NACOGDOCHES, TX (KTRE) - When East Texas farmers learned of the rain last week, it sent many of them scrambling to get winter crop seed into the ground.
As East Texas News learned, the long, gentle rain is perfect for establishing rye, wheat, and oats for winter forage. However, planting so late in the year is still a gamble.
There are a lot of mouths to feed at the Stephen F. Austin State University Beef Center. It is manager Chris Koffskey's job to see the cattle are well maintained through the winter.
When the cowboy was convinced the forecast was accurate, he and his staff worked after dark planting pastures with a mixture of rye and oats.
"We finished up late Thursday night, just in time for the rain Friday morning," Koffskey said.
By Monday, up to six inches fell, and it was the way ranchers like, a slow drizzle.
"Too much rain could have caused us problems, and if we had missed it, we would have been planting grass in the dry ground with no moisture, so it worked out perfect," Koffskey said.
Almost. Perfect would have been sowing the seed during late August or early September to give it time to grow before winter. The drought got in the way. Feed store owner Justin Lee said only the very optimistic puts seed down in the middle of a drought.
"They call it 'dustin' it in'; just wishing for a rain, but lots of time you get the rain and you just waste all your money," Lee said.
Lee's business has picked up since the rain, but AgriLife extension agent Ricky Thompson wasn't a customer.
"If I had the seed in the barn, then, yeah, I would have went ahead and put it out. Would I have made a dash down to the feed store to actually go and buy some seed to put out last week," Thompson. "I wouldn't."
Instead, Thompson will rely on hay and hay supplements for his cattle. This year he can't count on Mother Nature.
"Now it becomes a threshold," Thompson. "Is that winter pasture? Will it be viable to actually do any benefit before the extreme cold weather gets in?"
The risk ranchers are willing to take pretty much defines the profession.
"It's kinda a gamble, " Koffskey said. "Agriculture, in general, is a gamble."
"I always said, 'The biggest gambler in the world is a farmer,'" Thompson said.
There's still some concern that this rain hasn't been enough to pull Texas out of a drought. Ranchers say they still need a few more showers, mixed in with some warm sunshine.