Summer fires, drought leave East Texas ranchers in need of hay

Summer fires, drought leave East Texas ranchers in need of hay
Published: Sep. 22, 2023 at 1:54 PM CDT|Updated: Sep. 22, 2023 at 6:30 PM CDT

TYLER, Texas (KLTV) - East Texas ranchers are hoping for more rain, and a few more green fields, to fulfill a critical need for hay.

“You need hay production to be able to feed your beef cattle so that they continue to thrive during the winter months,” says Gregg County Texas A&M Agri-life extension agent Shaniqua Davis.

Summer fires burned out some hay-growing areas and summer drought parched land that would have been growing hay, so they didn’t have a lot of production going on at that time,” Davis says.

In good years, with summer rain, there would be a third cutting. That is now in doubt. And that third cutting is important for ranchers in East Texas. They’ll need to store up for fall and winter.

“It’s critical. That’s how you take your cows through the winter. If you don’t have it, you’re either going to have to buy it or reduce your herd,” says Gregg County cattle rancher Buck Birdsong.

Some ranchers have already stored up, but without that third cutting, ranchers will have to get it from other counties or other states at their expense.

“You have to factor in freight, fuel, to be able to get that hay here. People have already started to feed hay because of the drought,” says Davis.

“I’ve heard four-foot bales, which are the small bale, are going for $110,” says Birdsong.

Important for East Texas beef and dairy production, rain is desperately needed.

“Not only for the hay, but to kill the burn bans,” Birdsong says.

Some good news on the horizon: rain is forecast for Sunday.