From the Ground Up - Growing Hay With Irrigation

Over 80% of the cropland in the local Brazos River bottom is irrigated and has been for some time, but growing hay locally using irrigation is a relatively new practice.

"I started in March putting out two inches, and I let it run, and then two weeks after that I put out another two, and I watched my ground, and then I went an inch and a half. I started seeing the moisture finally start coming back. So it took about six inches of irrigated water, before I started seeing a little bit of moisture start staying in the ground. Course, then the winds came."

Shane Swinson manages the Third Day Ranch in Grimes County and irrigates his hay fields with two different systems. One is a center pivot sprinkler that can water 60 acres with each revolution.

"I always put out two inches, and it takes the pivot five days to make a full revolution."

The other system is called a hose reel, and it sprays a hundred and fifty feet to the right and to the left and can water eight acres in twenty four hours.

"It's a lot more labor intensive because you have to actually hook a tractor up, move it to the next riser, set it up, pull it out with a tractor, and then turn it on and it reels itself back in. We're watering today even though the wind's a little high because I've got so much ground to cover, I need to keep the hose reels going in order to cover all the fields and keep the grass growing."

Irrigation is a management tool that allows hay production even in a drought like we're experiencing.

"With irrigation, we're able to cut it, fertilize it, same day, and turn the water on it same day, and in twenty eight days, thirty, we're back to cutting it again to insure quality. More and more people are starting to look at quality, protein content, fibers, to know what their cattle are getting or their horses are getting. Good quality hay always sells, always sells first."

I'm Ashley Batey, looking at Brazos Valley agriculture, From The Ground Up.


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