Thursday, October 11, 2012

Texas Animal Health Commission Announces Details of New Cattle Traceability Rule

A requirement for adult cattle in Texas to have an approved form of permanent identification in place at change of ownership will go into effect January 1, 2013 according to the Texas Animal Health Commission (TAHC). The Commission amended its rules in June of this year to enhance the effective traceability of beef cattle movements in Texas, which is the cornerstone of disease control activities. Implementation of the changes was delayed by the Commission to ensure cattle producers understand the requirements and can prepare for the changes.

The amended rule permanently cancels the brucellosis test requirement for adult cattle at change of ownership, which was unofficially suspended in the summer of 2011. Although testing of adult cattle is no longer required with the rule change, all sexually intact cattle, parturient or post parturient, or 18 months of age and older changing ownership must still be officially identified with Commission approved permanent identification. This change primarily affects beef cattle, as dairy cattle in Texas have had an even more stringent identification requirement in place since 2008.

Before August of 2011, official identification devices such as eartags were applied automatically at the time a brucellosis test was performed. The inadvertent loss of the identification devices applied to cattle when brucellosis testing stopped has threatened TAHC's ability to effectively trace cattle as part of any ongoing disease investigation.
The TAHC routinely performs cattle health investigations where the identification and location of exposed/infected animals is critical to success. For example, 30 Brucellosis reactors, over 300 Bovine Trichomoniasis affected bulls and 22 bovine tuberculosis cases have been investigated by the TAHC to date in 2012. The new traceability rule will help preserve the TAHC's ability to identify and trace animal movements quickly and effectively, no matter which disease is involved.

A complete list of acceptable identification devices/methods may be found at, but the most commonly used devices include USDA metal tags, brucellosis calfhood vaccination tags, US origin 840 series Radio Frequency Identification tags (RFID), and breed registration tattoos or firebrands. Producers are encouraged to contact their veterinarian or TAHC to determine which method of tagging will be best for their operation.
Free USDA metal tags, and a limited number of free applicator pliers (dependent on available funding) will be provided by the TAHC to producers wishing to use them. The tags and/or pliers may be obtained by contacting local TAHC field staff and USDA APHIS Veterinary Services representatives. The TAHC is developing tag distribution partnerships with interested veterinary practitioners and Texas A&M AgriLife Extension offices. Partner contact information will be published as it becomes available. Producers may locate the closest tag distributor online at

New Tool For Mesquite Control

Recently, Dow AgroSciences has released a new herbicide called SenderoTM. This product has two active ingredients, aminopyralid + clopyralid, which means that it is not a restricted use herbicide and does not require a pesticide applicator’s license to purchase or apply. Recent testing of this herbicide has shown that it provides nearly 40 percent more consistent control than the traditional mix of Remedy Ultra and Reclaim.

Foliar applications should be made when:
1) The soil temperature at 12-inches below the surface is 75° F or higher
2) The mesquite leaves are a dark green color all over, rather than some light green new growth at the ends. Applications should be avoided immediately following a significant rainfall,
as the production of too much new growth will reduce the movement of herbicide the root system.
3) The mesquite tree is not flowering or elongating the beans.
4) The leaves are healthy. No more than 25% of the leaves can have damage by insects, hail, disease, or rodents. Soil moisture is another important factor to consider before treating.

Even though mesquite is a deep rooted plant, treatments should be delayed if plants are under drought stress. If you miss the foliar treatment timing window, you do have other options to help manage mesquite, including mechanical treatments or basal stem treatments.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Riparian Resilence and Recovery

Join the Texas Riparian Association for their Annual Meeting on October 26 and 27 with presentations Friday and a field tour on Saturday to the Bastrop State Park and Griffith Lee Boy Scout Ranch to explore the riparian resilience and recovery of this area after the devastating wild fire. McKinney Roughs is a 1,100 acre nature park where the Post Oak Savannah, Blackland Prairie, East Texas Piney Woods, and Colorado River valley converge to create an unusual blend of natural resources. Located just 13 miles east of Austin-Bergstrom International Airport, McKinney Roughs is home to hundreds of plant and animal species living within the rolling box canyons, wildflower meadows and lazy river bends of the Texas Colorado River.  More information and a registration form can be accessed by clicking here.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Make Your Own Compost

Each year millions of tons of leaves, grass clippings, tree limbs, weeds, organic debris and other yard wastes end up in Texas landfills. This volume represents about 20 percent of all trash placed in landfills. It costs Texans over $300 million a year to collect and dispose of yard wastes. Putting these materials to use instead of throwing them away can save money and preserve and protect the environment for all Texans.

