Improved wheat/clover pastures raise risk of bloat

Mar 9, 2012
by WLJ

It’s a big shift from worrying about not enough forage to worrying about too much and the resulting cattlebloat issues, noted Texas AgriLife Extension Service personnel, but that’s what’s happening in some parts of the state.

Winter wheat and coolseason forages continued to greatly improve thanks to more rain during early March, lessening the need for feeding expensive hay, according to weekly reports from AgriLife Extension county agents.

“Calving season is in full swing,” said Missy Hodgin, AgriLife Extension agent for Clay County, east of Wichita Falls. “Cows are in decent condition. Bloat is a big concern, especially with cows and calves on wheat pasture. Some producers are reporting death loss to bloat as high as 10 percent.”

“Dry and windy conditions the past week have farmers in the fields planting,” said Pasquale Swaner, AgriLife Extension agent for Falls County, southeast of Waco. “Bloat on cattle has been reported due to all the clover growing.”

“Weeds are becoming a problem this year; bloat due to over-consumption of clover is a great concern,” said Steve Sturtz, AgriLife Extension agent for Tom Green County, San Angelo. “Yearling cattle were doing very well on small grains, and cows are regaining body condition where winter grasses are available.”

“Overall pasture conditions continue to improve as soil moisture increases, and livestock condition has seen dramatic improvement in recent months,” said Michael Haynes, AgriLife Extension agent for Caldwell County, south of Austin. “However, due to substantial forage loss from drought and overgrazing in the previous year, many pastures are seeing excessive clover growth, leading to producers having to purchase bloat preventatives. Some producers have been experiencing livestock loss due to bloat and tetany.”

More information on the current Texas drought and wildfire alerts can be found on the AgriLife Extension Agricultural Drought Task Force website at http://agri

Coastal Bend: With warm, dry conditions, farmers began or were ready to start planting corn and grain sorghum. Counties where fields are too wet for planting reported herbicide and fertilizer applications. Recent rains improved forage conditions.

Central: Daytime temperatures were in the 70s and 80s. Many fruit trees were blooming. Pecan producers were concerned trees were coming out of dormancy too early. Wheat and oat pastures looked very good. Farmers began planting corn and silage crops. Soil temperatures rose because of above-average daily highs. The condition of livestock improved. Feral hog activity picked up in some areas.

Livestock producers were still feeding hay, but coolseason grass was coming on, promising producers they’ll be able to cut back soon.

East: Warm temperatures and high winds dried out topsoil. Most of the region received no measurable rain. Winter pastures greened up. Trees began to bloom. Feral hog activity picked up. Damages from armyworm and greenbugs were reported.

Far West: Conditions were warm, dry and windy. Ector County reported above-average temperatures. Highs were in the upper 70s, with lows in the mid to high 30s. Most counties remained under drought conditions. Wildfire warnings were issued due to high winds. In Andrews County, there was some greening up of warm-season grasses, but more moisture was needed for growth in the warmer months to come. Crane County reported London rocket, tansy mustard and other annual forbs were growing rapidly in low-lying areas throughout the area. The much warmer temperatures were encouraging some perennial grasses to emerge and trees to bud, but soil moisture was declining due to the lack of any further precipitation. Farmers continued pre-watering irrigated cotton fields. Cattle remained in poor condition, with ranchers continuing to provide supplemental feed.

North: The more northern part of the district had some showers. Most of the region was warmer than usual and reported ample soil moisture. Small grains and winter annual pastures continued to do well. Depending upon the county, from 5 to 50 percent of corn had been planted. Those farmers who hadn’t planted yet were applying pre-plant herbicides and getting ready to plant. About 5 percent of sorghum was planted. Winter wheat was in good to excellent condition. Rangeland and pastures were in good to excellent condition. With good pasture conditions, cattle continued to do very well, allowing livestock producers to slow winter feeding. Some fruit trees were in full bloom due to the warmerthan-normal temperatures.

