NACOGDOCHES COUNTY, TX (KTRE) - First it was last year's drought. Then in September there was rain; lots of it, followed by the driest October on record in Texas. Now, the dry spell continues into its third month. It's uncertain how long cattle will be enjoying their winter pasture.
"These pastures are really stressed. They're getting very little growth," said Dr. Travis Miller, the associate department head and Texas A & M Agri-Life service program leader in the Soil and Crop Science Department in College Station. "Some of the stands are still hanging on,but they can only do that for a little while on the amount of rainfall we got."
Aside from a lack of rain there's a concern for the higher than normal winds. Wind dries out soil faster than sunshine. That's something even homeowners should keep in mind while winterizing their lawns.
At the SFA Beef Farm the planting of winter crops came at the opportune time; just right before the September rain. The green pastures could become taller and more lush with some late November rain.
Winter pastures can often sustain herds through the winter. Now it's looking like ranchers will need to pitch some hay. Fortunately in East Texas hay prices are down and availability is up.
"There was a lot of hay," said Jamie Sugg, Texas Agri-Life extension agent for Nacogdoches County. "A lot of guys I've talked to say they got plenty of hay to get through the winter or have access to that hay."
Purchasing hay after planting and fertilizing winter seed costs ranchers. It's unlikely it will be passed down to the consumer due to high market turnover.
"Several times before it goes straight from the pasture to the plate," said Sugg.
Consumers will continue to see high meat prices.
"But that, more than likely, will be the affects of the drought rather than just this dry period here his fall," said Sugg.
Also high are the risks of farming and ranching. Some have left the profession, but others stay on not wanting to miss seeing their herds knee deep in grass.