COLLEGE STATION – A “coin toss” is how a Texas drought expert describes the forecast for rainfall across the state this season. But there are some actions farmers and ranchers can take rather than hoping for a stroke of luck.
“There’s a high probability that we’re going to have abnormally warm temperatures over the next 6 months,” said Dr. Travis Miller, Texas AgriLife Extension Service agronomist and drought spokesperson. “And there’s an equal chance of above or below normal precipitation. This drought is not over for large areas of the state.”
The National Integrated Drought Information System predicts that the drought will persist or intensify for more than half of Texas through July.
Miller said about one-third of the state has received enough rainfall this year to climb out of the drought that began in October 2010, but the remainder is in “significant drought.” That means even with normal or above normal rainfall in those areas, more is needed to end the drought there.
“The High Plains, much of the western Rolling Plains, and virtually all of Far West Texas remains in significant drought and is predicted to stay in drought,” he said. “We know that the areas of the state that haven’t had significant rainfall have to have a lot more rainfall before they can get back to normal. A lot remains to be determined, because it’s still very dry.“
In the eastern part of Texas, where sufficient rainfall has been received this year, producers are cutting and baling hay. In the western part where it is still dry, ranchers are still feeding supplemental feed or hay, Miller noted.
He added that the East Texas hay supply is helpful for the western livestock raisers because it can be hauled from a shorter distance than from the places it came from in 2011.
The drought specialist said that many Texas ranchers lost stands of perennial grasses from their acreages in the drought and are encouraged not to restock if that grass has not grown back significantly.
“They need to go out and evaluate their forage supplies,” he suggested. “They need to determine if the grass has begun to regrow and become well-established before they “pull the trigger on restocking.”
“That’s how the effect of one really horrific year of drought can affect multiple years,” Miller said. “If you can’t restock, then you can’t have income coming in from your cattle herd. And it trickles down from that part of the economy throughout the state.”