Prolonged wet weather followed by a dry spell can mean trouble in anthrax-prone areas, according to a Texas Cooperative Extension expert.
Dr. Floron "Buddy" Faries, Extension's state veterinarian at College Station, said the recent loss of 17 cattle and a number of deer in northern Tom Green County attests to this fact.
"Anthrax occurs naturally in many areas of the state," Faries said. "It can lie dormant for decades, withstanding all types of inclement weather, but when conditions are right, it can quickly become active." Most longtime ranchers in anthrax areas are aware of this threat and routinely vaccinate their animals against it, Faries said. "It's easy to forget it's around though, because years can go by without a problem."
Anthrax is a zoonotic disease, meaning it can cross-infect from animals to humans. "The naturally occurring type, the type we're talking about here, is contracted by ingestion only, not by inhalation," Faries said. "You could have a picnic on an anthrax hotspot, spread your blanket over it and eat right on the ground, and never have a problem unless you decided to graze the grass or eat the contaminated soil."
Extension specialists and agents reported the following conditions throughout Texas:
PANHANDLE: Temperatures were near normal all week with little rain. Soil moisture was short to adequate with most areas reporting adequate. Corn was fair to excellent, though leaf diseases were reported in a few fields. Corn borer moths were active, and reports of spider mites continued. Cotton continued to improve with warmer temperatures and drier conditions. Some incidences of cotton fleahoppers and lygus bugs were reported. Peanuts were mostly good; sorghum, fair to excellent; and soybeans, mostly good. Range conditions were rated mostly good. Cattle were in excellent condition. However, fly and mosquito problems continued.
SOUTH PLAINS: High temperatures were in the low 90s with no significant rainfall. Accumulation of heat units was below normal because of several overcast days. The wheat harvest neared completion with above-average yields. Corn was good to excellent, with pollination progressing well. Cotton was fair to good, with some producers beginning to irrigate. Weed and insect pressure continued to be an issue for many cotton producers, however. Grain sorghum and peanuts were in good condition. Pumpkins were also doing well, and producers began applying fungicides. Sunflowers were in peak bloom and doing very well. Pastures and ranges were rated good to excellent. Livestock are in good condition thanks to excellent grazing conditions.
ROLLING PLAINS: With sunshine and warm weather, the cotton crop flourished, and producers were harvesting hay. Peanuts were doing well. Water tanks are full, and livestock are in good to excellent condition. Producers, however, are battling red harvester ants, frogs, flies, mosquitoes and weeds in cotton and wheat fields.
NORTH: This week has been the first dry week in several weeks, with the exception of a few spotty showers. Soil moisture ranged from adequate to surplus. Wheat farmers were frantically trying to harvest what is left of this year's crop. Wheat yields were only 25 percent of what was expected before heavy rains fell for weeks. Mainly because of head sprouting, most of the wheat crop is a loss as far as grain production is concerned and will probably be sold as cattle feed. Hay producers were also working hard to get fields cut for baling. Because producers could not cut hay in a timely fashion, quality has suffered. Hay remained in short supply, especially small square bales for horses. Because of all the rain, there was an abundance of grass, but it too is overly mature. Soybean growers sprayed for Asian rust. What little oats there were, was lost. Livestock are in good condition. Sweet potatoes have suffered from too much moisture. Crickets, mosquitoes and grasshoppers were appearing in large numbers. The range and pasture conditions were good to excellent.
EAST: Some counties received another 6-7 inches of rain during the weekend and many river bottom pastures remained under water. Even on higher ground, field conditions in some counties are not conducive for cutting and baling hay. In other counties, conditions dried enough to allow producers to harvest hay for the first time in six weeks. Efforts are still under way to secure federal disaster assistance for individual and public losses. Yields were high where hay could be harvested. Moths were seen on hayfields and pastures. Pastures were growing well. Vegetables and watermelons were still being harvested. Some Extension agents received calls about turf grass and ornamental plant diseases. Livestock are looking good.
FAR WEST: Soil moisture ranged from very short to surplus, and crops and pasture conditions ranged from very poor to excellent. Corn was rated as very poor to good; cotton, very poor to excellent with boll setting in progress. Peanuts were in fair to excellent condition; sorghum, good to excellent. Grasslands were rapidly drying up and in need of rain. The watermelon harvest proceeded well.
WEST CENTRAL: Temperatures were in the mid to upper 80s, with scattered light showers reported. Moisture conditions continue to be good to excellent. All crops seem to be doing very well. Some cotton fields, however, were flooded and might have to be replanted. Many hay fields were being cut and baled with very good yields reported. Some wheat harvesting was completed. Range and pasture conditions were good. Livestock remained in good to excellent condition. Internal parasites continued to be a major problem for sheep and goat producers. Pecans looked good, though some growers reported powdery mildew and scab.
CENTRAL: As temperatures returned to normal, the hay harvest went into full swing. Pastures and hay fields looked great. Livestock were in good shape. Corn was drying down and generally looked good. Though corn ears may be a little on the small side, the quality appeared to be high.
SOUTHEAST: Heavy rains delayed hay harvests, but pastures were in excellent condition, and stock ponds and lakes were filled to capacity. During the last four weeks, there were only five or six consecutive days without rain, which delayed field crop harvests and reduced quality. What little milo that was harvested yielded 5,500 to 6,000 pounds per acre. Sorghum did not grade well because of wet weather and grain sprouting. Early planted rice will be ready soon for harvest if weather holds. Cotton and soybeans were fair, but standing moisture in fields created problems in some counties. The excessive rainfall has destroyed the corn crop in some counties. Aquatic weeds such as sedges are taking over native pastures and nutrient-starved improved Bermuda grass pastures and hay meadows. Extension agents have not received reports of successful hay harvest for more than nine weeks.
SOUTHWEST: Light to very heavy thunderstorms dropped from 2 inches to more than 17 inches of rain over the weekend, causing flooding and other problems. The year-to-date cumulative total rainfall is now about 130 percent of the long-term average. Cool weather helped crops progress, but the rain disrupted the corn and sorghum harvests. Some corn fields were saturated, causing farmers to fear mold development. Cotton made excellent progress. The watermelon harvest continued. The peach harvest reached its peak. Peanut planting finally ended, far behind schedule due to wet fields. Pecans made excellent progress with good yields expected. Forage availability is above average.
COASTAL BEND: Some grain sorghum was harvested as soils dried early in the week. Later, however, rainfall returned, and fields became saturated again. The rain also halted Hay harvest. Most sorghum fields have moderate to severe damage due to sprouting and weathering. Cotton is shedding bolls and squares, reducing yield potential. All crops are in need of sunshine and dry weather.
SOUTH: Soil conditions ranged from surplus in Cameron County to adequate in Hidalgo and Starr counties. Some parts of the region experienced flooding. Corn fields were saturated, and sorghum harvesting came to a standstill. Range conditions, however, continued to improve. Grain harvesting in the western part of the region was about 95 percent complete.