Many Wharton County ranchers fought to keep their livestock alive during last week’s winter storm that ravaged the state with freezing temperatures, water losses and power blackouts. As the weather warms up, ag industry members are still assessing the damage.
At the beginning of February, Wharton County producers were prepping their fields and watching the weather as they waited to begin planting. Three weeks into the month, few acres were planted, and producers likely didn’t see much crop loss due to when the cold weather hit.
“Thankfully there were very few if any acres planted going into last week’s extreme cold, so row crop producers fared well with that respect,” United Ag Grain Merchandiser Lindsey Bowers said.
In other regions of Texas, producers of cold-season crops like citrus fruits and leafy green vegetables saw losses due to the storm, Texas A&M University’s AgriLife Extension office. Oranges and grapefruits were nearly frozen solid, with potential long term damage to the producer’s trees.
Local ag leaders anticipated planting would begin for Wharton County corn producers around the end of the month, with grain sorghum producers likely following shortly after. After a week of below freezing cold dropped soil temperatures, planting season will likely be delayed.
“At this time, I’d say it only pushed back our start date for planting,” Bowers said.
Livestock ranchers were not so lucky. The cold presented difficulties keeping animals hydrated, fed and alive.
El Campoan Kaydi Gibson owns horses and saw her animals’ water sources frequently freeze over throughout the week, she said via the Leader-News Facebook page.
“We had no running water and (had) to break ice on troughs at least twice a day,” Gibson said.
Dina Vajdos of Louise didn’t lose any cattle due to the freeze, as she was able to keep a steady stock of cattle cubes during the storm, she told the newspaper on social media.
“My cattle are fine and ready for warm weather,” Vajdos said.
Exact counts of livestock lost may not be available for weeks, according to AgriLife. Bowers said the losses locally are high.
“Livestock producers were hit tremendously hard,” Bowers said. “All the preparation possible could not have prevented some degree of loss. Many head of cattle across the county died in the freezing temperatures.”
“I’d like readers to know the lengths that ranchers went to protect and save their cattle, even in the face of hopelessness,” she added. “Farmers and ranchers are true stewards of the land and livestock.”