Archive for August, 2009

An update from Agrilife News about our South Texas drought:

COLLEGE STATION – Hot, dry weather continued for most of Texas, with South Texas still the hottest and driest, according to Texas AgriLife Extension Service personnel.

It has been so hot and dry that ranchers are losing cattle, said Sammy Gavito, AgriLife Extension agent for Duval County, west of Corpus Christi. “There’s some cattle dying,” Gavito said. “It’s not dead cattle all over the place. They’re not lying everywhere. But every rancher I’ve talked to has had at least a cow or two die out in his pasture, and that’s even when he’s trying to feed.”

Even small percentages of death loss represent more hardship for ranchers in Duval and neighboring counties, where agriculture is largely based on beef production. Gavito estimated that most of the ranchers he talked to had lost from 3 percent to 5 percent of their herds. He attributed the losses directly to drought conditions. “We’ve had 2 inches of rain in a year’s time,” he said. “We’re about 22 to 23 inches below normal for the year. There isn’t enough for them to eat, and it’s very hot. We’ve had almost 50 days in row of almost 100 degrees. That’s a record for us down here.” Gavito said many of his ranchers who waited too long to liquidate their herds are in tough position. “There’s a fine line there,” he said. “Where you’ve waited too long and now they’re too thin, and you’re not going to get anything for them.”

Some of the ranchers in his county sold off herds early. Others are now to the point where they’re trying to sell off even though their cattle won’t bring much at the sale barn, Gavito said. “The ranchers have fed and fed and fed, and now they’re fed up,” he said. But Gativo said he believed conditions will turn around soon. “We feel that the drought just has to break. It’s just been too long,” he said. “The predictions are that we’re going to turn this thing around come September.”

COASTAL BEND: The drought worsened as dry conditions and record heat continued. The cotton harvest was ongoing. In some areas, cotton was zeroed-out and shredded down. Sesame was drying, and harvesting will begin soon. Producers continued to sell livestock because of lack of forage and expensive hay.

SOUTH: The region was hot and dry with no rain forecast. Most of the region reported short to very short soil moisture conditions. Cotton harvesting was just beginning in the northern part of the region. Producers continued irrigating peanuts. Cotton bolls were opening. There was no field crop activity in the eastern parts of the region. Cattle were dying on ranches due to the lack of water, and producers continued liquidating herds. Some producers in the western parts of the region have had to lower irrigation pipes due to the dropping water tables. No dryland pre-planting activities for fall wheat and oats were reported in the western counties because of the drought. Worsening rangeland and pastures caused thin cattle. The importing of hay from other areas of the state was very active.

More information on drought in Texas can be found at the Web site of the Drought Joint Information Center at http://agrilife.tamu.edu/drought/.


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Had some wonderful bread made by local baker Jerry in Rockport, Texas. The whole grain loaf had a nice crunchy exterior and was darned good toasted with butter and drizzle o’ honey.  You can purchase his bread at the Fulton Farmer’s Market or email him directly–he might even ship it to you!

Just Loafin Bread

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Noah Thompson who runs Victoria Farmers Market


When: from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays, Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Where: 2805 N. Navarro St., in front of the Dr. Pattie Dodson Public Health Center

For more information about the Victoria Farmer’s Market or to sell produce at the local market, call market manager Noah Thompson at 361-277-2268.

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It’s too bad they don’t bring attention to the South Texas drought the same way they do to homeland security. If so, we would probably be at level RED.  Reading this from the Texas A&M Agrilife news is scary enough:

Unless they receive significant rain in the next week or two, dryland cotton in the Rolling Plains may not make a crop. But by far, conditions are most dire in counties south of U.S. Interstate Highway 10, AgriLife Extension agents said.

 “Range and pastures remain in very poor condition with forage supply and livestock water from stock tanks at critically low levels,” said Isaac J. Cavazos, AgriLife Extension agent for McMullen County. “Low forage supply conditions coupled with high feed prices and low stock tank water levels are forcing ranchers to further cull their herds and in some cases liquidate the entire herd.”

I wonder what the going rate was for Hereford cattle in good times. You can get one now for $2200 at Brown Ranch in Beeville.

It’s not just cattle that are suffering. Wildlife populations are at risk in South Texas too, said Dr. Jim Gallagher, AgriLife Extension wildlife specialist based in Uvalde.

“It’s gotten so dry that the (feral) hogs have moved out,” he said.

Gallagher was not kidding. Areas such as Caldwell County that had high incidences of hog damage are now not seeing hogs.

Wildlife and hunting leases are big business in South Texas. Many landowners make from three to five times as much on their wildlife ventures as they do in conventional agriculture, according to Gallagher.

“It’s getting tougher; there’s no doubt about it,” he said. “I was farther south on the Coastal Plains during July. Adult quail seem to be surviving all right, but out of the couple of dozen groups that I saw, about 20 were just a male and female pair. And that’s some of the better results that I’ve seen.”

