NACOGDOCHES, Texas (KTRE) - Livestock, hay, and the recent amount of heavy rainfall were some of mains topics of discussion as ranchers and agriculture experts met Friday afternoon for the 16th annual Pineywoods Cattle Congress.
The spring meeting is held every year for producers of cattle and hay in six Pineywood counties: Sabine, San Augustine, Shelby, Panola, Nacogdoches, and Angelina counties.
″We vary the subjects each year to match what we’ve heard from our producers in on our own counties about what they’re most interested in," said Ronald Barlow, Texas A&M Agrilife Extension agent for Shelby County.
Much of the discussion Friday was hay baleage, or the process of baling green hay and sealing it away from oxygen, and hay preservation. The subject is especially topical considering the amount of rainfall much of East Texas experienced in the months of April and May.
1:25 ″As everybody knows for the last couple of years the problem was putting up hay in East Texas has been rains coming at inopportune times," said Barlow. “With this process, you actually lose less hay, you don’t have need barns to store it in, plus we can cut, grate, bale, and wrap it all in one day and not at the mercy of the weather."
Hay production is a big part of forage production systems in Texas, and plays a crucial role in providing feed to the millions of livestock raised and sold across the state. Weather conditions play a major role in whether ranchers harvest and bale enough hay to keep up with demand.
″Several things are important for hay production," said Dr. Vanessa Corriher-Olson, Texas A&M Agrilife Extension forage specialist. “The biggest factor that influences the quality of our forage is the harvesting time. That is probably one of our biggest challenges in Texas is timing our harvest and then getting it put into a bale and then protected in a timely manner to reduce loss of nutrients to rainfall [and] saturated soils.”
If hay production falls, and ranchers are forced to look outside of the county or state for hay, prices tend to rise to meet demand, and that price increase typically gets passed on to the consumer in the way of higher prices at the grocery store.
“Our feed cost can influence our production cost, overall expenses, and can influence our livestock costs and the costs when it comes to the grocery store,” said Corriher-Olson. “That’s why it’s so important for us to produce and capitalize on our own forages we can grow in our state.”
Meanwhile, when feed costs are agreeable to ranchers, consumers can expect a noticeable decrease in price.
″Feed cost is the biggest factor to the farmer; the actual cost of that animal going to the market,” said Barlow. "If we can find a way for feeding those cattle more economical and more profitable, it’ll trickle all the way down to the consumer.”