Late-December rains have taken the pressure off scarce hay supplies in parts of East Texas for the time being, reports Aaron Low, agriculture agent for Texas AgriLife Extension in Cherokee County.

“Things are looking better,” says Low, noting that 5-7” of rain fell in the area during the last two weeks of 2011. “A lot of (cattle) producers here planted ryegrass and clover back in late September and October rather than buy hay. Then they had to sit on those plantings without any rain for two months.

“It was a gamble. But now, because of the recent rains, it looks like it’s paid off. If they make use of rotational grazing, some producers will be able to utilize some of these fields through the end of the winter.”

Due to last summer’s crippling, widespread drought, area hay supplies were “pretty much wiped out” as of early fall, says Low. “There just wasn’t any hay to be found all the way into Mississippi and on up through Arkansas.”

That shortage of hay set off extensive culling by beef producers. Cherokee County lost about 50% of its cow herd in 2011, Low estimates. “Out of what’s left, we estimate we could lose another 25-50% if we have another year like last year.”

To contact Low, call 903-683-5416 or email arlow@ag.tamu.edu.