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July 15, 2011

Surviving the fire MOST LIVESTOCK, WILDLIFE UNHARMED BY GRIMES COUNTY BLAZE PAG E 10

MARSH�ME��OW

DO FENCE ME IN

Birds flock to new manmade coast wetland.

Help available to rebuild fences lost to fire.

HAVE YOU HERD?

STATEWIDE DESIGNATION

PAGE 3

Drought likely to slow herd rebuilding. PAGE 4

PAGE 11

USDA declares 213 counties disaster areas. PAGE 13


The Land & Livestock Post ✪ July 15, 2011 2

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By RAMIT PLUSHNICKMASTI Associated Press

BAYTOWN — Brown pelicans, long-necked egrets, flamingo-like roseate spoonbills and squawking seagulls fly lazily around a Texas Gulf Coast island. Nearby, a toddler-aged wetland seeded with marsh grass completes the ecosystem, its thousands of inhabitants unaware their home is a creation dredged from the Houston Ship Channel. It’s all part of a 20-year-old project to restore lost wetlands and islands off the Texas coast. The federal government is hoping it could become a model for rebuilding these crucial ecosystems elsewhere in the five-state Gulf region. This and other efforts to

revitalize the environment and economy of the long-neglected coastal area are being partially bankrolled by a $1 billion fund from BP, which agreed to pay the money as part of its responsibility for the massive oil spill that fouled the Gulf of Mexico. Harris Sherman, undersecretary for natural resources and the environment at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, recently viewed a bird island and toured a “demo” wetland used to experiment how to best grow thick marsh grasses. “Strengthening the ecology of the Gulf area is critically important. In doing so we can improve the economy of

• See MARSH/Page MARSH 9

July 15, 2011

We filled so many boxes with donations, I think we had to ask for someone to donate more boxes. In our cover story, we take a look at the Grimes County fires and how livestock and wildlife were affe af cted, or in this case, fortunately, weren’t affected. By now, everyone is sick of the drought, but we have several in this issue that can help you deal with it. I’m hoping and praying daily that I can stop running these stories soon. All this along with a few more stories and our regular features are in this issue, and I hope you enjoy reading them. ’Til next time,

ometimes it takes the worst to bring out the best in people. This is a lesson I learned recently, not once but twice. We recently held a fundraiser for some friends of mine whose baby has been at Texas Children’s Hospital since she JESSE WRIGHT was born back in February. We were hoping for at least 100 people, and almost 400 showed up. It was an outpouring of support that was humbling, to say the least. That same week, we started accepting donations at The Eagle to help the wildfire victims in Grimes County.

Manmade wetlands created from Houston Ship Channel

The Land & Livestock Post

News

AP Photo/David J. Phillip

Egrets are shown at a colonial waterbird nesting site as a refinery stands in the background along the Houston Ship Channel in Baytown.

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The Land & Livestock Post âœŞ July 15, 2011

News

Drought will slow rebuilding of cow herds By DONALD STOTTS Oklahoma State University

Ongoing drought conditions in the southern Great Plains states make it increasingly likely the rebuilding of the United States’ cow herd will take four years or more. For the year to date, beef cow slaughter decreased 4.4 percent nationally while beef cow slaughter in Region 6, which closely corresponds to the drought area, increased 11.7 percent. Derrell Peel, Oklahoma State University Cooperative Extension livestock marketing specialist, said the contrast between beef cow slaughter nationally and in the drought region clearly indicates that the effects are significant. “At a minimum, Region 6 beef cow slaughter at the same rate relative to the cow herd as last year — which

implies additional herd liquidation — would suggest about 49,000 fewer head than last year,� he said. “Without the drought the national slaughter rate would be down 7.7 percent compared to the observed rate of 4.4 percent for the year to date.� Moreover, a Region 6 slaughter rate closer to the long-term average regional rate would suggest that an additional 100,000 head of cows have been added to total beef cow slaughter so far this year because of the drought. For the entire year of 2011, it appears that beef cow slaughter could have decreased approximately 10 percent year over year in the absence of drought, a value that is consistent with herd expansion. “The additional 100,000 head of culling already estimated implies that the annual beef cow slaughter rate would

“Depending on how much additional drought liquidation occurs, beef herd liquidation upwards of 2 percent is increasingly likely. ely.� ely DERRELL PEEL Oklahoma Stat State ate University it Cooperat ity er ive Ext erat Exten xtension livestoc est k market specialist estoc be limited to a decrease of 7 percent to 8 percent, and that assumes no additional drought-induced culling for the remainder of the year,� Peel said. The drought, however, is still very much in place and more culling is likely. “Projecting the current rate of slaughter for the southern Great Plains states for the rest of 2011 would result in a national beef cow slaughter rate that decreases only 3 percent,� Peel said. Peel’s analysis indicates the resulting drought impacts are likely to have implica-

tions on the cow herd for several years. “My early projections showed that it might have been possible to stabilize the beef herd this year but only under the most favorable circumstances,� he said. “Even without a drought it was likely that the U.S. cow herd could easily decrease another 0.5 percent to 1 percent in 2011. Depending on how much additional drought liquidation occurs, beef herd liquidation upwards of 2 percent is increasingly likely.� Doing the math indicates that if the effects of the

drought were to stop now, the additional cow slaughter that already has occurred would likely result in beef herd liquidation of close to 1.5 percent for the year. “However, the additional herd liquidation will extend and exaggerate the current reduced animal inventories by at least another year,� Peel said. In short, herd growth rates will be limited when they finally do start. Peel said that makes it increasingly likely that any significant herd rebuilding will take at least four years to six years.

