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Ranchers, farmers won't see total damage caused by winter storm until next week

Posted at 6:55 PM, Feb 24, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-24 19:55:50-05

CAMERON, TX — Snow and ice swept across Texas last week, forcing cattle ranchers and farmers to race against the clock and the weather to keep their livestock and crops alive.

Like everyone in Texas, cattle ranchers and farmers took a big hit from last week's storms. But for them, staying inside away from the cold wasn’t an option.

”They were out in the storm. A lot of our cattle guys, sheep and goat guys were out pulling frozen hay rap and string off of hay bales. They were out in that environment for a lot of ours every day,” said Shane McLellan, McLennan County Agriculture Extension agent.

Hay and feed for the animals wasn’t the biggest issue during the storm. Access to drinking water for the livestock was a much harder battle to win. This could have been disastrous for cattle.

”Water is your biggest concern. Cattle, they can go days without eating but they can’t go very long without a good supply of water,” explained James Burks, general manager of 44 Farms in Cameron.

A lot of crops aren’t growing right now, but oats are. The damage done affects more than just farmers, because oats used for cattle grazing.

“They’ll graze those oats through the end of April into May, and that’s when it gets to warm and those plants dry down. That’s a big loss if you’ve got 80% loss of your grazing,” said McLellan.

There are about 22,000 acres of oat crops between McLennan County and Bell County, with the majority used for grazing. Experts estimate a loss of 60% to 100% of those crops.

Luckily some locations don’t need oat crops to feed their cattle.

”We do free graze but because of it being a development type of situation, all of our bulls and all, we develop those here, so they’re on feed,” Burks said.

Officials say there is help out there for the farmers and ranchers hit hard by the storm.

”For all the producers, whether they’re small or large, you need visit your local USDA office to find out what USDA disaster programs they have available for you,” McLellan stated.

They also recommend checking on any crop damage insurance you might have.

It will take seven to 10 days to see the full effect the storm had on crops, so the exact number of acres lost won’t be clear until next week.