Conditions mixed as farmers mull spring planting
Thanks to rains, more of Texas transitioned from exceptional to extreme drought, or from severe to moderate, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.
But weekly on-the-ground reports from Texas AgriLife Extension Service agents still paint a mixed picture of the general agricultural situation.
In Deaf Smith County, the Panhandle, Rick Auckerman, AgriLife Extension agent, reported that producers are revisiting planting grain sorghum instead of corn. Cotton plans are mixed, but generally plantings are expected to be up this year, but a lot will depend upon whether the area gets spring rains before planting.
"Where's the rain?" asked Kevin Brendle, AgriLife Extension agent Dickens County, east of Lubbock. "We had drier, windy and warmer conditions most of the week. Cotton land is being prepared and readied for spring planting."
"Livestock producers have been feeding hay and cutting herd numbers for about 15 months," said Steven Sparkman, AgriLife Extension agent for Hardeman County, northwest of Wichita Falls. "Most hope the cost of hay is cheaper than replacing cattle sold during drought conditions. Some cattle are grazing wheat, with most livestock producers feeding hay."
"Wow, 76 degrees on Jan. 19!" said David Winkler AgriLife Extension agent for Bosque County, southwest of Fort Worth. "The winter annual grasses and forbs are growing like gangbusters. The warm winter is a lifesaver for the average cattleman in Bosque County."
"The county received nearly 3 inches of rain two weeks ago," said Ralph Davis, AgriLife Extension agent for Kaufman County, east of Dallas. "Winter pastures look fairly good, but there is very little growth, with most ryegrass about 2 to 3 inches tall. Some producers see this as a good sign and are turning stock into graze."
"Conditions are extremely dry, and the drought continues," said Randy Reeves, AgriLife Extension agent for Harrison County, northeast of Longview. "The recent rainfall a few weeks ago has done little to relieve the drought. Supplemental feeding continues, and producers continue to search for sources of fairly good-quality hay; it remains hard to find."
"Range and pasture conditions remain mostly in poor shape," said Isaac Cavazos, AgriLife Extension agent for McMullen County, south of San Antonio. "Some winter annual forb production is taking place, which will benefit the wildlife, but it is not going to do much for cattle herds at the present time. Most ranchers are providing hay or utilizing prickly pear as an emergency feed source."