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Microalgae holds promise as food, fuel, feed By ROD SANTA ANA Texas AgriLife Communications

July 15, 2011

• See ALGAE/Page ALGAE 7

CORPUS CHRISTI — Just as corn and peanuts stunned the world decades ago with their then-newly discovered multibeneficial uses and applications, Texas AgriLife Research scientists in Corpus Christi think microalgae holds even more promise. “It’s a huge, untapped source of fuel, food, feed, pharmaceuticals and even pollution-busters,” said Carlos Fernandez, a crop physiologist at the Texas AgriLife Research and Extension Center at Corpus Christi who is studying the physiological responses of microalgae to the environment. There are an estimated 200,000 to 800,000 species of microalgae, microscopic algae that thrive in freshwater and marine systems, Fernandez said.

Of all those species, only 35,000 species have been described, he said. “We’re only starting to scratch the surface of discovering the natural secrets of microalgae and their many potential uses and benefits,” he said. “But already it’s obvious that farmers will one day soon be growing microalgae on marginal land that won’t compete with fertile farmland. They won’t even compete for fresh water to grow.” To understand how best to grow it, Fernandez constructed a microalgae physiology laboratory to study how it’s affected by temperature, salinity, nutrients, light levels and carbon dioxide. “We have four bioreactors in which we grow microalgae to determine the basic physiological responses that affect its

The Land & Livestock Post

News

AgriLife Research photo by Rod Santa Ana

Carlos Fernandez examines one of four bioreactors prior to growing microalgae for studies.

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The Land & Livestock Post ✪ July 15, 2011

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Scientists study cotton and drought conditions By ROD SANTA ANA Texas AgriLife Communication

CORPUS CHRISTI — As billion-dollar agricultural losses continue to mount in the withering Texas heat, Texas AgriLife Research scientists in Corpus Christi are taking a closer look at why some cotton varieties do better than others in drought conditions. “We want to better understand those traits that control water use in plants so we can transfer that information to breeders and geneticists to more quickly develop drought-tolerant cultivars so badly needed here,” said Carlos Fernandez, a plant physiologist at the Texas AgriLife Research and Extension Center in Corpus Christi. To coax that information from nature, Fernandez designed and constructed a unique drought-tolerance

greenhouse laboratory last year that is fully automated and computerized. The system closely tracks the water use and growth of various cotton varieties from planting to harvest, he said. “All plants are treated equally,” Fernandez said. “They all have the exact same amount of highabsorbent soil to remove that as a variation factor. Each also gets exactly the same amount of nutrient solution. We irrigate them daily up to a point when we stop or reduce irrigation to see how the plant reacts to the water deficiency,” he said. Fernandez then precisely measures each plant’s leaf area, stomatal density, water-conducting vessels, rooting systems and other characteristics. “We do this not only to look at the effects on water use and growth, but also the

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Research using his greenhouse laboratory, which measures some 50 feet by 60 feet, is not limited to cotton, Fernandez said. “This system can be used for other crops, but we’re starting with cotton for obvious reasons, since it is such a large part of our agricultural production, and because water limitation is the most important yield-limiting factor here,” he said. The cooperative work of physiologists, geneticists and breeders on a single issue is something that hasn’t been done in the past, Fernandez said. “We are trying to generate the synergy of differ ff ent disffer ciplines working together to more quickly develop cultivars that will better tolerate the heat and water stresses that seem to be so prevalent lately.”

AgriLife Research photo by Rod Santa Ana Carlos Fernandez checks leaves of a cotton plant being evaluated for its drought tolerance. production of fiber and fiber quality.” The information and conclusions he develops are then shared with breeders and geneticists who may be able to provide growers with drought-tolerant cotton vari-

eties. “The idea is to tell them, ‘Look at these plant traits that seem to confer a particular water economy in this cultivar. Look at this trait because in this cultivar it gives us this result.’”

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Algae From 5

Land & Livestock Post Published by Bryan-College Station Communications, Inc. (979) 776-4444 or (800) 299-7355

President - Jim Wilson...................................................Ext. 4613 Publisher and Editor- Kelly Brown................................Ext. 4656 Advertising Director - Ron Lee ....................................Ext. 4740 Advertising Sales/General Manager - Jesse Wright ........Ext. 4721 Financial Director - Rod Armstrong..................................Ext. 4605 New Media Director - Mike Albin ....................................Ext. 4663 Production Director - Mark Manning................................Ext. 4671 Circulation Director - Jack Perkins ..................................Ext. 4752

gae,” he said. “Because we’re so close to the Gulf of Mexico, we’ve got lots of marginal land in the area where microalgae can be grown on a large scale. We have lower evaporation rates than in arid areas so water replacement is less. “There are local power plants and oil refineries in the area that we can use as sources of carbon dioxide that helps microalgae grow while reducing CO2 pollutants. And we have a wealth of higher education institutions in the area with huge potentials to help in these studies, including Texas A&M at Corpus Christi, Texas A&M-Kingsville and Delmar College.” AgriLife Research at Corpus Christi has partnered with the

