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Agriculture Today

Water for livestock still a concern in many areas

Water for livestock still a concern in many areas
ROBERT BURNS/Texas AgriLife Extension Service Though an improvement over last year, many ponds and stock tanks remain low or completely dry.

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Special to the Wilson County News
September 5, 2012
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By Robert Burns

COLLEGE STATION -- According to National Weather Service records, large areas of the state have received 100 percent or more of normal rainfall since Jan. 1. Many other areas have gotten 50 to 75 percent of normal.

The precipitation statistics aside, much of Texas still suffered from drought conditions, according to Texas AgriLife Extension Service personnel. Of concern to many are low pond and stock-tank levels. Conditions often vary county to county within a region.

For example, though most of East Texas is officially out of the drought, there are still pockets of abnormally dry weather.

According to the service, Marion County has received about 75 percent of normal rainfall for the year, but you couldn’t tell it by local conditions, said Brock Fry, AgriLife Extension agent for Marion County, northeast of Longview. Many ponds there are dry or down about 6 feet, creating issues for livestock producers, even though herd inventories are down by about 50 percent.

Rocky Vinson, AgriLife Extension agent for Shackelford County, north of Abilene, reported about 3 inches of rain fell there in the last week. Though the rain helped the soil moisture situation, stock tanks remained very low.

West of Fort Worth, Stephens County also received some much-needed rain this week, from 0.5 to 1 inch, but conditions are so dry, much more rain is needed to fill tanks, ponds, and lakes to standard levels, according to Leslie Neve, AgriLife Extension agent for Stephens County.

From South Texas, George Gonzales, AgriLife Extension agent for Webb County, reported high temperatures there continued to run in the 100-degree-plus range last week, and evaporation rates were very high. Most ponds remained completely dry or were about to go completely dry. Webb County has had 50 to 75 percent of normal rainfall for the year, according to the weather service.

There’s a simple reason ponds and reservoirs remain low in many areas despite considerable rainfall this year, said Dr. John Nielsen-Gammon, state climatologist and Regents professor at Texas A&M University.

Soils are so dry deep down and soak up any rain received before it can run off to fill ponds and reservoirs, he said.

AgriLife Extension district reporters compiled the following summaries:

AgriLife Extension district reporters for the Coastal Bend District, including Karnes County, reported during the last three weeks, no rain and temperatures in the upper 90s to above 100 degrees brought down soil-moisture levels. There were isolated showers in some counties, but not enough to make a difference in soil-moisture conditions. The corn and grain sorghum harvests were completed, and the cotton harvest was nearly finished. Early maturing pecan varieties such as Kanza and Pawnee were looking good prior to harvest. There were some reports of limb breakage from heavy nut loads.

AgriLife Extension district reporters for the Southwest District, including Wilson, Gonzales, Guadalupe, and Bexar counties, reported some areas received from 0.5 inch to 2 inches of rain, but overall, hot, dry conditions prevailed. The rains were not enough to improve pastures very much. Water-use restrictions and burn bans were in effect in some counties. Livestock conditions remained steady or were declining, depending upon the county. The corn and grain sorghum harvests neared completion with producers reporting modest yields. Cotton growers began defoliating and harvesting. Some producers were preparing fields for planting wheat and oats.

AgriLife Extension district reporters for the South District, including Atascosa County, reported soil-moisture levels were mostly very short, except for Atascosa County, which reported 100-percent adequate levels. Hot temperatures, 90 to 100 degrees and above, continued to dry out rangeland, pastures, and stock ponds. Some stock tanks were completely dry. Poor rangeland and pasture conditions forced livestock producers to continue to provide supplemental feed to their livestock. McMullen County producers were weaning calves early so as not to have to further reduce herds. In Atascosa County, the cotton harvest continued, peanuts were progressing well, and late-planted corn looked good.

Robert Burns has nearly 30 years’ experience writing about agriculture and agricultural-related research. He writes about Texas AgriLife Research and Texas AgriLife Extension Service activities at the Overton Center and centers in Stephenville and Temple.

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