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Central Texas Drought Has Farmers and Ranchers Scrambling

Dustin Drew
Alfalfa Hay available for sale

The National Weather Service releases its weekly drought monitor every Thursday morning. And for several months now, the eastern part of McLennan County has been classified as in a severe drought, the western parts of the county are in an extreme drought, and Coryell County is in an exceptional drought.

“We’re talking about an event that we would expect to only happen every few decades, and so this is a really extraordinary drought, albeit short term.”

Dan Huckaby is a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Fort Worth, and says that McLennan County is looking at deficits approaching twenty inches since the beginning of September.

Even though spring is typically our rainy season, he says the forecast for Central Texas is below normal rainfall.

“We can make up some ground, but it’s going to take several significant rain events to really put a dent in this, now several month drought that we are in.”

Huckaby says that since we received a lot of rain in early 2021, many of the lakes are not in that bad of a shape, but with short term droughts, they really focus on agriculture.

“If we head through this spring still in drought, it’s not good news for the summer months.”

Dr. Shane McLellan is a County Extension Agent with Texas A&M AgriLife, and he says that although we have seen a few showers this spring, it’s really not enough when it comes to agriculture.

“Two-tenths, every two weeks, really is nothing, just because with the wind blowing like it has been, it just pulls all that moisture out of the soil almost immediately. That doesn’t give it a chance to soak in and do anything really good.”

McLellan tells me that the not only the drought, but cold soil temperatures later into the year have been causing problems for some crops. Corn should be planted in mid-February, but this year, it was planted in the first and second week of March. And for one crop, it has been very detrimental.

“And we’re talking a fifty to, I’d say a 40 to 50 bushel decrease in wheat production.”

He tells me that one farmer had already planted corn this season, and then Ferrell hogs destroyed the crops, and then…

“Another instance where they were going to plant corn, and there was no soil moisture, it was cotton ground last year, so it’s hard. Cotton pulls a lot of nutrients and water out of the soil, and they are waiting for a rain, if they get a rain then they’ll plant cotton.

Gary Payne is the owner of Brazos Feed and Supply in Waco, and says that the drought has been a problem for ranchers as well. Since it’s been so dry, there has not been enough green grass for livestock. Some ranchers are still having to feed their cows hay this late in the season.

“And should be getting close in the next three weeks or so, probably should be getting their first cutting of hay. It’s so dry right now, that’s going to be iffy.”

Payne says that the drought has an effect on ranchers now, but it will also have an impact this fall and winter.

“And not only is it going to effect the people trying to feed their cattle, then that trickles down to people buying products in the grocery store also.”

The National Weather Service has a slight chance for rain on Sunday and Monday for Waco.

“Pray for rain”