Barney M. Davis Power Plant. “It’s a natural gas-operated power plant that is an excellent source of carbon dioxide from its flue gasses that would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by passing them through microalgae systems,” he said. There also is the potential to partner with the City of Corpus Christi, which has several municipal water treatment plants in the area.“Our center director, Juan Landivar, took a huge leadership role in moving these microalgae projects forward by seeking and obtaining federal and private funding, and by encouraging teamwork and multi-disciplinary personnel to work on this,” Fernandez said.

By KAY LEDBETTER Texas AgriLife Communications

VERNON — Access to swine effluent or waste water can help a producer grow more grass. But a Texas AgriLife Researcher says the grass is “greener” economically if it is a cool-season rather than a warm-season variety. Seong Park, AgriLife Research economist in Vernon, said while the warmseason grasses appear to have a greater growth boost with swine effluent application, the cool-season grasses have marketing advantages that make it a more viable economic option for producers in the Oklahoma Panhandle and Southern Plains. Park recently had the results of his study published in the Journal of American Society of Farm Manager and Rural

Appraisal. The study was funded by a U.S. Department of Agriculture grant for “Comprehensive Animal Waste Systems in Semiarid Ecosystems.” Cooperators in the study were Jeffrey Vitale and Jeffory Hattey, both with Oklahoma State University. The study evaluated the risk and economics of intensive forage production systems under four alternative types of forage and two alternative nitrogen sources, he said. The results will help farmers make better informed production decisions. The study compared two cool-season grasses — orchard grass and wheatgrass — with two warm-season grasses — Bermuda grass and buffalo grass, he said. The two nitrogen sources used to fertilize

July 15, 2011

The Eagle

CARLOS FERNANDEZ Crop physiologist at the Texas AgriLife Research and Extension Center at Corpus Christi

Cool-season grasses worth more than warm-season

growth,” he said. “We will then integrate these responses into a simulator model, a tool we can use in the management of larger, outdoor systems.” In this study, different strains of microalgae will be evaluated for their capacity to produce large amounts of lipids, or fats, that can then be converted to produce and refine diesel and other biofuels, Fernandez said. “Along with that, after extracting the lipids from the biomass of microalgae, there is a residue that we are going to analyze for its quality for use as feed for animals, including fish, shrimp or cattle.” Eventually, studies will evaluate the possibility of using the residue as a soil fertilizer. “There are lots of other potential uses for the residue, but for now our focus is on feed and fertilizer,” he said. The microalgae study includes other researchers, Fernandez said. “We’ve just started this work and we’re working closely with the nearby Texas AgriLife Mariculture labs in Flour Bluff, under the direction of Tzachi Samocha, and the one in Port Aransas, under the direction of Addison Lawrence.” Studying microalgae in the Corpus Christi area is a natural fit for many reasons, Fernandez said. “We have immediate access to seawater to grow microal-

“We’re only starting to scratch the surface of discovering the natural secrets of microalgae and their many potential uses and benefits.”

The Land & Livestock Post

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• See GRASSES/Page 15

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Published by Bryan-College Station Communications, Inc., P.O. Box 3000, Bryan, Texas 77805. E-mail: thepost@theeagle.com All offices are located at 1729 Briarcrest Drive, Bryan, Texas 77802. POSTMASTER: Send address changes to The Eagle, P.O. Box 3000, Bryan, Texas 77805-3000

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A small-scale poultry production workshop, sponsored by the Texas AgriLife Extension Service, is scheduled from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Aug. 13 at the Brazos Center, 3232 Briarcrest Drive in Bryan. Topics will include basic husbandry and management,

production systems, nutrition, disease prevention and treatment, biosecurity and marketing rules and regulations. Cost is $75 before Aug. 5 and $100 after. Registration is limited to the first 100 people. Register online at agriliferegister.tamu.edu and enter “poultry” by phone by calling 979-845-2604.

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the Gulf region and strengthen the resiliency of the communities of the Gulf,” Sherman said. Sherman represents the USDA on the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Task Force, a group created by President Barack Obama following last summer’s spill of millions of gallons of oil into the Gulf. The disaster highlighted not only the dangers of deep-water drilling but also the damage that has been done to the sensitive Gulf ecosystem through decades of careless indifference. After Hurricane Katrina in 2005 it became clear that the significant decrease in wetland areas has endangered wildlife that rely on them for food and habitat. It also has damaged an economy reliant on fishing, tourism and other water-based industries and left

coastal communities vulnerable to storms that are no longer slowed down by barrier islands. BP was the majority owner of the well when it blew up on April 20, 2010, causing the spill. It agreed to put $1 billion toward a long-term effort to improve the environment. The federal task force includes representatives from all five states that border the Gulf, and is helping determine how to spend the money. Each state will get $100 million. The Department of Interior and the Department of Commerce each will get another $100 million, and the remaining $300 million will be distributed to other projects. The task force has to present Obama with a report and a long-term strategy for restoring the ecosystem in July. The task force has already said one of the greatest challenges and top priorities for guaranteeing a healthy environment is ensuring sediment

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AP Photo/David J. Phillip

Scott Alford, center, center a soil conservationist for the Natural Resources Conservation Service, points out features of a manmade marsh to Harris Sherman, right, undersecretary for natural resources and the environment at the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Julie Grogan-Brown, left, also with the USDA, near Baytown. The marsh is part of a project to restore lost wetlands and islands off the Texas coast. The federal government is hoping it could become a model for rebuilding these crucial ecosystems elsewhere in the five state Gulf region.

