Wildlife populations around the state appear in good shape after mid-August rains created good conditions going into fall and winter, according to a Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service specialist.
Dr. James Cathey, AgriLife Extension wildlife specialist, College Station, said three years of good rain have created positive range conditions for wildlife to flourish. Wildlife, such as deer, quail and turkey are expected to be healthy and in large numbers due to timely rains.
“I’ve been traveling around the state the last 10 or so days and I’ve never seen West Texas so green,” he said. “I think conditions are good for most of the state, especially compared to 2011.”
Cathey said late-summer rains arrived at a typically stressful time for deer populations and have provided ample forage for a variety of wildlife. The conditions may be good for animals but hunters may find harvesting animals to be more difficult.
“I think deer hunters will have to work harder,” he said. “It will be interesting to see because animals won’t come to supplemental feed like they do when conditions are harsh.”
Properties that are actively managed for farming and wildlife should expect to have good quality animals, he said. Regions in East Texas, which have been heavily modified for hay and crop production, have lower value for quail and wild turkey due to lack of habitat. In those areas, populations are still having trouble rebounding.
Cathey said there was early concern that deluges of rain might negatively impact quail numbers in the Gulf Coastal Plains, but populations fared well. Quail are even showing up in good numbers in drier areas of the Rolling Plains.
But not just typical game animals are having a good 2016, Cathey noted.
“Some other critters out there have done well,” he said. “For instance, wild pigs are having a good year and that’s not good for agriculture or landowners. So people need to thin out wild pigs as much as they can.”
AgriLife Extension district reporters compiled the following summaries:
CENTRAL: All counties reported good moisture. Daytime temperatures reached 100 degrees in some areas. Most counties reported good overall range and pasture conditions. Crop conditions were mostly fair. More leaf spot and leaf rust was found in Bermuda grass than ever before. County agents received many calls concerning armyworms, and pastures and yards were sprayed. Agents also received calls about tree diseases. Grasses were growing well, and producers were getting more cuttings of hay and plenty of grazing for cattle. Pastures wilted from sunny, windy days. Livestock were in good condition without supplemental feeding. Stock tanks were full.
ROLLING PLAINS: Rain fell across much of the district with amounts totaling up to 6.5 inches in some counties, which caused erosion and terrace failures. Rainfall reduced the threat of wildfires. Some cotton farmers in the northern part of the district weren’t happy to see wet weather because bolls were beginning to open and plants needed a few more heat units to mature. Some producers said they were beginning to see regrowth within plants and planned to spray growth regulators soon, weather permitting. This year’s cotton crop looked very promising, provided the weather cooperates. Producers began planting winter wheat which should benefit from recent rainfall. Armyworms were reported in some fields and pastures. Livestock were in good to excellent condition with plenty of grazing. However, ranchers need more rainfall to fill stock tanks going into the winter months.
COASTAL BEND: Scattered showers occurred with some cotton fields still too wet to complete harvests. Crop harvest continued in most areas, and producers were working on cotton stalk destruction. Hay fields were drying out enough for harvesting. Cattle were in good condition with very good grass available. Armyworms continued to be a problem in some pastures. Fall marketing of winter and spring-born calves was in full swing.
EAST: Pasture and range conditions were mostly good across the district. Some counties reported rain while other counties received no rain. Hay harvests continued. Grass regrowth was strong due to the abundance of rain received during the past few months. Most counties reported adequate subsoil and topsoil conditions. Many producers were able to harvest another hay crop, and many have fertilized again and were waiting on another cutting. Those not cutting expected a great standing hay crop going into the winter months. Some ranchers were prepping for winter pastures. Producers were planting fall gardens. Armyworms continued to plague growers. Fly and mosquito numbers increased greatly after the rains. Livestock were in fair to good condition. Cows were fat and calves were growing. Weaning and selling of market-ready calves and cull cows continued. Fall cattle work was taking place. Cattle prices were holding steady in Gregg County but were down in Shelby County. Houston County had lightweight calves up a bit compared to prior weeks. Slaughter cattle were down. Wood County also reported cattle prices have taken a hit. Wild pigs were active.
SOUTH PLAINS: Bailey County producers received 8-12 inches of rainfall over the last three weeks. Rains slowed silage harvests and wheat planting. It’s too early to tell how much crops will benefit from the rains as cooler-than-normal weather the last three weeks has slowed development. Subsoil and topsoil moisture were adequate. Peanuts, late-planted corn and grain sorghum were doing very well. Some corn was harvested prior to the wet weather, and harvest should resume as fields dry. Reports indicated recent weather conditions were extremely conducive for the development of Alternaria leaf spot on cotton. Pastures and rangeland should improve with wet conditions. Cattle were in good condition.
