Matt Bochat

Matt Bochat

Many of you have probably noticed the assortment of farm equipment moving up and down the highways. Some may have even become irritated at having to wait as a farmer tries to get his gigantic harvesting machine across a major highway in Victoria County.

I usually smile and wave to the farmer and try to allow them the time and room to maneuver their equipment. I know how difficult it is to be a farmer in today’s modern world where only 2% of Americans are farmers and most don’t understand how basic production agriculture contributes to a local economy. As long as there is plenty of food available at the local grocery store, no one seems to care.

In case you ever wondered about agriculture in Victoria County, most of the cropland in Victoria County is located south of U.S. 59 to the Calhoun County border. Victoria County has about 73,000 acres in crop production. These acres are broken down as; rice (2,000), corn (37,000), sorghum (17,000), cotton (15,000) and soybeans (2,000).

When you factor in hay production as a forage crop, you must add another 15,000 acres that are also being harvested or baled in these hot dry conditions. You can’t drive anywhere in the county without seeing fields full of round or square bales as ranchers are baling a very good cutting of hay from the heavy spring rains.

Crop yields thus far have been above average for our county. Corn yields have averaged 100-120 bushels/acre with more to be harvested.

Grain sorghum harvesting is in full swing now with reports of yields averaging 4,500-6,000 pounds/acre.

Most of the cotton was planted later this year due to very wet field conditions during planting window. Therefore, cotton harvest will be prolonged until the end of September.

Hay yields have been good and above average. I have heard reports of ranchers cutting 3-4 tons of forage/acre/cutting. An average round hay bale that is 5 foot by 5 foot in size will weigh between 800 and 1,400 pounds depending on a variety of factors including moisture content, tightness of bale, type of grass, etc. Therefore, it looks like we will have a surplus of hay in the short term.

That is good news considering many ranchers continue to restock heifers after total or partial liquidations during the drought years. Cattle numbers are steadily climbing and are forecast to continue to do so. Demand is high in domestic and world markets as anyone can see by the prices per pound we have to pay for beef at retail stores.

Not to stop the good harvesting talk, but we are getting very dry again. We have had 14.5 inches of rain through this part of July and our average for the year is 42 inches. Farmers and ranchers enjoy dry weather during harvest season so they can get the crops transported to market or into storage. However, at some point, once saturated soils become dry they must see rain again to be productive.

I think we are reaching dry capacity in most areas of the county. Besides, farmers need a break from the harvest. Bring the rain.

Matt Bochat is a County Extension Agent – Ag/Natural Resources Victoria County Texas A&M Agrilife Extension.

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