The early cutting is a blessing in an area where last year’s drought turned pastures to tinder and forced many producers in Arkansas, Oklahoma and Texas to sell cattle they could no longer feed.

“We can’t forget the hard times and how much we spent last year to stay in business,” Herring said. “Many spent last year’s calf crop and part of this year’s money to stay in business.”

“I’ve got a couple of producers who are putting up hay or forages in a timely manner,” Herring said. “Everyone sees the value of doing this.”

The early rain and perfect conditions have provided a bounty of cool season ryegrass and clover in southern Arkansas, as well. For some, the cutting is coming more than four weeks early.

“Producers in Little River County have put up more hay at this point than they did all of last year,” said Joe Paul Stuart, Little River County extension staff chairman for the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture.

Stuart said the welcome mat is out for a little more rain. “We’re still not sure what our warm season grasses are going to look like; they are really thin in many places.”

Robert Seay, Benton County extension staff chair said” “harvest timing is such that moisture is still sufficient for nitrogen efficiency. This will enable anyone who has made an early cutting to be able to bale their second cutting about the same a first cutting is taken during normal years – June 1.”

Don Hubbell, director of the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture’s Livestock and Forestry Research station in Batesville, is seeing and hearing the same from cattle producers he’s encountered.

“I think producers are hoping for the best but preparing for the worst,” he said. “We’ve had two very dry summers and it is very fresh on everyone’s mind how difficult it has been to find hay of any kind lately.  FG

—From University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture, Cooperative Extension Service

Tom Ritz of Gentry, Arkansas, making square bales as he gets his first cutting of bermuda hay on April 26. Arkansas growers typically get their first cutting around June 1. Ritz shared 2012 Grower of the Year honors from the Arkansas Quality Forage program, with Jamey Styles of Johnson County, Arkansas. Photo by Robert Seay, courtesy of University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture.