Environment

Texas Cattle Country Braces For Another Hot Summer. But Will Drought Return?

Last summer -- the state's hottest and driest on record -- brought Texas ranchers to their knees. Rains have revived parts of the state, especially the east. But 50 miles west of Fort Worth and further, the drought varies from severe to exceptional.

So, what's in store for us this summer? Unfair Park chatted with Dr. Travis Miller, Texas AgriLife Extension Service agronomist and drought spokesperson, about reading the climate-modeling tea leaves and what he's seen in his perambulations across the state.

Will Texas see the scalding temperatures we saw last summer? The climatic forecast shows signs of a probability of higher-than-normal temperatures for almost all of the southern U.S. for this summer. You can say above normal, but we don't know how high above normal, so we don't have a prognostication on whether it'll be extreme.

What about drought conditions? Do you expect them to intensify again? The drought forecast for the eastern two-thirds of the state, the model doesn't show anything ... It may be normal; it may be above; it may be below. Right now, much of the eastern third of the state's in pretty good condition, but whether it'll stay that way or not, that's the question. West Texas is still in drought.

Last year, ranches disgorged themselves of many head of cattle and sent them off to the packers and auction barns. Are they restocking, or are they cautious? We've seen some cows coming in. In East Texas, I see trailers with cows in them. When I'm in West Texas, I don't. Our advice is, make sure you have a good forage base, and that the grass is reestablished after this horrible event before buying cattle. Don't windshield it and say, 'It s green, I'm gonna by cattle.'

What about the hay crop. Ranchers had to truck it in from all over the country after crops failed. A lot of hay's being cut. I've seen hay harvesting going on all over the eastern part of the state. People out in West Texas don't have anything.

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Brantley Hargrove