Panhandle: Very little moisture and high winds increased wildfire danger. Soil moisture continued to be mostly short to very short. Producers were trying to reduce windblown soil erosion any way possible. Farmers were preparing fields for spring planting and actively irrigating wheat. Wheat was in mostly fair to poor condition. Insect activity on wheat was reported as light, with a few mites on the stressed crop and aphids on the better-looking wheat. Rangeland and pastures continued to be rated as mostly poor to very poor. Reports of cattle lice were still coming in. Livestock producers continued supplemental feeding of cattle.

Rolling Plains: Days were warmer with cool nights, which helped winter wheat; it was looking better every day. In some counties, no wheat will be harvested for grain as producers are grazing it, hoping it will sustain cattle until there is enough moisture to replenish pastures and rangeland.

Soil-moisture levels were adequate for growing conditions the first week of March.

But producers worried that as temperatures begin to rise, there will not be enough moisture to sustain grass growth. Other producers began to pull cattle off wheat to meet insurance specifications. Ranchers were still feeding supplemental feed on a daily basis, trying to keep cattle in good condition and not further cull herds. Farmers were preparing fields for the new crop year, applying fertilizer and herbicides. With high fuel prices, producers were trying to make minimal trips across fields to cut cost and preserve soil moisture. They were also reserving seed for the new crop year, but were cautious in their bookings, worrying this year will see a repeat of last year’s drought. Calving season was in full swing. Cows were in decent condition, but bloat was a big concern, especially with cows and calves on wheat pasture. Apple and some other fruit trees were blooming.

South: Soil-moisture levels in many counties were short to very short. The exceptions were Atascosa and Frio counties, where soil moisture was 60 to 100 percent adequate; Duval County, 70 percent adequate; Jim Wells County, 100 percent adequate; and Cameron, Hidalgo and Willacy counties, 40 to 80 percent adequate. Rangeland and pastures were in good to fair condition, providing some winter annual forbs and mixed cooland warm-season grasses for livestock grazing. As a result, livestock producers were scaling down supplemental feeding. The calving season was in progress, and body condition of cattle ranged from low to fair. In Frio County, corn planting was in full swing, green beans were being planted and potatoes had emerged and were progressing well. In Jim Wells County, field activities increased in well-drained fields, but no crops had emerged yet. In Zavala County, a dry week forced spinach, onion and cabbage producers to irrigate their crops. As fields began to dry out in the Hidalgo County area, field activities picked up, including corn and sorghum planting. In Cameron County, farmers began spring planting. Sorghum producers began planting in Willacy County.

South Plains: The region had warmer temperatures and high winds with gusts and straight-line winds up to almost 60 mph. A few counties reported ‘misting’ precipitation, but otherwise, the region remained dry. Livestock producers were still feeding. Cattle were in fair to good condition. Winter wheat, pasture and rangeland all continued to suffer from lack of moisture. Farmers were doing some field preparations despite the dry conditions. Some fruit trees were in full bloom, but on the morning of March 3, temperatures dropped to 25 degrees in Lubbock County.

Southeast: Winter annual grasses were growing well, allowing the feeding of hay to be reduced. Bermuda grass pastures were greening up and, if there isn’t a late freeze, were expected to show growth soon. Some row-crop fields remained saturated from rains during the last month. Elsewhere, corn planting started.

Southwest: Showers in some areas slowed corn planting. Fruit trees were blooming. The abundance of native clover was causing some bloat issues. Spring lambing and kidding were under way.

West Central: The region had warm days with cool nights and high winds. Farmers were preparing fields to plant haygrazer (a sorghum/Sudangrass cross) and other warm-season hay crops. They were also spraying herbicides for weed control. Winter wheat continued to do very well, producing ample grazing for livestock. Small grains looked good and were growing fast. Pastures and rangeland continued to improve due to recent rains and warm temperatures. Spring green-up of winter weeds and cool-season grasses helped supply grazing for livestock. Most stock tanks and ponds were in good condition. Ranchers continued supplemental feeding of livestock but were able to decrease amounts due to improved grazing conditions. Flies were becoming a problem in most areas due to mild temperatures and the extra moisture. Fruit trees were budding. Late freezes were expected to set back early blooming trees. — WLJ