PANHANDLE: Moisture was received in some areas and brought cooler temperatures. Soil moisture levels rated mostly adequate. Deaf Smith County producers were back in their fields with cooler temperatures and very little rain. Silage cutters tried to find dry fields to keep moving. Corn fields were well into maturity with harvest right around the corner. Grain sorghum fields were doing OK, but planes were still spraying for sugarcane aphids in some fields. Producers were trying to get a wheat crop planted. The cotton crop was at a standstill as cooler temperatures shut down plant growth. Irrigation ceased on all crops. Planting conditions were excellent. Rangeland and pastures were mostly fair to good. Cattle were in good condition.
NORTH: Topsoil and subsoil moisture levels were adequate to short. No measurable rain fell. Temperatures were in the mid-to-high 90s and had summer grasses suffering again. Cotton and soybeans were doing well for this time of year. Producers were still in the fields harvesting hay. Planting of wheat and other winter grains began. Livestock were in good condition and pastures looked good. Armyworms were a problem in some pastures and hay meadows and prevented winter planting. The armyworms were everywhere, including yards, and people were spraying to control them.
FAR WEST: Temperatures were in the high 80s and low 90s. Conditions were overcast, and rain showers covered most of the district. Heavy rains in areas caused standing water in ditches and fields. Rain amounts ranged up to 5 inches and improved range conditions. Rangeland grasses were growing rapidly and turning green. Rains made field conditions difficult for farmers to work and harvest alfalfa, which caused some of it to rot. Cotton bolls were rotting as well due to moisture. Some cotton acres were defoliated and being readied for harvest. Late sorghum and haygrazer producers were still fighting sugarcane aphids. A very small percentage of wheat was planted after recent rains for grazing. Supplemental feeding of livestock and wildlife continued. Cattle were in good condition with stockers and calves gaining rapidly. Some shipping of stockers occurred and early calves were being weaned and worked for preconditioned sales.
WEST CENTRAL: Scattered showers amounted to up to 2 inches. High temperatures helped dry out some wet areas in the district. Rains made winter wheat progress come to a standstill. Cotton fields improved and were in mostly good to excellent condition. Producers cut and baled hay. Field were prepared for fall planting. Armyworm problems increased rapidly. Rangeland, pastures and livestock, were in fair condition.
SOUTHEAST: Galveston County received heavy rains. Showers were not widespread, and temperatures were near average. Cotton producers were beginning to get back in fields to harvest remaining cotton. Cotton harvests progressed in some areas. Yields were 500-750 pounds, but cotton was not graded yet. Livestock were in good condition with plenty of grass. Hay producers will cut meadows as soon as meadows dry. High humidity levels caused hay to cure much slower. In Walker County, growing conditions were favorable. Armyworms and grasshoppers caused damage. Pastures were beginning to dry in some areas. However, there were still many areas with standing water due to pop-up showers. Soil moisture levels ranged widely from adequate to surplus, with most adequate. Rangeland and pasture ratings varied widely too, from excellent to good, with fair being most common.
SOUTHWEST: Recent rains pushed everything back, and farmers moved into fall planting. Warm and humid weather continued with no rain in the forecast. Cotton harvests resumed, and small grain planting continued as planned. Some corn harvests were completed with above-average yields. Armyworms have hit some counties. Fly populations increased. Ponds were full and pastures were growing well. Topsoil moisture levels decreased. Forages were beginning to decline due to hot weather conditions. Pastures looked good, and hay was baled. Livestock and white-tailed deer were in fair condition.
SOUTH: Scattered showers fell across parts of the district. Rain amounts ranged from 0.75-4 inches. Conditions in areas that received rainfall showed good improvement. Other areas remained dry. Temperatures were above 100 degrees in Webb County with no rain. The peanut harvest began and was expected to be in full swing soon. The cotton harvest continued, and field activities increased in preparation for wheat planting. Farmers were trying to get corn stubble, sorghum and cotton plowed under. Some fall armyworm activity was reported on improved pastures throughout the district. Body condition scores on cattle remained good. Range and pastures remained in good condition. Soil moisture conditions ranged from adequate to short. Pasture and range conditions remained good. Buffelgrass pastures started to show burning on the edges as a result of hot temperatures. Some hay harvesting continued but in some areas remained at a standstill due to wet conditions and rain in the forecast. Forage production was good. Pecan producers reported a good nut crop. Some pecan shucks were beginning to open, depending on variety and location. Fall seedbed preparations continued, and dryland oat producers were busy planting fields. Winter vegetable planting continued in some areas. Spinach planting was expected to begin soon. Planting of vegetables continued on irrigated land, and some hay baling was underway on irrigated fields. Livestock were in good condition.
Source: AgriLife Today