Very little rain and high winds have those in the agriculture industry worried.

"There are two major factors of the drought that are affecting area farmers, ranchers and dairymen," said Whitt Weems, an Erath County extension agent. "They are the availability of forage for animals and runoff into tanks for consumption."

Weems said the drought has made it difficult for farmers to feed their cattle and horses. The lack of rain over the past several years has caused grass in permeant pastures used for grazing to die or struggle to come back.

Weems said many of those without pastures to graze are leasing more land in other areas or having to buy feed for their animals.

"I've sold over half my herd because I don't have anything to feed them anymore," said Lloyd Wiley, who ranches near Dublin. "Cost of feed keeps getting higher and there hasn't been enough rain to make up the grass to feed with. Feeding my horses costs more than feeding my boys these days."

Ranchers aren't the only ones feeling the stress of the drought. Weems said he has seen a lot of dead crops in Erath County. The lack of moisture and freezing temperatures this winter have taken a toll.

"The guys planting crops are struggling too," Weems said. "The ones who planted crops this year caught good moisture at the right time in some parts of the county, but the lack of subsoil moisture doesn't allow for a good root system to develop. Then when the freeze hits, those crops have no roots to depend on and die. That's what we're seeing a lot of right now, and that's hard."

High, sustained winds like the ones in Erath County Sunday are making things worse.

"If you get any moisture on your plants, crops or pasture land, you've got to hope the wind doesn't take it all," Weems said. "The rain doesn't just have to fall, it has to be absorbed into the ground so the plants can get it. The winds just pulls moisture out of the top soil faster than the plants can get to it."

The combination is affecting stock tanks, lakes and ponds.

"I've got six dirt tanks on about 75 acres of ranch land and only one of them has any muddy water left in it at all," Wiley said. "I spend a good part of the day hauling water and feed to cattle that should have both already."

Ted Ryan, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service, said over the last 36 months, most areas are about 25 percent below normal rainfall. During that time, Ryan said the area should have seen approximately 90 inches of rain, but has instead received, on average, less than 25 inches.

The form of relief may come in El Nino. Once thought to be harmful to the United States in the form of flooding issues and more, an El Nino prediction is a welcome sight to the agriculture industry.

According to research from John Nielsen-Gammon, a weather expert at Texas A&M University, El Nino could develop this summer, bringing significant rainfall to the area in late 2014.

"What we need is rain, lots of it," Weems said. "But we don't know when exactly we will see any relief in the area and that's a scary thing for some people."

See Wednesday's edition of the E-T for an update on municipal water supplies.