Wetter-than-usual weather this spring has set back ryegrass production in most parts of Mississippi in recent months. Early season production of warm-season grasses could be crimped as well, says Rocky Lemus, forage specialist with Mississippi State University. 

 “We had a cold winter, so the ryegrass wasn’t growing well, “ says Lemus. “We lost somewhere around 30% of our grazing potential from January through March. Then, when we got into spring, things turned wet, and producers had a tough time trying to get their animals onto pastures without tearing them up.”

The extremely wet conditions are also keeping producers from haying or making baleage on their ryegrass fields. “By the time things dry out, the ryegrass is going to be very mature in a lot of places. That’s likely to affect quality.”

A delay in bermudagrass and bahiagrass first cuttings is likely in many parts of the state, he adds. “It’s still a little early to tell. With so much wet weather, we might see more weed pressure than we normally do, and we could also see some additional problems with diseases like leaf spot.” Producers should also watch for increases in insect pressure; the bermudagrass stem maggot is one pest to watch for.

Livestock producers have called Lemus in recent weeks, looking to buy hay. “We were in good shape on supplies heading into the winter,” he says. “But with all the cold weather and the lack of grazing this spring, people were feeding up a lot more hay than normal.

“I don’t think we’re facing a shortage. It’s just that a lot of people are starting to look ahead and trying to pre-stack some supply to get ahead of the game for next fall and winter.”

Currently, he reports, round bales of grass hay in the region are selling for $60-80/ton depending on quality.

To contact Lemus, call 662-325-7718 or email rlemus@ext.msstate.edu.