Despite record low hay inventories in Texas in 2023, prospects for higher yields this hay season are being fueled by heavy rainfall across major production regions of Texas, according to Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service experts.

Central, South Central and East Texas hay production regions have received double-digit rainfall amounts in some areas. Coupled with warmer nighttime temperatures, these conditions have helped spark growth of warm-season forages used in hay production.

The prospects are welcomed considering national hay inventories last summer hit their lowest levels nationally since 1974 when U.S. Department of Agriculture-National Agricultural Statistics Service began tracking data. Drought throughout Texas exacerbated the problem.

“We still have hay shortages from last year,” said Vanessa Corriher-Olson, Ph.D., AgriLife Extension state forage specialist, Overton. “Parts of Central and East Texas have had excellent rainfall this fall and spring. Ryegrass and clovers have done well. I’ve talked to some folks who are harvesting the ryegrass for hay. The challenge, of course, is to continue to get rainfall.”

Input costs

Fertilizer prices have been a thorn in the side for many producers after experiencing record prices over the past year. However, those price concerns have been somewhat eased as ammonium nitrate has scaled back to $530 a ton and ammonium sulfate, $490 a ton. Those prices are 20% to 30% less compared to levels seen two years ago.

Despite higher fertilizer costs, that hasn’t prohibited producers from continuing to fertilize hay meadows.

A round bale of hay sitting in a field. There is a tractor next to it and then sun is starting to set
Despite record low hay inventories in Texas in 2023, prospects for higher yields this hay season are being fueled by heavy rainfall across major production regions of Texas, according to Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service experts. (Texas A&M AgriLife)

“I’m hearing more folks continuing to fertilize because they want or need the production rather than being more concerned about costs,” Corriher-Olson said. “We always recommend getting a soil test.”

In 2023, harvested hay acres in Texas was 4.6 million, up from 4.1 million acres in 2022. However, harvest numbers were considerably lower compared to 5.8 million harvested acres in 2021 and 5 million acres in 2020.

High hay prices

With those lower inventories of the past few years, hay prices have escalated. 

“The cost of everything to produce hay has gone up, and I don’t anticipate they will come down,” Corriher-Olson said. “Most producers sell hay on a per-bale basis. Costs will remain high to produce hay and hay prices are expected to remain high due to everyone being short on hay. If we have drought again this summer, that will only exacerbate prices.”

Round bale prices vary between $95 a bale and $120 bale, Corriher-Olson said.

“The Coastal (Bermuda grass) is looking really good, we’re just hoping this rain doesn’t cut off,” said Truman Lamb, AgriLife Extension agent, Anderson County. “I’ve talked to two or three producers who say they have really good Coastal stands and will be ready to start cutting in about two to three weeks.”

Producers who have cut ryegrass and other cool-season forages are seeing yields of two bales to the acre and up to two-and-a-half bales to the acre.

Silage bales weighed 1,700 pounds with 50% moisture and 850 pounds of dry matter. 

Lamb said more producers are collecting soil samples to ensure they are getting the most return from fertilizer applications.

“A lot of them are getting closer to soil recommendations and that can be attributed to fertilizer prices,” Lamb said. 

Overall, the spring season is setting up favorable prospects for hay production this year.

“We’re excited to get this first round of real hay baled, get some moisture and do it again,” Lamb said.

AgriLife Extension district reporters compiled the following summaries:


A map of the state of Texas divided into the 12 AgriLife Extension districts.

The region reported rainfall ranging from half an inch to 10 inches with some counties needing runoff to fill tanks and lakes. In other areas, excessive flooding was seen as numerous rivers and creeks flooded and closed many roads. Hail damage was also reported. Pastures were extremely wet and muddy, but the soil moisture was better than it has been in the past year or more. The light showers improved native pastures with Bermuda grass growing well. Wheat and oats were nearly grazed out and fieldwork was halted due to the rain. Many crops were receiving too much water, which hindered growth. Overall, crop conditions were good. Corn and sorghum looked great, but wind and rain caused some wheat and oats to lay down. Some cotton planting was delayed, but what was already planted was off to a strong start as long as it didn’t get drowned out. Winter wheat was ripening and growing closer to harvest. Hessian fly infestations in wheat didn’t develop, and its absence was attributed to parasitism. Livestock were in good condition with cattle reported to have good body condition. Market conditions looked great.


