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Rain good Thanksgiving gift for winter pasture growers

Rain came to large parts of Texas. The rain came too late for drought-hammered summer pastures. Rain will certainly help winter pastures, and eventually it will be good for warm-season pastures.

Rain came to large parts of Texas, an early Thanksgiving feast for already planted winter pastures, according to Texas AgriLife Extension Service personnel.

Though welcome, the rain came too late for drought-hammered summer pastures, many of which are in sad shape, according to AgriLife Extension county agent reports.

For example, before the rain, Pasquale Swaner, AgriLife Extension agent for Falls County, near Waco, reported that while "driving throughout the county, pastures are worse than anyone can imagine. A large portion (of them) are just grazed to dirt."

However, the rain will certainly help winter pastures, and eventually it will be good for warm-season pastures too, said Dr. Vanessa Corriher, AgriLife Extension forage specialist in East Texas.

"For pastures that have been grazed down, it's going to take them a long time to recover," Corriher said. "Most of those forages, our warm-season perennials, are going into dormancy as we get cooler temperatures. We're not going to see any recovery until we get into spring."

But for many producers who planted winter pastures earlier, the rains came just in time, she said.

"Whether it’s a cool-season annual ryegrass, or some small grains or any cool-season legume, the moisture will help those forages to potentially provide some grazing," she said.

Though it's highly recommended to fertilize winter pastures, the timing is a bit off, Corriher said.  Her standard recommendation is to wait until around the middle of November, but after the first freeze to ensure all warm-season pastures have entered dormancy. East Texas hasn't had any frosts yet.

"And it's a better idea to get the nitrogen out before we've had a rain, but of course, sometimes we can't anticipate that next rainfall," she said. "But if you have some winter pasture that's coming up, and you are anticipating some more rain, fertilization would be a great idea for optimal production."

Some producers were holding off planting because of lack of moisture, but it's a bit too late to plant now. For East Texas, Corriher doesn't recommend planting any winter forages past about Nov. 15.

"There are some producers I've visited recently who are looking at planting winter pastures, primarily annual ryegrass," she said. "Realize, though, that planting at a later date will result in (forage) production later in the season, and not necessarily when it's needed."

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

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