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Agriculture Today

Weather puts the big freeze on most agricultural activities

Weather puts the  big freeze on most agricultural activities
Snow and ice stressed livestock throughout Texas and required producers to supply more hay and supplemental feed.

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February 16, 2011
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Freezing cold hammered agricultural operations, halting fieldwork, damaging crops, and stressing livestock, according to Texas AgriLife Extension Service personnel.

Though there were some positive aspects noted -- death of overwintering insects and moisture from melt-off -- most reports the winter storm’s effects on agriculture were negative.

“Producers were busy tending to livestock by putting out feed ahead of the storm, placing livestock behind wind breaks, thawing water, and busting ice,” said Mike Bragg, AgriLife Extension agent for Dallam County, northwest of Amarillo. “There was one report of a dairy being completely without water due to frozen pipes and producers had to hand-deliver water to cows. With record temperatures being broken as far back as early 1900s, this was definitely the coldest period to date.”

“Recent cold weather had mixed effect on production,” said Glenn Avriett, AgriLife Extension agent for Comal County, near San Antonio. “Cold weather caused stress on animals, damaged some winter pastures and recently emerged spring wheat, but the moisture was welcome. Time will tell how much crop damage there will be on winter pastures and spring wheat, but there were no reports of animal deaths.”

“Cold temperatures caused some sensitive plants to freeze or die back,” said George Gonzales, AgriLife Extension agent for Webb County, which includes Laredo. “The total extent of the plant damage is not yet known. Cattle remain in good-to-fair body condition and got through the cold spell just fine. Range and pasture conditions will decline due to the freezing of new forage re-growth and overall plant stress encountered with the cold temperatures.”

AgriLife Extension district reporters compiled the following summaries:

AgriLife Extension district reporters for the Southwest District, including Wilson, Gonzales, Guadalupe, and Bexar counties, reported four consecutive days with below-freezing temperatures in the low 20s interrupted vegetable harvesting and may have damaged young spinach, onion, and cabbage crops. The region remained very dry, with total cumulative rainfall since Aug. 1 at about 35 percent of the long-term average. Fields were ready for early spring planting, but rain will be needed soon to make dryland planting feasible. Pastures and rangeland grasses were in winter dormancy. Forage availability was below average. Ranchers were busy caring for livestock as the calving/lambing/kidding season continued. Stress to livestock from the cold weather was expected to be low as ranchers were able to take some precautions. However, some livestock were without water for some time as stock tanks froze.

AgriLife Extension district reporters for the Coastal Bend District, including Karnes County, reported that the region had below-normal sub-freezing temperatures with sleet, ice, and snow in some areas. Very little, if any, fieldwork took place. Tropical plants were damaged by the freeze, along with some marine life. Livestock were stressed by the cold weather, and, in response, producers put out large volumes of feed.

Compiled from Texas A&M University and Texas AgriLife Extension Service reports.

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