What Is Compost?Compost is a part of the natural process of decomposition. Leaves drop from trees. Grass clippings are left on the lawn after mowing.  Living plants die and over time, all of these organic materials break down or decompose. The rich, dark-brown, crumbly, soil-like material that results is called compost. Why Compost?
Organic wastes put back into the landscape in the form of compost can assist in reducing fertilizer applications, conserve water, and decrease the volume of wastes entering landfills. Compost can be used by other living things in the landscape and instead of going to a landfill, these wastes become a valuable resource.
The Composting Process:
Compost can be made out of leaves, grass clippings, vegetable and fruit scraps, coffee grounds and filters, tea bags, wood chips, straw, small twigs and similar materials. Tiny microorganisms do most of the work of breaking down organic materials to form compost. These microorganisms include a wide range of bacteria and fungi. Animals living in the soil also help microorganisms break down organic materials. Worms and pill bugs are examples of soil animals that help change organic waste into compost.
The microorganisms and soil animals that turn organic matter into compost require many of the same nutrients that plants need for growth (particularly nitrogen). Most of these nutrients are derived from the decomposing organic matter. Eventually, these nutrients are returned to the soil, to be used again by trees, grass, and other plants. This is nature’s way of recycling.

Landscape Uses of Compost:
Compost can be used as a mulch or mixed into the soil. Compost provides an almost constant source of free fertilizer and is an excellent soil conditioner. The organic materials in compost help plants grow by loosening the soil and providing improved aeration and drainage. The composition of compost also improves the soils ability to hold water and can reduce the frequency of landscape irrigation. Compost has most of the nutrients plants require for growth and through regular use can greatly reduce the need for chemical fertilizers. This can help limit the potential risk of environmental contamination.
Making Compost:
Making compost can be easy!
Choose a structure and location for making compost. Any type of composting bin will do. Plans for different types of composting bins can be found on Texas A&M University’s Aggie Horticulture web site.
Place kitchen and yard wastes in the composting bin. Chop or shred these organic materials for faster decomposition. Spread soil or "already done" compost over the compost pile. This layer contains microorganisms and soil animals that do the work of composting. It also helps keep the surface from drying out.  
Adjust the moisture of the compost pile. Add dry grass clippings or sawdust to
soggy materials, or add water to a pile that is too dry. The materials should be damp to the touch, but not so wet that drops come out when squeezed.

Allow the pile to "bake". It should heat quickly and reach the desired temperature of 90 to 140 degrees Fahrenheit (32 to 60 degrees Celsius) in four to five days.  Stir or turn the compost as it bakes to speed the decomposition process.  The pile will settle down from its original height. This is a good sign that the organic matter is actively decomposing.

Thoroughly decomposed compost should look like dark crumbly soil mixed with small
pieces of organic material, with a sweet "earthy" smell.

Mix or turning the compost pile every week will speed up the process. Under normal conditions it should be "done," or ready 1-2 months. Compost piles that are not turned generally require 6-12 months to complete the process.

With a little work, you can have a rich, inexpensive fertilizer for your gardens and flowerbeds in no time!

