By Julie Tomascik
February’s historic winter storm brought record-setting low temperatures to the Lone Star State, leaving farmers and ranchers racing to care for their livestock, crops and families.
For many, it was hours spent providing extra hay, feed and straw for bedding to keep animals warm. For others, it was monitoring fields and orchards. Harvesting what they were able and hoping, praying and working to save what they could, although knowing some crops would be a total loss.
They did much of this on very little sleep and oftentimes without electricity.
It was a difficult week. One we won’t soon forget.
Here are some photos from Texas Farm Bureau members showing the impact of the snow on Texas crops and livestock.
Once beautiful and green, rows of lettuce now sit wilted and brown in Mark Verstufyt’s field in Bexar County.
Grapefruit harvest in the Rio Grande Valley was about 55 percent complete when the cold weather hit. What’s being called the “St. Valentine’s Day Massacre” has caused an estimated $310 million to the citrus crop. The preliminary numbers show about $85 million in losses from grapefruit and late oranges still on the trees and another $220 million in damages to blooming trees.
Growers like Mike Helle are replanting watermelons and honeydew melons because February’s freeze killed them.
Oats and wheat faced some losses across the state, depending on the stage the crop was in.
Some growers were more fortunate than others with their onion crop. For Brian and Emily King with Dixondale Farms, their onions suffered a little from the frigid weather but should grow out of it.
The rolling power outages and unsafe driving conditions impacted dairy farmers.
Many dairy farmers hooked up generators powered by their tractors to run their milking machines since electricity was either inconsistent or nonexistent.
And icy roads meant milk trucks couldn’t make it to the dairy, leaving farmers with no choice but to dump the milk.
Farmers and ranchers worked tirelessly to feed and care for livestock—cattle, sheep, goats, horses and more.
In East Texas, a feed mill was unable to operate, which led to reduced feed available for poultry farmers. Add losing water and power to that, and poultry farmers were struggling to keep chicken houses warm and chickens watered. Some poultry houses even collapsed under the weight of snow and ice.
Many vegetables grown in the Winter Garden and Rio Grande Valley were devastated by Winter Storm Uri. Some crops were close to harvest, while others were being harvested.
Weathering the storm
Although the snow has melted, the memories and experiences are still fresh.
The extent of Winter Storm Uri’s damage to Texas won’t be known for several months, or maybe even years, but farmers and ranchers are moving forward. One calf. One lamb. One seed at a time.
For more information on disaster assistance programs available, visit Texas Farm Bureau’s Winter Resources web page.