moisture was very short to adequate, and ranges and pastures were in very poor to good condition. Cotton was in fair to good condition, and 25 percent to 85 percent planted. Winter wheat was in very poor to poor condition and about 60 percent harvested. Sorghum was about 60 percent planted. Overall conditions were very hot and dry with widely scattered showers.

WEST CENTRAL: Temperatures remained above average, staying in the upper 90’s with no rainfall reported. Topsoil moisture was poor due to high, hot, dry winds all week. Most small grain fields were grazed out or baled. Cotton fields were being prepared for planting. A few producers began cotton planting. Heat took its toll on sorghum, haygrazers, and some coastal Bermuda fields. Livestock remained in fair to good condition. Body condition improved for those on native and improved pastures. Some spraying of pecan trees for case-bearers continued.

CENTRAL: Pastures were in serious need of rain for forage production. Producers are bailing hay with yields below average. The corn crop is suffering due to dry weather. Short water supplies raised concern for many livestock producers.

SOUTHEAST: Report not available.

SOUTHWEST: Scattered showers deposited about one-half to three-quarters of an inch of much needed rainfall in a narrow belt through the Hill Country to San Antonio, but the region, in general, remains very dry. Near record high temperatures, accompanied by strong southerly wind aggravated the dry spell. Ranchers thinned their herds and provided heavy supplementation to remaining livestock. Harvesting green beans, potatoes and onions continued. Corn, sorghum, cotton, peanuts, pecans, cantaloupes and watermelons made good progress under heavy irrigation. Crops under dryland conditions made no progress.

COASTAL BEND: Extreme drought and heat continues. Some rainfall was received, but a lot more is needed. Supplemental feeding of cattle and herd thinning continued. A few irrigated pastures were ready for the first cutting.

SOUTH: Soil moisture conditions were very short. Watermelon as well as cotton and corn crops did well under heavy irrigation, but growers want rain to help reduce the irrigation cost to maintain these and other vegetable crops. Melon and onion harvest continued. The liquidation of beef cattle herds continued.

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