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Agriculture Today

Rain greens up winter crops, slows state herd reductions

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January 18, 2012 | 4,445 views | Post a comment

Many areas received rain, but the general consensus from weekly reports by Texas AgriLife Extension Service county agents was that more is needed to keep wheat and winter pastures going.

The U.S. Drought Monitor backs up these observations. As of Jan. 3, the monitor still showed nearly 70 percent of the state as being under severe to extreme drought. However, this is an improvement over the situation at the beginning of October when 97 percent of the state was under severe to extreme drought.

The areas that have seen the most relief are the Panhandle and the central and northeast parts of the state, but even these areas remain mostly under moderate drought conditions.

Still, producers who have seen a lessening of the drought are grateful for the moisture and are capitalizing on it, according to AgriLife Extension agents.

“Wow! What a difference a little rain makes,” said Philip Shackelford, AgriLife Extension agent for Austin County, west of Houston. “Since the beginning of December, Austin County has collected over 6 inches of rain countywide and more is expected through the end of Jan. 9. Cool-season grasses have really responded to mild temperatures and good soil moisture, while winter legume fields are looking very good and most cattle producers have turned in on them to graze. The sell-off and total liquidation of many cattle herds has come to an abrupt halt as ranchers take a wait-and-see attitude before selling.”

“Recent slow rains improved forage growth and greened up pastures,” said George Gonzales, AgriLife Extension agent for Webb County, Laredo. “Unfortunately, colder soil temperatures have not allowed for much forage regrowth at this time. Supplemental feeding is about the same with hay, molasses tubs, and range cubes being used.”

AgriLife Exten-sion district reporters compiled the following summaries:

AgriLife Exten-sion district reporters for the Coastal Bend District, including Karnes County, reported conditions in the northern and lower portions of the region varied because of recently received rainfall. In the northern counties, cool-season grasses responded well to mild temperatures and better soil moisture. In the southern counties, there was little rain and no substantial changes in conditions. Some producers were applying fertilizer to cropland. Cattlemen were grazing livestock on winter legumes which have improved where there was rain. Livestock producers continued to provide supplemental feed for cattle on pasture.

AgriLife Exten-sion district reporters for the South District, including Atascosa County, reported producers throughout the region were still waiting for enough rain to improve soil moisture, rangeland, pastures, and crop production. Soil moisture levels in all but two counties were short to very short. In Atascosa and McMullen counties, levels were 50 percent to 60 percent adequate. Daytime temperatures were mild with cool nights. The cooler nighttime temperatures brought forage growth to a standstill, and many livestock producers still had to supply hay, range cubes, and other supplemental feed to cattle. Hay was in short supply in many counties and prices continued to increase. Body condition scores on some cattle herds declined due to cold-weather stress, but most remained in fair shape.

AgriLife Exten-sion district reporters for the Southwest District, including Wilson, Gonzales, Guadalupe, and Bexar counties, reported moisture from recent rains was already drying up. Earlier pasture green-up turned brown with lack of continued rainfall and freezing temperatures. With little or no standing crop of native grasses, livestock producers continued to provide heavy supplemental feed for cattle. Some larger ranches sold off more cattle due to projections of continued drought.

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

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