This was sad to read. Especially since we have a friend that found a dead fawn in her pool yesterday…

Gallagher said he has seen some fawns but he wonders how many will live. Although there is cover for the mother deer to hide the fawn in some areas, he wonders if does will have enough food to produce sufficient milk to support their fawns into the fall.

More information on drought in Texas can be found at the Web site of the Drought Joint Information Center at http://agrilife.tamu.edu/drought/.

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Local Agribusiness Update

Just came across this wonderful resource that reports local conditions in our area. Will be updating this every week.  Many thanks to the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension district reporters.

COASTAL BEND: The region had above-normal temperatures and no rain. The drought continued to take its toll. The cotton harvest was ongoing. Producers continued to sell livestock because hay was scarce and expensive, and there was no standing forage in pastures.  Rangeland and pastures will need several years to come back to quality grazing potential. Row crops were near complete failure. Low grain yields were reported coming into elevators. Farmers and ranchers had a poor outlook, and the agribusiness infrastructure, such as grain facilities, harvesting and trucking companies, was suffering. Sale of cattle and other livestock continued because hay was scarce and expensive.

SOUTH: Hot, dry and windy conditions continued, and soil moisture remained short. In the northern and western parts of the region, corn and sorghum harvests were completed. Cotton bolls were opening, and peanuts pegging. Producers continued to heavily irrigate due to the lack of rain. The cotton harvest was peaking in the southern parts of the region. Corn and grain sorghum harvesting was ongoing, and preparation for fall crop planting continued. Irrigation of citrus and sugarcane crops was also active. Rangeland and pastures remained in very poor condition. Forages were scarce, and livestock water tanks were at critically low levels. Cattle were dying in pastures, according to reports from AgriLife Extension in Duval County. Ranchers were forced to further cull their herds. In some cases, they have liquidated their entire herds.

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South Texas Botanical Gardens in Corpus Christi, TX

South Texas Botanical Gardens in Corpus Christi, TX

The South Texas Wine & Herb Festival will be held this year at the South Texas Botanical Gardens on Saturday, October 16, from 9am – 5pm.
There will be a variety of seminars and demonstrations under the Rose Pavilion on the half hour by members of the Rockport Rose and Herb Study Group and other wine and herb enthusiasts.   Partnering with the Texas Department of Agriculture’s ‘Go Texan’ program, there will be wine tastings in the afternoon and cooking demos using Texas seafood. Vendors will be on site with potted herbs and other herb or wine-related merchandise.  Home Grown editor Judy Barrett will present her new book, “What Can I do with my Herbs?”.

South Texas Botanical Gardens & Nature Center
8545 S. Staples St.
Corpus Christi, TX
Telephone #: 361/852-2100
Web Page: www.stxbot.org

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At first glance, this part of south Texas is a fairly unremarkable region. The towns have a few nice old buildings and downtown parks. In fact, this area southwest of San Antonio is known as the “Winter Garden”. Mild conditions mean farmers can grow and harvest spinach throughout the winter and spring. It totals about 20 million pounds, making Texas the nation’s fourth largest spinach provider. The Winter Garden area also produces large quantities of onions, carrots, tomatoes, peppers, watermelons and cantaloupes.

Del Monte built a local cannery back in the 1940s and it’s still the nation’s biggest. Giant harvesters clip the leaves off the top of each plant, then they let it grow some more. That means farmers can harvest the same field up to three times in one season. Del Monte says this plant can turn out a million cans of spinach a day for 70 to 80 days a year. It takes about 25 acres to produce those million cans a day and Del Monte gets all their spinach from about fifteen local spinach farmers. The company provides the seed, gives advice on land preparation and planting and helps with the harvest.

The annual Crystal City Spinach Festival is held during the second weekend of November. The festival features a spinach cook-off, parade, live Tejano music, carnival, car show, a variety of food and beverage booths, a 5K run and related activities.

What else is going on in Crystal City?

View looking east of the entire Crystal City WWII civilian internment camp. Smaller “E” in center is the Japanese Market. German Section lower left; L-shapped building is German School.” (Photo and caption from UTSA ITC archives.)

View looking east of the entire Crystal City WWII civilian internment camp. Smaller “E” in center is the Japanese Market. German Section lower left; L-shapped building is German School.” (Photo and caption from UTSA ITC archives.)

During World War II, Crystal City was home to the largest alien internment camp housing American civilians of German and Japanese immigrants, and, to a lesser extent, Italian ancestry, as well as enemy aliens of similar backgrounds. However, the majority of internees were South American citizens that were mixed in with a smaller number of German, Italian, and Japanese internees. An annual former internees reunion was initiated in 2002. Zavala County Historical Commission: P.O. Box 616, Crystal City, Texas 78839.

Crystal City Spinach Festival
November (middle)
Telephone #: 830/374-3161
Web Page: www.ccspinachfest.com

Thanks to America’s Heartland for spinach info.

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