UACES Facebook Two sides of the warm weather coin: A rapid soybean harvest and a lot of dry forage
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Two sides of the warm weather coin: A rapid soybean harvest and a lot of dry forage

By Ryan McGeeney
U of A System Division of Agriculture
Oct. 28, 2016

Fast Facts:

  • After a tough soybean growing season, a rapid harvest
  • Two-thirds of state now in “abnormally dry” or “moderate drought” condition
  • Cattle producers should consider availability & quality of forage when deciding whether to keep or sell livestock before winter

(723 words) 

LITTLE ROCK — Over the course of his career, Jeremy Ross, extension soybean agronomist for the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture, has probably seen every disease known to afflict beans at the state at one time or another. 

In 2016, he may have managed to have seen them all at once. 

“After that wet period in August, just about every disease that we’ve identified was in the field,” Ross said. “Pretty much everything I’ve ever seen in my career.” 

Ross was referring to the 7-10 days of heavy rainfall this past summer, which saturated crops in much of the state and brought the rice harvest to a standstill. The wet weather and warm temperatures helped diseases including target spot, aerial blight and Cercospora leaf blight gain a foothold late in the season. 

Ross said a combination of environmental stressors contributed to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s recently lowered yield estimates for the state, which were adjusted to 48 bushels per acre from earlier estimates. 

The silver lining is that a dry, warm October has contributed to a fast-paced soybean harvest. According to a USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service report published Oct. 24, 85 percent of the state’s soybean crop has been harvested, a significant gain over the five-year average of 68 percent. 

“We probably couldn’t ask for better weather for harvest,” Ross said. “It’s actually sped up some of the drying-down process. So I think we’re finishing on a positive note, compared to everything else that’s happened this year. 

“Rice struggled because some of these late-planted fields are lodged on the ground — farmers have to move so much slower getting it off the ground for harvest — and we haven’t had much lodging in soybeans,” he said. “With soybeans, hopefully the only thing you’re running through a combine is dry stems.” 

But that same dry, warm weather is having a negative effect on pasture crop conditions, with 22 percent of pasture in the state rated “poor” or “very poor” in the recent NASS report. 

Shane Gadberry, associate professor of ruminant nutrition for the Division of Agriculture, said that while current weather conditions are dryer and warmer than average expectations for this time of year in the state, the weather seems to be following a pattern similar to 2015, which also had a very dry fall. 

About two-thirds of Arkansas is currently in “abnormally dry” or “moderate drought” condition, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor in Lincoln, Neb. 

“Many of our cattle producers are relying on fall forage growth to keep cattle grazing up until the end of November or the first part of December,” Gadberry said. “About that time, many of our livestock producers are starting to transition over to hay feeding for winter.

"Some producers use improved grazing management systems, stockpiling fescue and Bermuda grass in the fall to defer grazing into December and early January,” he said.  “We’ve benefitted from the warmth, but the dry conditions have really limited forage growth — so our stockpile forage accumulation has been less than desirable. 

“If moisture doesn’t improve quickly, our cattle producers may find themselves feeding hay earlier, and possibly longer, than ususal, from now until spring,” he said. 

Additionally, the aforementioned August rainfall delayed several cutting of hay grass across the state — with some producers haying fields just to clean off excess growth — resulting in abundant but nutrient-poor hay that may require supplementation. 

Gadberry said cattle producers should study feeder and live cattle futures and weigh the benefits of selling or retaining ownership of their livestock through the winter. 

“It’s difficult to say if current conditions are going to translate into a hard winter,” he said. “If we have a mild winter, relatively warm and dry, cattle will winter more easily. We’ll still need to supplement lactating cows, but they don’t have the environmental factors increasing their maintenance requirement. 

“If we have a wet winter, cattle are going to have a hard time between January and March, especially as they have an increase in nutritional demand to produce milk for their offspring,” he said. “This may be a challenging market to retain ownership of calves or cull cows if you can’t maintain them cheaply or put weight on them cheaply through the winter.” 

To learn more about row crops and livestock in Arkansas, contact your local Cooperative Extension Service agent, or visit


The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture offers all its Extension and Research programs and services without regard to race, color, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin, religion, age, disability, marital or veteran status, genetic information, or any other legally protected status, and is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer. 

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Media Contact: Mary Hightower
Dir. of Communication Services
U of A Division of Agriculture
Cooperative Extension Service
(501) 671-2126

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