The region received an abundance of rain last week, with reports of heavy hail in some areas. The wheat crop looked promising but select varieties in a few areas were reporting some fungal disease. Producers were preparing fields for cotton planting, but most were waiting until the ground dried out. Natural drinking sources for livestock were full or overflowing and native pasture grasses were in great shape for this time of year. Cattle benefited from the favorable circumstances and were in excellent condition. 


Recent rainfall in the western part of Nueces County and widespread rains last week have improved crop conditions overall, particularly for corn and sorghum. However, further rainfall was necessary to sustain crops. Dry conditions persisted while cotton faced thrips infestations, prompting producers to apply insecticides and herbicides as needed. Corn conditions were good, with approximately a third of the crop in the silk stage and about half of the rice crop has been flooded. More rain will be needed, especially for irrigated crops like corn. Range and pasture conditions were steady with good possibilities expected early next week. Rice planting was complete, and livestock were faring well, however, hay fields required more moisture for forage production.


The heavy amounts of rainfall have both benefited and hindered our region. The rainfall has been good to keep stock ponds, creeks and lakes full, but producers and landowners have had to slow down or stop fertilizing and baling for now. Flooding has been a problem with livestock being moved to higher ground and people being evacuated in some areas of Houston County. Some ponds lost their dams due to heavy rain in Anderson County. Pasture and rangeland conditions were fair to good with subsoil and topsoil conditions being reported as adequate. Feral hog activity has increased with damage being reported. Livestock were in fair to good condition and cattle markets remained strong.


The region received scattered showers throughout the South Plains with temperatures ranging from the 70’s to the 90’s. Producers were planting or preparing to plant corn, sorghum and cotton, and some of the early planted corn was starting to emerge. Wheat was being cut and hauled to local dairies, with feedlots and hay being baled when weather conditions allowed for proper dry down. There was tillage in fields where leftover stubble from last year’s sorghum or cotton was being removed for this season’s planting. Cattle continued to be in good condition as warm-season grasses were growing. 


Weather conditions were mostly favorable to planting operations and there were opportunities for field preparation close to planting time. The pace of planting warm-season crops increased significantly last week with gentle showers helping with growing and maturing cool- and warm-season crops. However, soil moisture reserves have decreased, especially on days with increased wind, which elevated evaporative water loss from the soil surface. Corn has emerged and cotton planting was in full swing and will continue over the next two weeks. Winter wheat production ranged from poor to good. Soil conditions ranged from short to adequate and rangeland conditions were very poor to fair. 


The region received ample rainfall amounts with some areas receiving up to 11 inches in the past week, which caused standing water and oversaturated pastures. Topsoil and subsoil moisture conditions were in surplus for most areas. Pasture and range conditions averaged from fair to good conditions with a few counties reporting excellent conditions. The heavily saturated soil was disrupting hay harvest for some counties, but good pasture conditions and summer grasses were thriving with the warmer evening temperatures. Some crops were struggling, including cotton, rice and peanuts, due to the recent weather. Corn, sorghum and winter wheat fared well, despite the surplus of moisture. Small farm operations were transitioning from leafy greens to tomatoes and peppers, which were setting fruit well. The wet weather caused some fungal disease on some horticultural crops. Livestock were in great condition, but nuisance flies and mosquito populations were increasing with the wet and warm weather. Tent caterpillars were reported mostly on oak tree across North Texas. There were no major disease or insect outbreaks to report.


Temperatures in the district ranged from highs in the lower 90s to lows in the mid 60s and rainfall ranged between 0.2 and 4 inches with a few areas receiving no rainfall. Some strong wind and hail were reported with some hail and flood damage reported. Weed control was becoming a bigger issue in all farm ground and a large influx of large red velvet mites have been reported. Around 75% of the cotton planted has emerged and continued to grow with some fields going in late with upland cotton. All Pima cotton should be planted by now. The pecan orchards were very good as most farmers were irrigating for the second time. The flat ground, no-till and wheat stubble has taken and spread out the moisture better. The topsoil and subsoil moisture should help improve the very poor range and pasture conditions. Straw has been baled and wheat is in the drying stage. The El Paso Valley looked very good, thanks to project irrigation water, or river water. Alfalfa production was higher than usual with oats and wheat being cut and baled by the end of this month. Range conditions saw grass returning to normal health and pastures were beginning to green up a bit more. Livestock conditions will see return of cattle to grazed areas for a second round. The working of lambs and kids was completed and livestock and wildlife continued to be fed. 


