What is in this article?:
- South Texas crops, livestock suffering under third year of drought
- Irrigation is limited
- Way short of average yields
- Making management adjustments
• Drought is damaging crop prospects, cattle operations.
• Early rainfall permitted germination of some crops.
• Cool, dry weather hampering cotton.
Way short of average yields
Last year Wendland made a crop but nowhere near average. “I cut down about 60 percent of my cotton acreage before harvest,” he says. “I made about one-half to five-eighths of a bale on the rest. Sorghum made from 1,000 to 2,500 pounds per acre. Typically, it’s not hard to make 5,000 pounds of sorghum with normal rainfall. Cotton usually makes one and-three-quarters of a bale.
“In 2011, we did a little better than in 2012, just a little under average. We had about three inches of rain that February that made the crop.”
They have no subsoil moisture for 2013. “I dug 17 corner post holes last week and found moisture in one of them,” he says. “That’s digging down about five to five and-a-half feet.”
He’s also concerned about his cattle operation, which he had developed into an efficient enterprise with a tight calving season and significant use of artificial insemination and embryo transfer.
“We had groups of cows timed to calve in a 60-day period,” he says. “We had about an 80 percent embryo transfer rate and after we put in the bulls we got that up to higher than a 90 percent calf crop.”
Heat and drought destroyed those cycles. “Nothing works during prolonged drought. Less than 50 percent of the cows would cycle even with embryo transfer.”
The efficient calving cycles he had developed are now in shambles.”Now, we just get a calf when we get a calf and keep the bulls out there.”
He’s been out of pasture for months. “Cattle are on full feed, and I have enough hay to carry them through September or October, a little longer if we get some crop stubble.”
Wendland has farmed through some dry spells before. He recalls 2006 as a bad one. “But I’ve never gone three years in succession in drought since I’ve been farming.”
Charles Ring says his area of San Patricio County may have “some of the best crops up,” for the time being. He’s one of a few who irrigates. “About 20 percent of our acreage is irrigated,” he says. Some systems have been shut down for repair.
Ring said he likes irrigating cotton if “just to get it up. Then if we get some rain, we can make something.”