At long last, the Lower Coastal Bend's cotton harvest is virtually complete and was estimated at the 98 percent completion mark at the beginning of the second week of October.

The 2007 crop had numerous ups and downs and that situation continues to a degree.

On the upside, ginning across the region has remained very active. That is an indication that the size of the crop is likely to wind up a bit larger that earlier estimated. Gin managers with some of the area's largest ginning facilities are hopeful that they can complete ginning of this season's Coastal Bend areas crop around Halloween, give or take a few days. The bale numbers being classed for lint quality during the first week of October surpassed 106,800 bales, which was the highest weekly total for the season. And on Oct. 4, the USDA's Cotton Classing Office in Corpus Christi reported that they had classified quality designations on over one-half million bales - 551,273 bales to be exact.

That number alone is a source of good news because it verifies that the combined Lower Rio Grande Valley and Lower Coastal Bend production regions had already produced well above one-half million bales of cotton. The chance of reaching 750,000 bales is within the realm of possibility for the South Texas cotton crop with good yields coming out of the Uvalde area.

Back at the end of the July- August monsoon, it was anyone's guess as to how much of the region's rain-soaked crop would ever be harvested. Trying to estimate the size of the cotton crop while bolls were rotting on the bottom of the plants and blooms were pollinating into juvenile bolls at the top of the plant was a real puzzle. At that point in time, yield guesses were ranging between 3/4 bales per acre on the low side up to 2.2 bales to the acre on the topside. And now that the vast majority of the Coastal Bend's cotton crop has been harvested and ginned, those widely varying guesses were in all likelihood correct, at least for individual fields. Once the ginning dust settles, most of the fields in Nueces and San Patricio Counties will likely fall into the production range of 1.3 to 1.7 bales to the acre on the non-irrigated production. We'll have to wait and see what number of bales that can be harvested from the Upper Coast's severely weathered cotton acreage.

The only thing that may be more challenging to "guess-timate" than the size of the 2007 cotton crop in South Texas is the size of the region's wild hog population. Experts in that field work with some widely varying numbers as well. Most agree that the drought did have a negative impact on litter size during the fall of last year. But no one has a good handle on how much larger feral hog litter might be this fall. The tremendous improvement in food sources, water availability, and cover is certain to allow more of the wild piglets to reach breeding age. Those environmental changes are likely to bring even larger feral hog numbers to South Texas.

Management of feral hogs in the Coastal Bend is the topic of a symposium being conducted at the Welder Wildlife Refuge, north of Sinton on the east side of State Highway 77 on Thursday, Oct. 11, beginning at 9 a.m. Pre-registration is required. A registration fee of $10 per person will be charged to cover the cost of the noon luncheon and refreshments. Participants can also earn two credits for pesticide licence renewal by participating in this educational program.

This symposium will make participants familiar with the biology of feral hogs and the options available to manage their populations. The event is sponsored by Texas Cooperative Extension, in conjunction with the Welder Wildlife Refuge, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and the Texas Animal Heath Commission.