Hypoxylon Canker Affects Stressed Trees

Hypoxylon canker is a fungus that causes cankers and death in hardwood trees. Relatively healthy trees are not invaded by the fungus, but the hypoxylon fungus will readily infect the sapwood of a tree that has been damaged, stressed, or weakened. Natural and man-caused factors that can weaken a tree include defoliation by insects or leaf fungi, saturated soil, fill dirt, soil compaction, excavation in the root zone of the tree, removal of top soil under the tree, disease, herbicide injury, drought, heat, nutrient deficiencies, competition or overcrowding, and other factors. The hypoxylon fungus is considered a weak pathogen in that it is not aggressive enough to invade healthy trees. In addition to the hypoxylon fungus, weakened and stressed trees may become susceptible to a host of other insect and disease pests.
Hypoxylon canker activity usually increases when prolonged drought occurs. When drought stresses trees, the fungus is able to take advantage of these weakened trees. The moisture content of living wood in live, healthy trees is typically high. It is difficult for hypoxylon canker to develop in wood that has a normal moisture content. However, any of the factors listed above could weaken or stress trees causing the moisture content of the wood to reach levels low enough for the hypoxylon fungus to develop. When this happens, the fungus becomes active in the tree and invades and decays the sapwood causing the tree to die.

An early indication that hypoxylon canker may be invading a tree is a noticeable thinning of the crown. This should not be confused with leaf loss due to the autumn season. Also, the crown may exhibit branch dieback. As the fungus develops, small sections of bark will slough from the trunk and branches and collect at the base of the tree. The signs of the fungus are:
• (early stages) light to dark reddish brown to olive green colored crusty fungal (stroma) tissue over the cankered area,
• (later stages) grey surface that eventually flakes off after 6 – 12 months to reveal a dark brown to black crusty material that gives a burnt appearance to the tree. These sometimes have the appearance of solidified tar,
• (advanced stages) the signs of the fungus may first appear as small patches a few inches in length, but will eventually merge to form large strips along the trunk and major limbs of the tree

Once Hypoxylon canker is evident, it is usually too late to try to save the tree. Large portions of
the tree will be dead, reducing the desirability as a landscape specimen. In addition, the structural
integrity of the wood is compromised and the tree becomes hazardous. Trees exhibiting signs and
symptoms of Hypoxylon canker should be carefully inspected and considered for removal. Trees that have died from hypoxylon canker and are located in an area where they could fall on structures, roads, fences, powerlines, etc., should be removed as soon as possible. During removal, it is very dangerous to climb trees killed by hypoxylon canker. Because the fungus decays the wood so rapidly, the tree may not support the weight of a climber. Caution should be exercised when removing a tree effected by hypoxylon canker.

Probably all oak trees are susceptible to hypoxylon canker. In addition, elm, pecan, hickory, sycamore, maple, beech, and other trees may be infected. The fungus spreads by airborn spores that apparently infect trees of any age by colonizing the inner bark. The fungus is known to be present in many healthy trees and can survive for long periods of time in the inner bark without invading the sapwood. As mentioned earlier, when a tree is weakened or stressed, the fungus may then invade the sapwood and become one of several factors that ultimately cause the tree to die.

There is no known control for hypoxylon canker other than maintaining tree vigor. Apparently the spores of this fungus are so common in most areas that removing trees infected with hypoxylon canker is of little value in controlling the spread of the disease. Also, infected fire wood is not considered to be a source of inoculation. The fungus does not kill groups of trees by spreading from tree to tree. There is usually little that can be done to avoid naturally occurring stress factors, but many man-caused stress factors can be avoided. During drought periods, supplemental watering is recommended, if the tree is near a water source. Damage to tree roots around construction areas commonly predisposes a tree to infection by hypoxylon canker.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Residents Reminded to Register Cell Phones for Emergency Notifications before the Next Event

The Hays County Commissioners Court and emergency response officials want to remind residents who use cell phones that they can receive emergency notifications on those phones. While landline phones are programmed automatically to receive emergency notifications, cell phones must be registered separately to receive them. to register your cell phone.
Hays County partners with the Capital Area Council of Governments (CAPCOG) in the regional Emergency Notification System that allows officials to alert local residents when certain emergencies threaten. Once you register your phone it could take up to a month for the number to be included in the notification system, so residents are urged to register their phones before the next emergency strikes.

Individuals can register as many cell phone numbers at the same location as they want and cell phone numbers can be registered to multiple addresses, such as home and work. Public safety officials will only contact phone numbers assigned to the geographic area that is affected.

According to CAPCOG, VoIP phones will automatically be added to the database within the next few weeks, so there is no longer a need to register them separately through your provider.
There is a link on the County’s website at