Texas Drought Taking a Toll on Crops and Cattle

November 9, 2008 06:00 PM
By Stefanos Chen, Storm Exchange 

Persistent drought is draining resources from farmers and ranchers in several counties across the Lone Star State with the inadequate field moisture deteriorating crop quality and forcing ranchers to dip into their supplemental feed stocks prematurely.

Only the Panhandle and Southern Plains regions reported adequate or better soil moisture levels. The rest of the state is being heavily taxed by the ongoing drought, according to the Southwest Farm Press.

"Continued dry conditions have forced some ranchers to begin supplemental feeding earlier than normal," said Gary Clayton, AgriLife Extension agent in Wise County , southeast of Wichita Falls. "Pastures across the area are declining rapidly."

The abnormally dry conditions are also taking a toll on crop quality.

"Ranchers are supplementing cattle with hay and feed due to the lack of rain and not having any winter grazing from the crops," said Pasquale Swaner, AgriLife Extension agent in Falls County, south of Waco. "The oat and wheat acreage that emerged is in severe stress due to the lack of rainfall."

USDA last week rated Texas pasture conditions at 24% good-to-excellent, which compares to last year's rating of 55% good-to-excellent. Winter wheat conditions in Texas, meanwhile, were rated 54% good-to-excellent, well above last year when the crop was pegged at 13% good-to-excellent. USDA will update their ratings today at 3 p.m. Central Standard Time.

In addition to poor soil moisture, high operating costs are worsening the adverse weather effects, Swaner said.  

"All fall-seeded crops are on the verge of a total loss if moisture is not received in the near future, with the exception of irrigated fields. All agricultural enterprises are suffering from high operation costs and the drought."

Stefanos Chen is a reporter for Storm Exchange working in cooperation with AgWeb. Contact AgWeb at editors@agweb.com.

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