Northern Arkansas producers counting on fall forage growth were disappointed as yet another rain pattern ignored the area earlier this week, says Robert Seay, Benton County Extension staff chairman for the University of Arkansas.
“We have about three weeks of the normal fall growth period remaining,” says Seay. “The window of opportunity for forage growth to benefit from moisture is closing. Small grain forages are yellowing due to inadequate moisture.”
Producers are feeding already-short hay supplies when the plan was to have cattle on fall forage well into the end of the year.
“Most of my producers did not wait for significant growth on winter annuals before grazing, so this could also be a problem for them down the road,” says Boone County Extension Agent Mike McClintock. “They are desperate to hold on.”
Southwestern Arkansas is suffering the same effects, says Joe Paul Stuart, Little River County Extension staff chairman.
“We got a half inch rain Sunday morning, but need a lot more,” he says. “Wheat and ryegrass are at a standstill and growers may lose some of their stands in the drier, sandy ground.”
As with the northern part of the state, many ponds and creeks are still dry in his area, Stuart says.
Winter forages in the Arkansas River Valley area “need a good drink. Preferably a stiff one,” says Pope County Extension Staff Chair Phil Sims.
Growers may get their wish. The National Weather Service in Little Rock was forecasting a 40% chance of rain this coming Sunday, Nov. 11, increasing to 60% that night.
The freeze that blanketed northern and western counties the last weekend of October also made their mark, says John Jennings, University of Arkansas Extension forage specialist. “A freeze can kill crabgrass forage, rendering it unpalatable for cattle,” he says. “Johnsongrass will have a high risk of prussic acid toxicity until it completely dries down, and bermudagrass and bahiagrass growth will be stopped.”
“If it is a cold, dry winter we could see winterkill of drought-weakened pastures,” he adds.
Rotational grazing is being used by some – to save what little growth they’ve got, points out Seay.
“Some producers are aware of the pattern and are using rotational grazing just to keep some leaf intact, just in case it happens to rain, and the potential for regrowth is better. But heck, this is Arkansas. If the temps remain mild and it starts to rain, who knows?”