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The Land & Livestock Post ✪ July 15, 2011 10

News

Fleeing the fire Most livestock, wildlife survive Grimes County blaze By CASSIE SMITH cassie.smith@theeagle.com

T

he nearly 6,000-acre wildfire that ripped through ug Grimes County ugh lef few last month apparently left animals dead and surviv sur ing wildlife dli in dlife the burned-over area look to be in remarkably good shape, authorities say. Randy Cleere, livestock officer for the Grimes County Sheriff’s Department, said he hasn’t been able to locate the owners of only two stray anima found afte mals af r the fire: a black donkey and one red horse. “For a lot of people, their animals are worth more than anything else in the world to them,” he said. Cleere spent many hours afte af r the fire erupted ensuring the safe sa ty of live li stock that remained after their owners evacuated the fire zone. He was at his house enjo en ying yi company for Father’s Day when the blaze started near Stoneham, 13 miles east of Navasota, apparently from an ember of a barbecue. Cleere said he helped work traffi af c control that evening, but affi bu the next morning he realized he needed to focus on the animals. Areas continually were evacuated as the fire spread throughout the day, so families couldn’t get back into their homes to check on animals, he said. So he did it for them. By Tuesday after the fire started, Cleere said, he had starte ar d gathering arte donations to purchase and collect hay, feed and dog food and started going house to house to feed and check on livestock. “Most people were smart enough to open their gate ga s and turn them loose, and that’s what you need to do,” he said. “They’ll fend for themselves most of the time.” Cleere said many of the animals released from pastures wandered back to their homes, which made returning them much easier. Dr. Wesley Bissett, assistant professor at the Texas A&M University College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences and lead faculty member for the Veterinary Emergency Team, said he worked with a team of teachers, staff members and students last week assessing the wildlife in the area after the fire. “Whenever you think about wildlife,

Photos by Stuar Stuart Vi Villanueva

A goat forages for food near a burned home in rural Grimes County. According to authorities, the fire started in a barbecue County pit and burned nearly 6,000 acres, destroyed 30 homes and

more than 50 other structures. Despite the rapid spread of the fire, few animals died in the blaze. The fire was just one of dozens of fires throughout the South and West.

they’re very adept at moving beyond the containment structures we build for domesticated animals,” he said. “In many cases they have the skills, if given the time, to move away from an emergency situation like a wildfire.” Bissett said survival rates vary for differ diff fferent animals: A deer, for instance, can move more quickly than a raccoon. “One of the people we talked to was commenting on how that area was so rich in wildlife and now they’re just not seeing much,” he said. “I think certainly there’s a question there: Did they perish or were they able to flee?” The team saw only a handful of animals that didn’t survive the fire, but a more detailed review would require a much larger team to perform a grid search to gather an accurate number of deceased animals.

• See FIRE/Page FIRE 11

The fir fire in Grimes County in late June caused millions of dollars in damage and took five days to put out. Firefighters from throughout Texas and beyond battled the blaze.


Ranchers urged to apply for help rebuilding fences Special to The Post

From 10 “My hope is that many of them were able to flee and get ou ahead of it,” he said. out “They’ll move back whenever conditions are right.” Bissett said he wasn’t surprised that Grimes County officials starte ar d working on aniarte mal issues as soon as the fire began to spread. “They were looking over not

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applying). “Texas ranchers have taken a huge economic hit due to the ongoing wildfires,” said Joe Parker Jr., rancher and president of the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association. “The cost of rebuilding fences has soared to over $40 million, and that number keeps going up as wildfires continue to burn. Thankfully, some relief is in sight through TDA’s STAR Fund and the generous private donations of Texans across the state. If you’re a rancher who’s been devastated by these wildfires, now is the time to apply for these resources.” STAR Fund applications may be downloaded at www.TexasAgriculture.gov. To be eligible, applicants must have applied for federal assistance through the Emergency Conservation Program and submit the pro-

gram 848A form with their application. Applications also will be available at local AgriLife Extension offices in counties that are eligible for program funding. All applications must be mailed to TDA and postmarked by July 15. Wildfires are still burning in Texas, and the impact to ranchers is not over. A second round of funding is planned and needed in the fall to help additional farmers and ranchers impacted by on-going wildfires. To make a donation to the STAR Fund, or for more information, visit www. TexasAgriculture.gov and click on STAR Fund. Ranchers also may call 512-475 -1615.

