Ranching structures, cotton mostly damaged by Harvey

Ismael Perez By Ismael Perez

Sept. 13, 2017 at 10:12 p.m.
Updated Sept. 13, 2017 at 10:30 p.m.

Danny May drives his crop sprayer through his cotton fields in Port Lavaca.

Danny May drives his crop sprayer through his cotton fields in Port Lavaca.    Nicolas Galindo for The Victoria Advocate

Cindy Gayle let out a heartfelt cry after learning seven of her horses were under her collapsed barn that was destroyed by Hurricane Harvey.

"It was like someone crumpled a paper napkin," the 63-year-old Goliad woman said. "When the tin collapsed, it was like a knife hitting the horses. It hurt seeing the horses like that."

The Goliad Fire Department helped free the horses from the collapsed structure. Six of the seven horses suffered injuries, with cuts from 12 to 16 inches long.

Gayle had taken the necessary precautions by letting the horses out of the barn before the storm. However, she said the horses returned to the barn through an open door to take cover from the rain.

Agriculture experts say Harvey caused significant damage to barns, fences and hay for ranchers, while cotton was the crop mostly damaged throughout the Crossroads.

Ranchers may see some significant damage to grasses because they were underwater, said David Anderson, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service livestock economist in College Station.

"A lot of our growing season is already over," he said. "Hay losses will mean that new supplies will be needed later in the year and early next year because it is pretty common to feed hay to cows over the winter."

When it comes to livestock safety during a strong storm, Anderson said it is common practice for ranchers to move cattle to higher ground and to leave gates open in case they need to escape to higher ground.

He said beef prices are not expected to increase because of Harvey.

"Most of our beef production is out in the Panhandle or Great Plains because that is where the packing plants are located," he said. "So, there is really not a supply problem."

Beef prices are declining because of the increase in production. People can expect a record large amount of beef production in 2018 with lower prices, Anderson said.

Craig Lenhart, 58, of Austwell, sustained damage to two of his own barns, three of his rented barns and water damage to his own home.

His harvested cotton had been blown by the wind to the middle of the highway and some into ditches. Lenhart said he lost about 20 percent of his harvested cotton.

The significant damage Harvey caused to cotton was raining on the crops that have not yet been harvested and blowing the cotton bales into ditches filled with water, said John Robinson, Extension Service cotton marketing economist.

Geri Kline, Extension Service agent for agriculture and natural resources for Calhoun County, said there are 19,000 acres of cotton in the county and farmers were reporting it was the best crop they have seen in a long time.

"It almost looked like it was snow on the ground," Kline said. "Now some of the cotton might not be harvestable at all."

About 300 acres of cotton had not been harvested in DeWitt County before Harvey, said Anthony Netardus, the county's Extension Service agent.

After the cotton was harvested, he said it was estimated there was about 40 to 50 percent of cotton loss countywide.

Robinson said cotton farmers have not been in an exceptionally bad situation for about 10 years.

He said the region's cotton loss will not affect the price of clothing because of the global market of the crop, however, it will affect farmers' businesses and employment.

Agriculture experts say it will take months for farmers and ranchers to calculate the economic impact caused by Hurricane Harvey.

Kline said not knowing about what the season will bring is what agriculture is all about.

"Agriculture is a game of risk, and Harvey is one of those things that can happen," she said. "It was one of the best years cotton farmers could have seen, but some might not plant next year because of the damage they got."

Related coverage

Day 1: Here comes Harvey

Day 2: Brace yourself

Day 3: 'Prayers protect us'

Day 4: 'We thought we were going to die'

Day 5: 'At least God let us live'

Day 6: 'It's the luck of the draw'

Day 7: 'Everybody will pull together'

Day 8: Guadalupe floods parts of Victoria

Day 9: Texas Zoo evacuates animals (w/video)

Day 10: The Long Road Ahead (w/video)

Day 11: Residents rely on families to rebuild

Day 12: For some, normal still far away

Day 13: Church offers refuge for devastated town

Day 14: Victims find hardship, opportunity (w/video)

Day 15: FEMA frustrates Harvey victims

Day 16: Displaced and in disarray

Day 17: Disaster for humans means catastrophe for pets

Day 18: Nature interrupted (w/video)

Day 19: 'It was like we had been bombed'

Day 20: Students returning to school feel weight of Harvey

Day 21: International Crane Foundation loses office after hurricane

Helpful information

Where to get water, gas and other supplies

Helpful information after the storm

Updates on city services

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Wildlife refuge in bad shape after hurricane

Victoria school district discusses bond at chamber luncheon

Some in Crossroads must still boil water

Library reopens after Hurricane Harvey

Family leaves damaged home, thankful for safety

We will recover together


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