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Dry conditions present hard choices

Dry conditions present hard choices

Wheat farmers hurting from extended drought. Producers grazing wheat face tough choices Freeze caused only cosmetic damage to wheat

As temperatures begin to warm up after an extended cold spell, wheat producers in some parts of the state are going to have to make some hard choices, according to a Texas AgriLife Extension Service expert.

The record freezing weather caused only cosmetic damage to Rolling Plains wheat and will have little effect on yields, said Dr. Todd Baughman, AgriLife Extension agronomist based in Vernon.

"The big issue is that we just didn't get the snow we were expecting from either one of the storms," Baughman said. "There's a lot of this country that hasn't had a significant rainfall since October."

The late fall and winter is a usually drier time for the region, he said, but typically it will receive about an inch of moisture a month in one form or another.

Wheat in the region is grown for grazing and for grain. In an average year, 60 percent or more of the region's producers will do both, graze during the winter, then pull cattle off and allow wheat to make a grain crop, he said.

The stands are surviving from earlier rains in the summer and early fall. But as the weather warms, the crop will start growing faster and require more moisture. Unless there is rain, a producer will have to make some tough management decisions or lose stands, Baughman said.

"One, he's going to have sell cattle earlier than he would like, so they're going to go in light (to market)," he said. "Or he's going to have use additional hay and feed to extend that grazing, which is going to add to the cost of gain. Or he's going to have pull acres away from harvest. My guess is that all three of those things will happen."

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