July 15, 2011

Fire

only the live li stock, but bu the companion animals as well,” he said. What was surprising was that the animals his team saw were in good condition. “Whenever you looked at what all was devastated in that fire, it surprised me we didn’t see a burn, evidence of smoke inhalation, or general problem with the animals,” he said.

by Staples called, “Operation New Fences.” McCoy’s Building Supply donated the first $20,000. “We have a deep connection to West Texas — as ranch owners, and as we serve the farm and ranch community at McCoy’s Building Supply,” said Brian McCoy, president and McCoy’s CEO. “The devastation of these fires is tremendous, but in the true spirit of Texas, we will recover together. We’re grateful to be a small part of the large work that is to be done.” Additionally, Valero Energy Corp. donated $10,000. Thanks to these generous contributions and donations from Texans across the state, those approved for STAR Fund assistance may be awarded a voucher for fencing supplies worth up to $500 (exact voucher values will be determined based on the number of eligible producers

With more than 3 million acres burned, 235 of 254 counties under burn bans (the most ever) and temperatures reaching record highs, fire experts are calling this one of the worst fire seasons in Texas history. According to the Texas Forest Service, six of the 10 largest fires recorded in Texas have occurred this year, scorching more than 4,000 miles of ranch fences — more miles than needed to fence the entire perimeter of Texas. As ranchers begin to rebuild their lives, Texas Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples is encouraging them to apply for assistance available through the STAR Fund. “Texans are suffering through one of the worst wildfire seasons on record and are

struggling to rebuild from unprecedented devastation,” Staples said.“The acreage ravaged by these fires equals more than the combined areas of Delaware, Rhode Island, Washington D.C. and one-third of Connecticut. Our farmers and ranchers are losing their livelihoods, and ultimately, all Americans will suffer through increased food prices. Texans help their neighbors in need, and now is the time to assist families in rebuilding their lives and the farming and ranching operations on which we all rely,” Staples said. To start the rebuilding effort, the Texas Department of Agriculture is now accepting applications for the STAR Fund. The fund was created solely with monetary donations from private individuals and companies to help ranchers rebuild fences through an initiative created

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The Land & Livestock Post ✪ July 15, 2011

News

Birds From 9 from upland waters, such as the Mississippi River, renew their natural flow to replenish wetlands and barrier islands in the Gulf. The Houston Ship Channel was created in 1917, and the sediment dredged from the bottom was dumped onshore to create the waterway that allows marine traffic into inland area. From then through the 1980s, more than 35,000 acres of wetlands were lost in Texas’ Galveston Bay area alone, said Scott Alfo Al rd, a soil conservationist for the Natural Resources Conservation Service. In 1992, NRCS began working with the Port of Houston to reuse the soil continuously dredged from the channel — sometimes to expand and widen it, other times to simply keep it deep enough so large tankers could navigate the

refinery-lined area. Scientists were initially unsure they would be able to grow sensitive marsh grass in dredged soil. First, they created levees to ensure the soil did not disperse into the bay. Slowly, they removed the excess water and transported the dirt through a pipeline to a designated area. Surrounding it with rocks to prevent erosion, scientists worked tirelessly to figure out how thick and deep the soil needed to be not only to bu to al w the grass to grow but allo prevent it from sinking. They also needed to make sure there were creeks and ponds in the marsh, to ensure water could circulate. Within two years, that first wetland area was covered in the tall grass that provides homes and food to mammals, reptiles, birds and a variety of marine life li . In fact, about 95 percent of the Gulf of Mexico’s wildlife li rely on marshland for life survival at some point. “If you’ve lost marshes, you’ve lost everything that lives in the bay and the Gulf,” Alford said.

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Laughing gulls are seen near a sign marking a colonial waterbird nesting site along the Houston Ship Channel. The goal over 50 years is to bird island and more than 170 create more than 4,200 acres of acres of oyster reef, Alford intertidal marsh, 6 acres of said. bird island and hundreds of The project, the biggest of its acres of oyster reef. ef Already, kind in the nation, is now ef. they have created more than being done on a smaller scale 1,800 acres of marshland, a in other states, including near-

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by Louisiana, whose wetlands have suffered similar damage. Now Alford is hopeful his project will not only serve as a model for what can be done, but that the oil spill fund will help the Gulf states who share similar ecosystems and problems to work together to guarantee the survival and viability of the ecosystem. Sherman believes restoring the environment, at least in part, to its original state is critical to the region’s economy and the sustainability of its communities. “It is impressive, very impressive,” he says, squinting into the sun at the screaming birds flying over their manmade home, the steam from the refineries making puffy white cloud-like formations in the sky. Really, he said, it is a winwin situation. The channel continues to be navigable and prosperous, while the environment is strengthened. “We hope to create similar examples elsewhere,” Sherman said.

