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Burn bans increase; stock tanks drying out

As drought prevailed, pasture and stock tanks dried out and burn bans were put in place in many counties, reported Texas AgriLife Extension Service agents.

"Gin managers are very concerned over dry conditions and very low humidity levels and the potential for module fires, as harvest continues to draw to a close," said John Senter, AgriLife Extension agent for Mitchell County , west of Abilene. "One gin yard has already experienced module fires as a result of vandalism. Tank levels continue to slowly decrease for livestock water sources."

"Dry conditions persist," said Heath Lusty, AgriLife Extension agent for Jack County , west of Denton. "Wheat pastures appear to be dying and cattle have been pulled off. Fire danger is extremely high and the county has already lost around 500 acres this month to wildfires."

"No rain this week," said Shannon Chambers, AgriLife Extension agent for Tyler County , north of Beaumont. "Very cold temperatures at night. A fire ban is in effect for some counties close to Tyler County."

"Temperatures averaging in the low 50's for highs this week with lows in the teens," said Jesse Lea Schneider, AgriLife Extension agent for Presidio County , southwest of Fort Stockton. "No precipitation. High fire danger. Cattle mineral consumption is high and most cattle on supplemental feed."

"We just have had no moisture in any form,"said Steve Sturtz, AgriLife Extension agent for Tom Green County , San Angelo. "Rangeland, pasture and wildlife are all suffering very badly. The county is under a burn ban for how long no one really knows."

"Conditions remain extremely dry in the area," said Ryan Martin, AgriLife Extension agent for Motley County , northeast of Lubbock. "A burn ban has been established for the county for the next 90 days, but looking at the forecast, county officials are worried it may need to be extended."

Also, scattered reports of drought-related cattle deaths continued to come in.

"Producers have been doing all they can to prevent these and further cattle deaths," said Rick Machen, AgriLife Extension livestock specialist in Uvalde . "There just hasn't been as much forage available, and hay nutrition may be lower due to less nitrogen fertilizer being used because of its high cost."

AgriLife Extension is working with the Texas Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory <%20http:/> to determine what else producers might do to help prevent further drought-related cattle deaths, Machen said.

The following summaries were compiled by AgriLife Extension district reporters this week:

CENTRAL: Drought conditions continued. Rain was desperately needed. Producers were heavily supplementing livestock with protein to maintain condition. Some producers were depopulating herds, and were concerned about stock ponds going dry. Pastures showed little green vegetation

COASTAL BEND: No rain but temperatures were near normal. Winter crops were showing stress from lack of rain. Growers continued field work and deliberated their choices for planting spring crops. Some farmers delayed fertilizing, waiting on fertilizer prices to drop. Topsoils were too dry to plant. Livestock producers were still supplementing cattle with forage and protein. Feeding is a constant activity for many ranchers.

EAST: Many counties across the area have experienced cold weather and a lack of rain. Despite the dry weather, producers prepared for spring planting. Livestock were in fair to good condition.

FAR WEST: The region was extremely dry and desperately needed rain. Pecans were harvested and trees were being pruned or hedged for the next season. Fall-planted onions were dormant with good stands. Cotton land was being prepared for spring wheat and next year's cotton crop. The alfalfa crop was dormant.

NORTH: Dry weather continued. Temperatures were cool. Soil moisture ranged from short to adequate, but windy conditions continued to cause evaporation of surface moisture. Stock ponds were dangerously low as there has been little to no replenishment from runoff for three months. Small grains and winter annual pastures need rain. Winter pastures looked poor; winter wheat was in poor to good condition. Lack of fertilizer added to the poor condition of winter forages. Pecan and cotton harvests were completed. Livestock were in fair to good condition with supplementation feeding ongoing. Milk production at dairies was good. Feral hogs remained a big problem. Range and pasture conditions were poor to fair.

PANHANDLE: Soil moisture ranged from short to very short. The cotton harvest was ongoing. Wheat varied from poor to excellent with most areas reporting fair to good. Range conditions varied from very poor to fair with most areas reporting fair to poor. Cattle were in good condition with supplemental feeding. Wildfire danger increased because of high winds and dry conditions.

ROLLING PLAINS: Conditions remained extremely dry. In some counties, a burn ban was put in place for the next 90 days. Officials worried that the ban may need to be further extended. The cotton harvest was completed with yields well below average. Ranchers fed livestock supplements on a daily basis while waiting moisture to replenish pastures. Farmers postponed cultivating fields and cutting stalks due to the dry weather. The wheat crop rapidly declined as no measurable moisture has fallen for 90 days. Some wheat has not had any moisture at all. Reports of green bugs, oat-bird cherry aphids and Russian wheat aphids increased. Control measures had to be taken in some cases. Stock tanks were nearly or completely dry. Most pastures showed no winter grass, and hay supplies were running low. Livestock's condition began to decline.

SOUTH: Very short soil moisture and extremely dry range and pastures conditions persisted. Producers began planting potatoes planting in the northern part of the region. In the eastern counties, farmers are prepared for dryland planting and increased field activities. More rain was needed before the 2009 cotton and grain sorghum planting season begins. In the western counties, the spinach harvest proceeded steadily. The cabbage harvesting slowed as later-planted fields need more time to mature. In the southern counties, onions progressed well and preparation for spring planting continued. Overall, range and pasture conditions in all parts of the region remained in poor condition as forage supplies declined. Livestock producers increased supplemental feeding of livestock.

SOUTH PLAINS: Dry and unseasonably warm conditions persisted. Soil moisture was very short to short. Producers were working fields, applying fertilizer, shredding stalks and listing beds. Some cotton gins completed operations. Winter wheat was in poor to fair condition and in need of moisture. Producers continued to irrigate wheat. Pastures and ranges were in poor to fair condition. The condition of livestock was mostly fair to good with continued supplemental feeding.

SOUTHEAST: The region remained cool and dry. Ranchers reported that more rain is needed to improve range conditions. Temperatures reached 24 degrees. High pressure and winds continued to further dry out top soils. Moisture will be needed soon if spring planting of row crops is to be done on schedule. Hay feeding activity was high. Ryegrass pastures were scarce this year, as conditions were too dry for planting. What moisture was received didn't arrive until late November. If these conditions continue, burn bans may have to be implemented soon, agents report.

SOUTHWEST: Except for extremely light drizzles, most of the region has been completely dry since mid-August. Forage availability was scarce. Producers have thinned their herds and were providing heavy supplemental nutrition to remaining livestock. Some ranchers reported cattle deaths as many stock tanks dried up. Planting spring crops under dryland conditions will be very limited. The cabbage and spinach harvests continued. Winter vegetables and spring onions made good progress under heavy irrigation. Spring onion planting in south Texas was down 28 percent from last year. The wheat crop was expected to be sparse.

WEST CENTRAL: Mild days and cold nights continued. Moisture conditions are reaching critical stages for everyone. Burn bans remain in effect. Cotton harvest is complete in most areas. Small grains remain stunted due to lack of moisture. Range and pasture conditions continue to decline. Ponds and tanks have dried up and water is being hauled. Supplemental feeding of livestock continues to increase. Hay supplies were running out. Livestock conditions continued to deteriorate. Producers looked at major adjustments to their production practices due to dry conditions.

TAGS: Livestock
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