Texas crop, weather

As Southeast Texas and the Gulf Coast deal with cattle orphaned by Hurricane Ike, most of the rest of the state received cooler temperatures and rain – lots of rain.

Parts of Chambers and Jefferson counties, south of U.S. Interstate 10 and Highway 73, received storm surges from 8 feet to as high as 18 feet, said Dr. Jason Cleere, Texas AgriLife Extension Service beef cattle specialist.

"We don't really have good numbers on actual death losses, but they appear to be substantial," said Cleere, who visited the area Sept. 16 to deliver feed and water troughs.

The surviving cattle he saw were doing relatively well considering what they had been through, Cleere said. But because the surge was of salt water, recovery of the pastures will most likely be no sooner than spring, he said.

"In a survey of a major part of Chambers County and some of Jefferson County , some 15,000 cattle have been found," said Andy Vestal, AgriLife Extension liaison to the State Operations Center for Hurricane Ike. "This is not all the cattle expected to be found stranded or dead, but it is a good start in locating these animals that are in dire need of assistance."

Vestal said that the area and land surveys post-Ike are far from complete and more cattle could be found.

Providing fresh water and hay to these cattle has been a top priority since Hurricane Ike made landfall because of the impact that the surge had on feed and water resources, Cleere said. AgriLife Extension as well as other government and industry groups have teamed up to provide relief to ranchers in the area with Operation No Fences: Hurricane Ike Horse and Cattle Relief. Cleere said those who wish to make money donations to the operation may call 979-845-2604. For hay, feed, fencing or trucking donations call the Texas Department of Agriculture at 800-835-5832.

One-hundred and fifty miles to the north in East Texas, AgriLife Extension personnel were still assessing the damage. There was major disruptions of power, but little livestock loss was reported, said Chad H. Gulley, AgriLife Extension agent for Nacogdoches County.

"Hurricane Ike was still a category 1 storm when it came over Nacogdoches with sustained winds of 75 to 95 miles per hour," Gulley said. There were, of course, timber losses and structural damages to homes, fences and barns, Gulley said. There were also problems at poultry houses where there was no electricity and problems acquiring feed.

"Generators are being used to keep broiler houses up and running," he said. "The cool weather following the hurricane is helping around the broiler houses. Some broiler houses had some roof damage." The following summaries were compiled by AgriLife Extension district reporters this week:

CENTRAL: Some counties received rain from Hurricane Ike while others were dry. Planting of small grains continued where conditions allowed. Fall marketing of the calf crop was increasing. Irrigated cotton looked good.

COASTAL BEND: Most of the region received rain from Hurricane Ike with some parts seeing high winds too. There were minimal agricultural-related problems because of Ike. Hay and the late cotton harvest was slowed because of scattered showers. Livestock were in good condition with plentiful forage available.

EAST: Complete reports were not in on damage caused by Hurricane Ike, but most tentative accounts indicate little livestock loss. Most losses will probably be in timber. Many producers are still having trouble with armyworms and feral hogs. Hay supplies were looking good. Producers were planting winter pastures.

FAR WEST: Local flooding was reported in areas along the Rio Grande, from west of Presidio to east to Lajitas and beyond. Most of the flooding along the river was due to water released from a dam in Mexico. The river was expected to rise 6 to 9 feet above flood stage. There were some widely scattered showers, and rainfall accumulations were from 1 inch to 11 inches. Pecan nut development was in the shell-hardening process, and filling was 75 percent complete. Cotton was affected by too much rain. Cotton and pecans need more warm and sunny days to mature to best quality. The fifth cutting of alfalfa was affected by the rains. Corn was in the tasseling stage. Sorghum fields continued to mature. Late grain sorghum has a chance to make fair yields thanks to the recent rains.

NORTH: Soil moisture was adequate. Days were a little cooler and milder, but some areas received high winds that damaged crops. Excessive rainfall in these areas slowed the harvest of row crops and hay. Dry weather is needed to complete these harvests. Forage producers were having trouble with curing hay on the ground due to recent rains. The corn harvest was nearly completed with less than average yields in the areas that did not receive summer rains. Those areas also had a higher level of aflatoxin. Grain sorghum yields were average to a little above average. Late soybeans looked good, but no yield reports were in yet. Cotton was in fair to good condition with bolls opening. Some wheat was planted for grazing. The wheat for grain will be planted later in the fall. There were more reports of feral hog damage than normal. Livestock were in good condition, and pastures were looking good. Grass for hay was doing well. Armyworms were very active in some areas. Some producers who were trying to get another cutting of hay found armyworms have already harvested it.

PANHANDLE: Temperatures were near to below normal most of the week with most of the region receiving rain. Wet fields have slowed harvest and planting. Soil moisture varied from surplus to very short with most areas reporting adequate to short. Some early planted corn was fully mature, but most of the crop was in the dent stage. Cotton was mostly fair to good. Some bolls began to open but warmer conditions were needed to speed maturity. Sorghum was mostly headed and turning color. Soybeans were mostly fair to good. Wet conditions slowed wheat planting. Range conditions continued to improve in most areas. Cattle were in good condition.

ROLLING PLAINS: Rain showers dropped from 1 to 15 inches of rain over the area, stimulating growth of improved and native pastures before the first freeze. Some early planted wheat and oat fields may have been washed out, but already emerged plants should be OK. Field work and planting of winter wheat and grasses was at a standstill. Tanks filled up and livestock were looking good. The condition of the cotton crop will not likely change until harvest nears. Dryland cotton needs many more heat units, but irrigated cotton was close to finishing.

SOUTH: Soil moisture was 90 percent to 100 percent adequate. Wet conditions were still hampering field operations. Small acreage of late-planted cotton will be harvested as soon as weather permits. Cabbage, spinach and onion field preparations were in process. Native range and pastures were improving thanks to all the rain. Hay baling continued in some parts of the region.

SOUTH PLAINS: The region saw unusual weather: five days of cloudy skies, temperatures never above the low 70s, and from 1 inch to 10 inches of rain. Lubbock received 7.8 inches in a 24-hour period, and Post received 8.37 inches in a 24-hour period. Soil moisture was adequate. Cotton was in fair to good condition, but needed hot, dry weather to continue maturing. Because little cotton had open bolls, the worse effects from the flooding may be that high soil moisture will make defoliation difficult. Most sorghum reached maturity and some harvesting began. Early planted wheat was off to a great start. Corn harvesting was under way and should go in full swing as soon as the fields dry out. The sunflower and pumpkin harvests also began. Peanuts were in fair to good condition and continued to mature. Pastures and ranges were in fair to good condition. Livestock were in mostly good to excellent condition.

SOUTHWEST: Defying expectations, Hurricane Ike only delivered about 0.1 inch of rain, bringing total accumulation for September to less than 0.5 inch. Despite accumulations being only 56 percent of the yearly norm, the forage situation improved significantly. Fall crops were making good progress, but more rain is needed to sustain growth through the winter. Fall vegetable crops and peanuts were making good progress. The cotton harvest started late but is now in full swing.

WEST CENTRAL: Temperatures were much cooler with high humidity. Scattered rain showers were reported in many counties, and there was little field activity, including fall planting and harvesting, due to wet conditions. Where conditions were dry enough, producers were spraying for weeds in cotton fields. Range and pasture conditions improved and stock tank levels rose in those counties that received rain. Livestock were in fair to good condition with supplemental feeding continuing. High feed prices have increased cow sales.

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