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USDA declares 213 counties primary disaster areas Special to The Post

Texas Animal Health Commission to discontinue Brucellosis testing at livestock markets on Aug. 1 Special to The Post

AUSTIN — The Texas Animal Health Commission has announced that effective Aug. 1, government subsidized Brucellosis testing at all Texas livestock markets will be discontinued, due to a lack of funding available to pay for future testing. The commission will no longer enforce the requirement that all test eligible adult cattle be Brucellosis tested for a change of ownership within Texas. After diligently working to eradicate Brucellosis “Bangs” from cattle for almost 50 years, on Feb. 1 the USDA declared Texas Brucellosis free. “The discontinuation of

brucellosis testing will not affect Texas’ Brucellosis-free state status,” Dr. Dee Ellis, state veterinarian, said. “We remind Texas producers, marketers and veterinarians however, that maintaining a Brucellosis-free Texas requires constant awareness and vigilance. Although the commission will no longer enforce the requirement for Brucellosis testing of adult cattle, cattle producers are encouraged to discuss the issue with their veterinary practitioner prior to purchasing replacement cattle,” Ellis said. Brucellosis is a bacterial disease of cattle that can cause abortions, weak calves and low milk production. Humans also can catch bru-

cellosis — or undulant fever — most commonly by consuming unpasteurized milk products or handling contaminated birthing material when assisting with difficult calving situations in infected cows. For questions or concerns regarding the termination of Brucellosis testing at livestock markets, please contact your local region office.

other natural disasters — which began Jan. 1 and continues — caused 30 percent or more loss of forage crops, pasture, corn, oats and wheat in the designated counties. All 213 counties were designated natural disaster areas June 24, making all qualified farm operators in the designated areas eligible for low interest emergency loans from USDA’s Farm Service Agency, provided eligibility requirements are met. Farmers in eligible counties have eight months from the date of the declaration to apply for loans to help cover part of their actual losses. The Farm Service Agency will consider each loan application on its own merits, taking into account the extent of losses, security available and repayment ability. The agency has a variety of programs, in addition to the

emergency loan program, to help eligible farmers recover from adversity. USDA also has made other programs available to assist farmers and ranchers, including the Supplemental Revenue Assistance Program, which was approved as part of the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008; the Emergency Conservation Program; Federal Crop Insurance; and the Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program. Interested farmers may contact their local USDA Service Centers for further information on eligibility requirements and application procedures for these and other programs. Additional information is also available online at disaster.fsa.usda. gov.

July 15, 2011

ranchers to know that we will support them through the recovery process and help them once again become productive suppliers of food, fiber and fuel that keep America prospering. This designation will help provide that support,” Vilsack said. The drought, wildfires and

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Department of Agriculture has designated 213 counties in Texas as primary natural disaster areas after one of the worst droughts in more than a century. The state sustained excessive heat, high

winds and wildfires that burned hundreds of thousands of acres. “Many producers have lost their crops due to the devastation caused by the drought and wildfires,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “President Obama and I want these farmers and

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urea. While there were slight differences in economic returns between them, ranging between $297.19 and $305.03 per acre, the differences were not significant, Park said. The performance ranking of each forage species was, however, dependent on the decision maker’s attitude toward risk, Park said. Urea was found to have less risk than swine effluent and would be the preferred choice for even modestly risk-averse producers. Future research will be

required to explore different types of warm- and cool-season forages to identify a wider range of options for producers, he said. ”This should include investigating other types of management options including herbicides, integration into crop rotations and other types of animal manure, particularly beef,” Park said. “This could also provide solutions to producers from a wider range of farming systems beyond the Oklahoma Panhandle and Southern Plains.” Park said.

July 15, 2011

would never be economically efficient due to declining product value at a higher rate. For swine effluent however, the economic model suggests that higher fertilizer levels could generate higher returns since the marginal-value product has not yet decreased, Park said. At such higher fertilizer levels, it is possible that swine effluent could result in significantly higher dry matter yields than urea, he said. Based on average economic returns, the economic model was not able to provide a single best alternative, but it was able to conclude that cool-season grasses perform better than warm-season grasses, Park said. Four alternatives from the cool-season grasses emerge as generating the highest economic return. These include orchard grass applied with 450 pounds per acre of swine effluent, orchard grass applied with 50 pounds of urea, wheatgrass applied with 450 pounds of swine effluent and wheatgrass applied with 50 pounds of

the crop were urea or swine effluent. Park said their model showed that intensified production of cool-season grasses with the application of fertilizer appeared to be the more economically viable option for producers in the Southern Plains. This, in part, was due to seasonal constraints on forage production which drive up prices of cool-season grasses, he said, providing better marketing opportunities than warm-season grasses. When combined with lower production costs and more stable yields, cool-season grasses have higher returns and less risk than warm-season grasses, which often have negative returns, Park said. The average economic return of the cool-season grasses was $274.17 per acre, which

was considerably higher than the warm-season grasses average return of $36.64 per acre, he said. “This is an interesting result, since the dry matter yields of warm-season grasses were found to be significantly higher in the field trials than those of the cool-season grasses,” Park said. The difference between yield and economic performance can be explained by both the higher market prices and lower variable costs of the cool-season grasses that compensated for the lower yields, he said. When it came to the comparison of swine effluent and urea, Park said the swine effluent generated significantly greater returns when applied on the warm-season grasses but provided no growth advantage over urea on the cool-season grasses. All the grasses respond to higher fertilizer levels, he said. However, the economic model showed urea applications beyond 150 pounds per acre

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The Land & Livestock Post ✪ July 15, 2011

