Moisture causes hardship in Texas

Feb 12, 2010
by WLJ

When it comes to moisture, from one side of the state to the other, it ranged from extremely wet to extremely dry, according to a Texas AgriLife Extension Service expert.

But in Texas, weather extremes are the norm, said Dr. Andy Vestal, director of AgriLife Extension’s Homeland Security and Emergency Management program.

“The weather is dynamic, as it usually is in Texas,” Vestal said. “It goes from one side to the next.”

Vestal noted that in the most southern parts of the state, there were red-flag alerts for wildfire danger, while in Lubbock, TX, it was the seventh wettest January since official record keeping was started in 1911.

“If you start in south and southeast Texas, we are very, very saturated,” Vestal said. “And that saturation continues pretty significantly throughout east and central Texas and on up through West Texas and the Panhandle.”

”The rain started back last night and continues today,” said Rick Maxwell, AgriLife Extension agent for Collin County, east of McKinney, TX. “Small grains and winter annual pastures are not growing much at all with all of the rain. With all the wet weather this winter, producers have not been able to turn in and graze winter pastures, therefore, they have had to feed more hay than usual.”

“Two to four inches of rain were received throughout the week,” said Rick Hirsch, AgriLife Extension agent for Henderson County, east of Tyler, TX. “All farming and ranching activities were drastically hampered by soggy and muddy conditions. Hay supplies were fair for most producers, but producers with short hay supplies were having difficulty finding hay for sale.”

What’s too wet for some spells good news for others. For example, in Bexar County, which includes San Antonio, TX, the continued rain is causing wheat and oats to thrive, said Jerry Warren, AgriLife Extension agent.

“We are in very good shape for moisture going into spring,” Warren said. “Wheat and oats are doing well. Some warm days should provide some good growth on winter crops.”

The following summaries were compiled by AgriLife Extension district reporters:

Central: Temperatures were in the 40s and 50s. Soils were saturated by recent rains, keeping farmers out of the fields. Producers continued to provide supplemental feed to livestock.

Coastal Bend: The weather was cool and damp. Moisture was good for forage growth in rangeland, but winter grasses and row-crop fields needed sunshine and warmer temperatures. Producers were more than three weeks behind in planting row crops due to the wet conditions. Livestock producers continued to provide cattle with supplemental protein and forages.

East: As much as 4 inches of rain fell in parts of the region. Pastures and fields were soggy, making fieldwork difficult. Creeks and river bottoms were flooding, forcing feral hogs out of those areas and increasing their damage in pastures and other areas. Livestock were in fair to good condition with producers providing supplemental feed. Despite shortages, producers were still feeding hay to cattle, on which the cold, wet weather began to take a toll. Winter forage growth was limited due to the weather.

Far West: Scattered rain fell across the district with accumulations from 0.5 inch - 1.5 inches. Farmers could not get into fields due to the wet conditions. Ranchers were thankful for the rain and looking forward to a good spring recovery of rangeland grasses. Some cool-season grasses were emerging. Alfalfa remained dormant. Fall-planted onions came out of dormancy and were at the three-leaf stage. Growers were irrigating spring-planted wheat, but there were no signs of germination yet.

North: Weather was cold, wet and miserable for livestock and producers. The soggy, muddy conditions were getting worse, making it extremely difficult for cattle feeding and other activities. Livestock producers were having trouble getting hay out due to mud, and hay supplies were running low. The cattle were in fair to good condition and producers were forced to feed more supplemental protein and forages due to the wet and cold conditions. Winter pastures were too wet to be grazed, which further increased the demands for supplemental feed. Unless there is drier weather, corn planting will be delayed. Winter wheat ranged from poor to good condition. Most pastures will need significant repair work this spring and summer to fix ruts in the feeding areas. The Van Zandt County area reported that this was the wettest it has been in 18 years, and producers there were still cleaning up from tornado damage in late January. Rangeland and pasture conditions ranged from very poor to good.

Panhandle: Rain and snow brought much-needed moisture. Soil conditions improved and should continue to do so as the snow melts. Spring planting preparations halted because of the wet conditions. The moisture will be good for spring planting and wheat when it comes out of dormancy. Because most fields were snow covered and not grazable, producers had to supplement cattle with hay. Cattle death losses from the winter storm were low.

Rolling Plains: The district received much-needed moisture in the form of ice and snow. Several counties were without electricity following an ice storm. Thanks to the moisture, wheat and oat stands were looking great, but the region could use some warm, sunny weather to dry fields out and make applying fertilizer possible. Only a few scattered acres of cotton had not been harvested. Livestock were in fair condition with producers providing some supplemental feed. Stock water tanks were nearly full.

South: Nearly the entire region had adequate soil moisture levels. One county reported surplus soil moisture. Cool temperatures and from 3 inches to 5 inches of rain fell in the northern part of the region. The rain improved rangeland and pasture conditions but put a halt to field work in both the northern and eastern areas. Wheat and oats in the western part of the region benefitted from rains, but harvesting of both market and processing spinach came to a standstill. Crops, particularly onions, were in fair condition in the southern part of the region. Rangeland and pastures had not yet fully recovered from multiple freezes during December and January, but showed some improvement thanks to rains. Body scores of cattle have declined some due to cold, muddy range and pasture conditions. That ranchers had difficulty supplemental feeding cattle because of wet conditions was also a factor.

South Plains: The region received more moisture in the form of rain and snow. Soil moisture was adequate. Fieldwork was still on hold due to wet conditions. Wheat was in fair to good condition and continuing to mature. Pastures and rangeland were in fair to good condition. Cattle were in fair to good condition, with beef producers continuing to supply supplemental feed.

Southeast: Light rain and cool, overcast conditions prevented any plant growth. Pastures were so wet that it was difficult for cattle producers to get into the fields to feed. The wet conditions also delayed hay deliveries. Supplemental feeding continued at a steady high rate where conditions allowed. Livestock were stressed by the weather but still in good condition.

West Central: Cold, cloudy and rainy conditions were the rule. Soil moisture levels were good, but all fieldwork came to a halt because of the wet conditions.

Rangeland and pastures were in good condition, and cool-season grasses were growing. Stock water tanks were filling from rain runoff. Livestock were in fair to good condition as producers continued supplemental feeding. — WLJ