Parts of Texas have entered critically dry stages and various crops are beginning to suffer. Here in East Texas, hay production is short.
Hay producer Lynn Ainsworth prepares to harvest one of several hay meadows that he manages in Nacogdoches County. His enthusiasm is nothing like it was this time last year. "Last year was the best year I ever had. This year, just like every three or four years, we have one like this year," said Ainsworth.
Most coastal Bermuda hay pastures still appear lush and green, but underneath the tall grass is the beginnings of a stressed pasture. Soil moisture is short.
Ainsworth is like many producers. He's behind at least one cutting. "I'm running behind right at two cuttings. A lot of people ain't even got [their] first cutting, and I'm getting my second where I should be getting the third one right now."
A predicted shortage may allow Ainsworth to charge more for his hay, but he'll have less of it. Making circumstances worse is the increased overhead. Ainsworth said, "It's terrible this year. All the prices of diesel, fuel, twine...everything went up a whole lot."
Also climbing are Texas' high temperatures. Much of Texas is predicted to have above average temperatures during July and August. So far, livestock is in fair condition, but some ranchers are feeding their animals hay that's normally stored for the winter.
Ainsworth's advice is, "Everybody get it when they can. That's all I can say. It's going pretty fast."