The region reported no rain to 5 inches with temperatures ranging from the upper 70s to low 90s. Reports of hail and wind damage included hail impacting wheat progress, with some farms reporting wind damage from storms. Despite storm damage, wheat crops ranged from good to excellent condition. In some parts of the region, wheat and oat pastures continued to mature but most would be grazed or baled for hay. In other areas, the wheat was drying down and harvest will start soon for dryland acres with low yields expected. Grain and forage sorghum planting was ongoing. Corn looked fair but needs more rain to supplement the irrigation. Pasture and rangeland conditions ranged from poor to good, with some areas improved due to recent rains. Forage, mainly cool season maturing forages, was appearing with producers managing weeds after the recent rains. Cattle continued to look good with body condition looking good on all classes. Sheep and goat producers need an aggressive parasite management program with the recent rains. 


Several areas received heavy rain with areas ranging from 7-19 inches. Heavy rainfall in Orange County may affect crop and pasture conditions. Some minor and small steam flooding has occurred in parts of Waller County, but it was not significant enough to cause crop damage. Heavy rain also prevented farmers from planting rice in Chambers County. Brazos County had 7 inches and roadways, waterways and pastures were flooded. Rice planting was halted in Jefferson County and rain left parts of the county soggy at best — and underwater at worst. Some rice planted but not emerged was at risk of not sprouting. More rain was predicted so the water was not expected to recede anytime soon. Fields are expected to be saturated for days, and keeping fertilizer trucks out of warm-season perennial pastures and hay fields. Grain sorghum looked good, but if water does not recede soon, it will not be good. Conditions in Lee County were favorable for grass and crop production and Hardin County had widespread flooding through low-lying areas, with creeks and bayous running through some areas. Most rivers and creeks crested by Sunday and were expected to continue to fall. Rangeland and pasture ratings varied from very poor to excellent, with Hardin County and Madison County being 100% poor or very poor. Soil moisture levels ranged from adequate to surplus with Chambers, Hardin, Jefferson, Madison and Waller counties being 100% in surplus. If producers can get calves to sale, an extremely favorable market awaits them.


Precipitation amounts ranged from none to almost 2 inches in isolated pockets. Soil moisture was lacking throughout the region and no runoff water was reported. It was cooler in some areas with overcast, high humidity and a hot week expected. The rain helped allow pasture, forage and range conditions to remain good. Both irrigated and dryland crops were improving, and corn and sorghum continued to grow, having recovered from recent hail damage. Desert termites continued to devastate parts of some areas and a heavy caterpillar presence was noticed in pecans and other trees. The early season hay baling has been noticed. Soils were retaining moisture and stock tanks have filled up to a noticeable amount. Livestock body condition scores averaged from 4-6 and producers were still cutting numbers as the region was not showing real signs of recovery. However, livestock conditions remained good. Deer and other wildlife activity increased, and young bucks were seen more frequently.


The region has seen mild temperatures with humid and windy conditions with rainfall averaging from dry to 2 1/2 inches in some areas. Soil conditions ranged from poor to adequate. Corn and sorghum crops in some areas continued to progress but were showing signs of moisture stress in late morning in some plants. Row crops in some areas were looking good in irrigated areas. In Hidalgo County, flea hopper pressure was reported in untreated cotton and yellow sugarcane aphid pressure was reported in grain sorghum. Citrus was being irrigated, but some orchards were in irrigation districts that were out of water. Irrigation was getting critical for most producers because of extremely low water levels in Falcon Lake. Irrigation districts and some municipalities in Cameron County were continuing to implement water usage restrictions as supplies continued to decline. Strawberries were being harvested with other spring and summer vegetables in some areas. Wheat and oat harvest has begun in most areas and cotton planting will be completed. Peanut planting started in Frio County. Producers were busy harvesting hay in some areas but other fields needed rain to finish growing. Grazer fields were still growing but were showing signs of moisture stress.  Coastal Bermuda grass fields were producing good hay bales, and watermelon fields were developing in normal conditions in Maverick County. Pasture and rangeland conditions ranged from poor to fair. Beef cattle producers in most areas continued to take advantage of strong market prices as they continued to cull herds prior to summer. A slight seasonal decrease in feeder cattle was reported this week. Quail were pairing up and notable sightings were being reported.

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