It’s been an autumn where “no” has been heard a few too many times by Arkansas cattle ranchers.
“No rain. No snow. No grass. No hay,” says Mike McClintock, University of Arkansas (UA) Extension ag agent for Boone County. “If most of them put a pencil to what they have spent, they would sell out. It's just plain tough on them.”
Relatively mild temperatures have helped ease some problems, adds Don Hubbell, director of the Livestock and Forestry Station in Batesville. “The warmer weather is helping with energy needs. But, like always, as soon as it gets another 10º colder, it will double hay feeding for most herds.”
Cattle producers had been pinning their hopes on a moist autumn to breathe life into the last of the summer’s bermudagrass and kick-start cool-season grasses and other fall and winter forages. But more than 81% of the state was still in drought, according to the Nov. 20 U.S. Drought Monitor map.
“Due to dry weather and frosts, forage growth has basically stalled,” says UA Extension forage specialist John Jennings. “Some who planted annuals and brassicas early and protected the forages from armyworms have fall growth to graze now.”
Finding hay, though, is still a problem for many. So are transportation costs to move hay from areas that do have it, Jennings says.
Many producers are still asking about planting ryegrass, but this late in the season, “the only seed still available is Gulf ryegrass, and its cold tolerance is too low for a reliable establishment planted this late – except in far-south Arkansas.”