The downside of weather


By Tony Farkas

On average, Madison County receives just over 45 inches of rain in any given year.

However, 2018 proved to be just a bit wetter, according to Shelly Butts, the county’s Emergency Management Coordinator: she told the Madison County Commissioners Court recently that the county got a third more last year — just under 65 inches.

Madison County was declared a disaster area last year because of rainstorms that dumped up to 15 inches in on day. Roads were washed out, bridges damages, homes flooded, trees were downed.

Another area affected by rainfall is in agriculture.

Chadd Caperton, Texas AgriLife Extension Agent for Madison County, said the increase rainfall did cause flooding, but not as much as to affect available forage for cattle.

“There are a few spots along rivers and creeks that have lost grazable acreage, but since we have had rain for so long, it prevented several producers from planting winter forage or harvesting the last cutting of hay,” he said.

The net effect, Caperton said, is that this year’s hay crop is down an estimated 20-30 percent for most ranchers — due to drought in late summer then fields that were too wet to cut in the late fall.

“Producers had to buy hay from outside and increase in supplemental feeding most commonly with increased hay, range cubes or other feedstuffs,” he said.

The end result unfortunately has led to some producers selling cattle to reduce stocking rates or selling smaller herds altogether to avoid the added feed costs, Caperton said.

“Cattle prices were already low before the rough end to 2018, but with the added amount of cattle being sold it drives the prices even lower,” he said.

However, Caperton said that ranchers in Madison county have a long history of cattle production and are usually well-prepared and react accordingly to volatile times.

“Each producer’s response is inevitably driven by cost, and each one may react differently based on their business plan,” he said. “Some may choose to sell cattle rather than feed whereas others may choose to feed more and keep cattle that will not bring very much in the sale barn.”

Although Madison County has suffered from the increased rainfall as a whole, Caperton said the area fared better than other counties further south and east.