Drought Projected to Dock Hay Harvest in Mississippi

Photo by Kevin Hudson, Mississippi State University Extension Service Last year’s drought will likely affect this year’s hay acreage in Mississippi.
Rocky Lemus, forage specialist with the Mississippi State University Extension Service, said he anticipates about 690,000 hay acres.
Mississippi livestock producers heavily depend on perennial warm-season grasses — mostly bahiagrass and bermudagrass — for their grazing systems.
The state had just over 900,000 acres of bahiagrass and 770,000 acres of bermudagrass last year.
Despite last year’s dry conditions, rainfall totals have been closer to average this spring, causing bermudagrass and bahiagrass to break dormancy at least two weeks before they normally do across the state.
“Controlling those weeds, along with taking a soil sample to determine nutrient management recommendations that will aid pasture recovery after the drought, is very important.” Pasture management and productivity are equally important, Lemus added.
“Now is a good time to walk your pastures and hay fields, determine stand losses, and develop a management plan that could help with pasture renovation or pasture restoration,” he said.
“Growers who have planted annual ryegrass into a bermudagrass or bahiagrass sod for winter grazing should put a heavy grazing pressure this time of year to open that canopy and allow the release of the summer grasses.” Brett Rushing, Extension and research professor at the MSU Coastal Plain Branch Experiment Station in Newton, said renovating pastures is an expensive process that causes growers to temporarily lose grazing areas during establishment.
“Unfortunately, seed costs for a lot of warm-season grasses this year are very high.
“Pastures can then be converted into a cool-season annual in the fall once they have been grazed out.” Long-range forecasts indicate more of the same conditions for growers this summer.

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