News

Dryland crops, some irrigated crops are failing By ROBERT BURNS Texas AgriLife Communications

COLLEGE STATION — Much of Texas received rain at the end of June. Most got only a trace, but from two to four inches or more fell in isolated areas, according to the National Weather Service. Nearly all the state suffers an exceptional drought, with dryland crops failing in most areas, and in some areas, irrigated crops were at risk, too, as producers struggled to keep up with their crops’ moisture demands, according to Texas AgriLife Extension Service personnel. “We are adding a lot more water to our crops this year than we have ever in the past, since I’ve been here for 25 years,” said Al Nelson, Texas AgriLife Research farm services manager. Nelson manages AgriLife Extension and AgriLife Research trials on a farm in the Brazos Valley, about seven miles west of College Station. He also grows some production crops, mainly cotton and corn, to help defray some of the costs of running the farm. With the production crops, he’s fighting the same battle with drought as commercial

farmers who must make a profit, he said. “We are way behind in our annual rainfall. Basically, this started last September when the rain just quit,” Nelson said. “So we did not get the winter rain that we require in the Brazos River Valley to regenerate our subsoil moisture.” In addition to increased production costs, another issue he’s facing is a drawing down of the aquifer because of the increased pumping demands, Nelson said. A drop in the aquifer means much lower water pressure and higher pumping costs. “Normally it runs at about 30 psi (pounds per square inch), but I’m only able to generate about 11 psi now,” he said. “That makes us slow down our center pivot and use more electricity.” The farm’s cotton will probably make a good crop though with a much narrower profit margin, Nelson said. But it’s the corn crop that has really suffered from the drought. As with cotton, the subsoil moisture needed to have carried the crop through to maturity wasn’t there, but corn’s water demands are higher than cotton’s. “I have applied approximately 10 inches of equiva-

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Texas AgriLife Extension Ser Te Service vice photo by Rober Robert Bur Burns

Al Nelson, farm services manager of the Texas AgriLife Research and Texas AgriLife Extension Service farm in the Brazos River Valley, lley monitors a center pivot. lley, lent rainfall on the corn, but it is still only about 80 to 85 percent of a normal irrigated year,” Nelson said. Compared to some parts of Texas, Nelson’s corn and cot-

ton are ahead of the game, according to AgriLife Extension county agent reports. For example, in Lubbock County, some producers were

considering abandoning portions of center pivots in order to concentrate available moisture. “This may increase as we move closer to bloom,” said Mark Brown, AgriLife Extension agent for Lubbock County. “Currently, only a few fields are near bloom. Even the irrigated crop has a low height-to-node ratio.” Steven Sparkman, AgriLife Extension agent for Hardeman County, northeast of Wichita Falls, reported that 99 percent of dryland cotton had been abandoned. And about 20 percent of irrigated cotton also was abandoned because of poor stand or loss of irrigation capacity. More information on the current Texas drought and wildfire alerts can be found on the AgriLife Extension Agricultural Drought Task Force website at agrilife. tamu.edu/drought.


Experts discuss emerging grass-fed beef business By BLAIR FANNIN Texas AgriLife Communications

business is profitable. “You need to identify what your goal is and what you want to do with your business,” he said. “Are you making enough profit to keep doing it as long as you want or do you want to perhaps someday pass it down to heirs? These are some things to consider going along.” Anderson emphasized the need to keep good records, that the cows are “profit centers” and producers need to keep track of income and expenses on females. The expense breakdown on a female cow is $571.13, factoring in depreciation, veterinary health expenses, feed, etc. With fewer cows to operate than a regular cattle herd operation due to forage availability, Anderson said each carcass produced has to be sold at a high margin. “When you are grass finishing and have fewer cows for a given area and fewer calves to

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July 15, 2011

Texas AgriLife Extension Service photo by Blair Fannin

Davey Griffin, Texas AgriLife Extension Service meat specialist, discusses beef fabrication methods with participants at a grass-fed beef conference at Texas A&M University in College Station.

COLLEGE STATION — Though herds are smaller, the profit-margin potential is greater for those venturing into the grass-fed beef business, according to experts. A recent grass-fed beef conference at Texas A&M University, sponsored by the Texas AgriLife Extension Service, featured experts and producers discussing several aspects of an emerging industry sector. “We had far more registrants than we had initially predicted,” said Rick Machen, AgriLife Extension beef cattle specialist. “This aspect of beef production obviously is gaining more attention, and there is a hunger for information on how to get started or become more profitable. I think we identified several areas that gave producers some takehome ideas and an overall broad view of what is going on in the beef industry right now.” Attendees had the opportunity to learn about several topical areas, including fundamentals of growing forages, nutrient needs of cattle, beef processing, economic sustainability, and production and marketing. “Whether you call it grassfed or organic, it’s one of the most interesting aspects of the cattle business right now,” David Anderson, an AgriLife Extension livestock economist, told attendees. Anderson discussed the various aspects of getting into the grass-fed beef business, starting with a basic business plan. He said producers must evaluate the consumer they are catering too and if their

business. “This is a niche market and there are a growing number of consumers who want access to locally grown meat,” Meeks told participants. He said there are opportunities for producers to capitalize on demand. “Consumers will pay 30 percent more for natural meats and 15 to 200 percent more for organic meats.” He said there’s a $350 million market for natural and organic beef products with a growth potential of $1 billion more during the next five years. Other program topics included cattle best suited for the grass-fed beef production, preventative heard health management and a producer panel. Machen said plans are to hold another grass-fed conference in the future.

