Drought Conditions Worsen in Fort Bend County

9 08 2011

There has been little or no rain in Fort Bend County in recent weeks.  The little bit of showers that occurred about a week ago are now a distant memory.  The KBDI level is now well over 700 indicating that we are experiencing “absolutely dry conditions.”  And so is the rest of our region and the rest of the State of Texas.  As of today, 10 of the 13 counties that make up the Houston-Galveston Area Council have KBDI levels over 700; and two other counties are fast approaching that level.

The dry conditions are only exacerbated by the daily Heat Advisories in the County.  Afternoon temperatures will likely exceed  triple digits again for what seems like about two weeks in a row; and the upper level high pressure will continue bring well above normal temperatures and heat index values between 105 degrees and 110 degrees.  So far this week, the electrical grid seems to be handling the load, but when temperatures are this high, a strain is put on electrical demands across the area. 

Last week, rolling blackouts were barely avoided when electrical usage soared to new record heights across the State of Texas.  Temperatures are remaining very warm at night so nobody gets much relief from the heat when outside.

Cattle at Mason Briscoe's Ranch in Rosenberg

There have been some heat related deaths in the State, but fortunately not in Fort Bend County yet.  Problems persist for those in the agricultural and farming trades.  As reported by Jeff Osborne in the Fort Bend Herald on July 30th, the heat and lack of rain is devastating the ranching industry.  He writes:

Rain Hardly Helps Drought

Dave Scott of Richmond, former president of the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association, said this year’s drought has caused nothing less than a disaster to plague area farmers and ranchers.

Echoing the comments of many others in the agriculture industry, Scott said this year’s drought is the worst he’s ever seen.

“When you have people like Hilmar Moore selling cattle that says it all,” Scott said.

And the bad news just keeps coming.

“The farmers are probably hit even worse than the cattle people,” he said. “If it stays this way, a lot of people are going to struggle and suffer.”

Scott said there’s very little hay on the market in Texas. And what little hay is available is very expensive.

“Hay that sold for $40 a roll last year costs $70 to $75 right now,” he said.

“They’re shipping some hay out of Arkansas (to Texas ranchers), but the problem with those big round bales is that you have to invest so much money in freight costs. It’s very, very expensive.”

Scott said he can’t think of anyone raising cattle who hasn’t had to sell at least some of their herd.

“We’ve had to cull 2 to 2 1/2 times more than we usually sell at auction,” he said.

“In North and Central Texas, they’re telling people not to bring their cattle to sell. They already have more than they can handle. Fortunately, we haven’t gotten quite that bad around here yet.”

Scott said recent rains might help some farmers and ranchers, “but we’re almost down to the bare dirt. The grass is gone. So people are having to lighten up on (the number of cattle they have).”

Mason Briscoe, who owns Fort Bend County Feed & Farm Supply in Rosenberg, also raises cattle.

“This drought has hurt us in a whole lot of different ways,” he said. “One of the main things is I had to sell calves 2 or 3 months early this summer. “There’s just very little grass.

“The price of cotton seed hulls has gone up a lot, and they don’t even have any available until they can harvest and process the cotton. All the feed has gone sky high, too. It’s rough.”

He said the cost of range cubes for cattle has increased $3 to $4 “and nobody can afford to feed, and now’s the time we need to feed the most, because we haven’t got any grass.”

Scott said there’s little farmers and ranchers can do, except cut their losses and hold on for better days – if possible.

“Everybody is living day-to-day waiting for the next big rain,” he said. “And even then, we wonder if it’s going to be enough.”

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