The cold and dry weather in many parts of the state led to stressed crops and the need to continue to provide supplemental feed to livestock.
Prolonged cold damaged waterlines, and freezing rain and snow in many areas made it difficult to work fields. At the same time, for some areas of the state, the dryer weather provided some relief by allowing farmers to continue or complete harvesting.
Farmers in West Texas and the Rolling Plains have either completed or nearly completed their cotton harvest. Some crops in extreme West Texas have gone dormant due to prolonged cold weather. In the Panhandle, wheat crops were stressed, with irrigated wheat reported to be in better condition than dryland wheat. Wheat pastures in both this region and in the Rolling Plains need of warmer weather and a greater amount of moisture.
In South Texas, growers were concerned over the possible effects of recent freezes on young/tender fields of cabbage and spinach crops. Farmers in Southwest Texas saw an interruption their spinach, cabbage, broccoli, lettuce and carrot harvests during this reporting period.
Generally, the colder weather continues to plague pasture and rangeland areas, providing limited food for livestock, but in some locations recent rainfalls helped such area rebound a little.
Throughout northern and western counties of Texas, cattle were stressed by the colder weather. In the South Plains producers were particularly worried about the possible stress effect recent extreme cold temperatures and wind chill will have on area livestock. Throughout the state, producers continued to increase the amount of supplemental feeding to cattle, and some were concerned they may not have enough hay to last the winter. The following regional reports were compiled by Texas ArgiLife Extension Service personnel:
Central: Unusually cold temperatures led to supplemental feeding of livestock and made it necessary to break ice on water troughs and stock ponds. Some field producers still need to plow, but wet conditions have prevented it. Some counties are preparing fields for spring planting of corn and sorghum.
Coastal Bend: A hard freeze covered over most of the region this weekend, with temperatures as low as 17 degrees. There was a light rainfall -- from 0.01 to 0.3 inch -- and temperatures were consistently well below normal. Some spring wheat was planted if soils were dry enough, while other producers continued to wait for soil to dry. Extreme cold conditions late in the week increased the need for supplemental feeding of livestock. It also caused some damage to waterlines and piping. East
Below-average temperatures caused problems for the region. Winter pastures were set back by the freezing weather. Livestock have been consuming more hay and producers are worried they may not have enough to last the winter. They also upped the amount of supplemental feed they have been giving to cattle. Livestock were in fair to good condition. Feral hog activity and damage has increased.
Far West: Pecan nut harvest is behind because of rains and snow present during the last week of December. Fall planted onions are at two-leaf stage and dormant. Alfalfa is dormant. Winter wheat is also dormant and at 4-5 leaf stage. Temperatures were below normal, in the high 20's low 50's, and freezing rain and snow hindered most farmers from working in the fields. There was no further precipitation during the first days of the new year. The cotton harvest was completed and winter wheat was doing well in most locations.
Panhandle: Temperatures across the entire area were very cold and dry. Some nights reached the teens and single digits. Soil moisture was short to very short. The cotton harvest was nearly complete, but below-average temperatures and dry conditions continued to stress the wheat crop. Wheat was in poor to fair condition, with irrigated wheat looking better than dryland wheat. Some field work was being done for the upcoming spring crop. Rangeland areas were in poor condition. Cattle were stressed, and with colder temperatures lasting several days, their supplementation was increased. Rolling Plains: Temperatures in single digits in the Rolling Plains were hard on livestock, but most producers were able to get plenty hay and supplement out prior to the cold. Although it has been extremely cold, very little moisture has fallen and given farmers a chance to harvest the last bit of this year’s cotton crop. Severe temperatures have made things difficult on remaining cotton in the field and livestock. The cotton harvest was 99% complete and yields were average on both dryland and irrigated fields. Livestock producers are feeding hay and breaking ice. Heavy supplemental feeding is being done to livestock. Wheat pastures are only fair but furnishing some grazing. Livestock are in fair to good condition for this time of year. Pastures and rangeland are in fair condition due to the previous moisture that was received. Wheat pastures are in need of some warmer days to promote growth.
South: Cold, below-normal freezing temperatures and no rainfall occurred throughout the region this past week. Soil moisture conditions remain adequate. High winds and the hard freeze have taken moisture off top soil just about everywhere, causing a decrease on forage quality and an increase on supplemental feeding. Cattle body condition scores remain in fair condition. Potato planting has begun, and peanut harvesting was completed. Winter oats and wheat for grazing look very good in the northern parts of the region. In the eastern parts of the region, minimal field activity occurred due to the cold and wet conditions which put a halt on the 2010 planting season in that area. Cabbage and spinach growers in the western parts of the region are worried about how drastically low temperatures will affect young and tender fields of these crops. Producers are waiting to assess any possible effects from the hard freeze in that area. In the meantime, existing cabbage and spinach harvesting is planned to resume early next week. Crop conditions in the southern parts of the region are generally fair, but damage to sugarcane, citrus and vegetables as a result of temperatures dipping in to the 20’s will be assessed in the weeks to come. With tomatoes on the ground, tomato growers in that area prepared early in the week for a hard freeze.
South Plains: Temperatures at the beginning of the week were mild with highs in the mid 50's. Toward the end of the week, temperatures dropped with the lows in the single digits and the highs in the mid 20's. Soil moisture was short to adequate. Most of the cotton gins completed ginning this week, and several more are only days away from being finished. Winter wheat is in fair to good condition. Pastures and ranges are in fair to good condition and have improved with the recent moisture received. The big concern for this week will be the effect of the extreme cold temperatures and wind chill factor to area livestock. Livestock producers are working this week to bust ice and keep water available to livestock. Supplemental feeding continues.
Southwest: North winds ushered in low temperatures in the mid teens during the latter part of last week, causing some damage. The cold weather briefly interrupted the harvesting of spinach, cabbage, broccoli, lettuce and carrots. Commercial landscape nurseries incurred labor and material expenses to protect plumbing and container-grown plants from the cold. Most pastures and ranges entered mid-winter dormancy after the late November 2009 hard freeze, but forage availability remains above-average for this time of the year, primarily as a result of excellent rains during the last four months of 2009. The hunting season will remain open until around January 27, 2010, but hunting activities were reduced substantially by the cold weather.
West Central: An arctic front passed through most of the region, with areas reporting good soil moisture. Wheat producers are optimistic for potential of normal to above wheat yields this spring. Supplemental feeding of livestock continues.