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Questions About Cattle Health?

Ask the Vet! Steve St ev Wi eve Wikse kse - Re Retir tired ed DVM DVM Large Animal Clinical Sciences College of Veterinary Medicine, Texas A&M University

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Submit your questions to:

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Web: www.casascattle.com

Beeville, TX 78102

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The Land & Livestock Post ✪ July 15, 2011

News LIVESTOCK MARKET REPORTS Buffalo

Results of the Buffalo Livestock Commission’s June 25 sale: Head: 1,910 Steers: 150-200 lbs., $135$182; 200-300 lbs., $132$180; 300-400 lbs., $140$160; 400-500 lbs., $128$147; 500-600 lbs., $121$139; 600-700 lbs., $115$130; 700-800 lbs., $114$122. Heifers: 150-200 lbs., $125$170; 200-300 lbs., $122$155; 300-400 lbs., $121$148; 400-500 lbs., $117$138; 500-600 lbs., $116$134; 600-700 lbs., $110$122; 700-800 lbs., $105$115. Slaughter cows: $45-$71. Slaughter bulls: $72-$80. Bred cows: $640-$980. Cow/calf pairs: $750-$1,350.

Caldwell

Results of the Caldwell Livestock Commission’s June 29 sale: Head: 501 Heifers: 200-300 lbs., $130$170; 300-400 lbs., $120$160; 400-500 lbs. $110-$150; 500-600 lbs., $110-$130; 600700 lbs., $100-$125. Steers:200-300 lbs., $135$185; 300-400 lbs., $130$175; 400-500 lbs., $125$160;500-600 lbs., $115-$140; 600-700 lbs. Slaughter cows: $37-$70. Slaughter bulls: $50-$75. Stocker cows: $500-$910.

Groesbeck

Results of the Groesbeck

Corn crop largest in almost 70 years

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ST. LOUIS (AP) — Farmers have planted the secondlargest corn crop in nearly seven decades this spring. The huge crop could ease a grain shortage and keep food prices from rising over the next six months. The U.S. Agriculture Department says the size of this year’s corn crop will be 92.3 million acres, the secondbiggest since 1944. The 2007 crop was the largest. Many analysts had worried that wet weather would cut the number of corn acres. But record-high corn prices are encouraging farmers to plant as much corn as possible.

Auction & Livestock Co.’s June 30 sale: Head: 1,055 Heifers: 300-400 lbs., $125$139; 400-500 lbs., $121$133; 500-600 lbs., $118$130; 600-700 lbs., $111$122. Steers: 300-400 lbs., $147$167; 400-500 lbs., $125$142; 500-600 lbs., $124$135; 600-700 lbs., $115$133. Slaughter cows: $53-$72. Slaughter bulls: $83-$91. Bred cows: $750-$1,100. Cow/ calf pairs: $850$1,200.

Jordan

Results of the Jordan Cattle Auction’s June 30 sale: Head:3,734 Heifers: 200-300 lbs., $130$155; 300-400 lbs., $125$145; 400-500 lbs., $120$135; 500-600 lbs., $120$134; 600-700 lbs., $118$127; 700-800 lbs., $113$118. Steers: 200-300 lbs., $145$165; 300-400 lbs., $138$154; 400-500 lbs., $128$146; 600-700 lbs., $123$137; 700-800 lbs., $118$123. Slaughter cows: $50-$71.50. Slaughter bulls: $70-$82. Stocker cows: $600-$1,030. Cow/calf pairs: $700-$800.

Milano Results

of

the

TE PRIVA Y T A E TR

rk An a l C

Milano

Livestock Exchange’s June 28 sale: Head: 642 Heifers: 300-400 lbs., $119$140; 400-500 lbs., $122$133; 500-600 lbs. $117$127.50; 600-700 lbs., $105$125. Steers: 200-300 lbs., $167.50-$180; 300-400 lbs., $133-$170; 400-500 lbs. $123$150; 500-600 lbs., $118$142.50; 600-700 lbs., $119$128. Slaughter cows: $59-$69.50. Slaughter bulls: $79.50-$81. Bred cows: $730-$900. Cow/calf pairs: $1,010$1,060.

Navasota

Results of the Navasota Livestock Auction Co.’s June 28 sale: Head: 642 Heifers: 150-300 lbs., $120$180; 300-400 lbs., $115$155; 400-500 lbs., $115$135; 500-600 lbs., $110$127; 600-700 lbs., $105$127. Steers: 150-300 lbs., $125$190; 300-400 lbs., $120$172.50; 400-500 lbs., $115$155; 500-600 lbs., $110$132.50; 600-700 lbs., $105$127. Slaughter cows: $42-$70.50. Slaughter bulls: $62-$88. Stocker cows: $750-$975. Cow/ calf pairs: $800$1,075. — Special to The Post

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