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Friday, October 1,2010

Engler honored by Feeding Quality Forums

by WLJ
Paul Engler, Cactus Feeders, was one of the first people to see the feeding potential in Texas. He was one of the first to develop value-based grid marketing. And now he is the inaugural recipient of the Industry Achievement Award given in conjunction with the Feeding Quality Forums.

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Tuesday, September 28,2010

Is fertilizer too high to buy?

by WLJ
Is fertilizer too high to buy? As we write this in mid-2008, fertilizer prices have reached all-time highs. Who would have believed even a few months ago that any kind of fertilizer would be priced at over $1,000 per ton? Ammonium nitrate (34-0-0) is selling for approximately $440 a ton, with urea (46-0-0) approaching $640. Potash is about $640 a ton and diammonium phosphate (18-46-0) tops the list at over $1,050 a ton. How did we get to these price levels and how does an agricultural producer make sound economic decisions in this environment? Reasons behind the price increases Nitrogen prices have tripled since 2000 largely because of high worldwide demand. At the same time, U.S. production of ammonia and urea has dropped by about a third. The result is the need to import over half of the nation’s nitrogen supply. Almost 70 percent of the dry urea supply is imported. Importing puts domestic prices at the mercy of the falling value of the dollar against foreign currencies—a more than 40 percent decline in the past four years. On top of other factors, freight costs have doubled in the past two years. Set realistic goals Current prices make it especially important to optimize the economic yield—not the total yield—of crops and forages. Simply applying more fertilizer does not lead to the best economic outcome. As you start to set yield goals, knowing the three- to five-year average yield of a crop or pasture is helpful, but many other factors come into play. Always be prepared for great variation in productivity from field to field and from year to year. Weather conditions play an obvious role in crop or forage yields. Adequate rainfall, moderate temperatures and proper soil moisture will have a positive effect on production. Topdress fertilizer applications will need to be adjusted according to anticipated weather. Second, it is important to know your soil type, its physical properties and chemical makeup. For instance, a coarse sandy soil has less water-holding capacity than a fine-textured loam. Under drought conditions, better yields can be expected on the loam. Crop rotation is useful to enhance forage yields. Growing a continuous monoculture crop without rotation or a summer fallow period between can lead to increases in insects, plant diseases and weeds. Organic matter in the soil will affect the availability of fertilizer nitrogen to the plant. Application of organic fertilizers like poultry litter, animal manures, biosolids or the use of legumes to fix nitrogen will affect fertilizer recommendations. Fertilizing crops With today’s high crop prices, it is generally profitable to fertilize crops for harvest—even at fertilizer prices higher than current levels. However, one must keep in mind that when more money for seed, fuel, chemicals and fertilizer is invested in a crop, risks increase. If Mother Nature is unkind and yields are below expectations, losses can add up quickly. Therefore, even though applying high-dollar fertilizer to crops can be profitable, serious consideration should be given to crop insurance or some kind of risk management. Fertilizing forages Applying fertilizer to forage crops requires more study. First, let’s consider application of nitrogen to a grass. In many cases in our Oklahoma and Texas service area, this is likely to be bermudagrass that will be consumed by beef cows. Every beef cattle producer’s cost of production is different, but, for discussion purposes, we’ll use average cow costs. At the current prices for calves, our analysis shows a break-even price for urea is in the $500 per ton range. In the short run, a producer may choose to fertilize and allow time for calf prices to rise or to develop a strategic de-stocking plan. If calf prices do increase sufficiently or if fertilizer prices decline, then a producer can delay implementing the de-stocking plan. A rule of thumb for current calf prices and fertilizer prices is that for each 5-cent move per pound of nitrogen (roughly $50 per ton of urea), calf prices need to move a little over $4 per cwt. to break even. A second use for bermudagrass is to feed stocker calves. With purchased stockers, it is much easier to adjust stocking rates than with a cow herd. Currently, the market is paying about 75 cents per cwt. for gain on summer stockers. This would be considered the value of gain, which determines the amount a producer can pay for fertilizer. According to our analysis, with the value of gain in the mid-70s, a producer can pay in the range of $550-$600 per ton for urea. Another rule of thumb for stocker cattle is for each 5-cent move per pound of nitrogen (again, roughly $50 per ton of urea), the value of gain needs to adjust 2.5 cents per pound to maintain the same level of profitability. What about hay? Bermudagrass hay producers should consider the value of the nutrients that are removed from the soil to decide if production costs are being met. At current fertilizer prices, and assuming that one ton of bermudagrass forage (testing 12 percent crude protein) contains 38 pounds of actual N (nitrogen), 9 pounds of P2O5 (phosphorus) and 48 pounds of K2O (potassium), approximately $1.90 of nutrients are present in a 62-pound square bale. A 1,000-pound round bale will remove approximately $30 of nutrients from the soil. On top of the price of nutrient loss, expenses are incurred to bale the hay, pay for land, finance equipment and meet other needs. Custom rates for small square bales are typically around $1.10 per small square bale and approximately $22 dollars per 1,000-pound round bale. When typical expenses are added together, the break-even price for a small square bale is about $3 and $52 per 1,000-pound round bale. In our region, hay is selling for about $4 to $6 for a small square bale and about $35 to $40 for a round bale. If you plan on buying hay, knowing the nutrient content (i.e., crude protein) allows you to make better purchasing decisions. Now may be a good time to invest in a forage probe for testing hay. Summary With fertilizer prices at record high levels, it is more important than ever to have up-to-date soil tests to determine needed fertilizer application. Hay buyers would be wise to rely on forage sampling to determine the quality of available hay. Current crop prices are sufficient to justify applications of fertilizer. However, fertilizer applications to forage that will be consumed by either beef cows or stocker calves require judicious study. With fertilizer prices at today’s levels, we, as agricultural consultants, have found ourselves in the unusual position of making the recommendation (on a case-by-case basis) not to apply fertilizer. To determine the proper strategy for your operation, please contact a soils and crops consultant and/or an agricultural economist. — Dan Childs, Jagadeesh Mosali and David Annis, Noble Foundation

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Friday, September 24,2010

Ranchers fear negative effects of military training

by Maria E. Tussing - WLJ Correspondent
Peace and tranquility are two of the elements of the prairie most valuable to Marvin Kammerer, a rancher in western South Dakota. They are also two of the elements he fears are most in danger of being eliminated if a proposal by the U.S. Air Force to expand a training complex is put into action.

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Friday, September 24,2010

Prices slip back after corn tops $5/bushel mark

by WLJ
Fed cattle trade wrapped up early last week with the bulk of the action complete on Tuesday and Wednesday. In the southern Plains, live cattle traded mostly steady to $1 higher at $98-98.50. Dressed sales in the Corn Belt and Nebraska were reported at $153-154, steady to $1 lower than the previous weeks sales.

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Friday, September 24,2010

COMMENTS

by Pete Crow - Publisher
The Cattle on Feed report showed that cattle feeders were fairly aggressive on their purchases for August, with placements up 7.4 percent over last year.

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Friday, September 24,2010

Health check

by Miranda Reiman, Certified Angus Beef
You may wonder what genetics has to do with herd health. Sure, the neighbor swears that cattle from this breed or that will die as soon as they get off the truck, but thats just an old wives tale, right? Maybe not. Although selection for health still might be only on the horizon, a growing base of research shows they are tied together.

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Friday, September 24,2010

BEEF talk

by Kris Ringwall, North Dakota State University
Producers utilizing the CHAPS (Cow Herd Appraisal Performance System) record-keeping program through the North Dakota Beef Cattle Improvement Association (NDBCIA) have a cow pregnancy rate of 93.5 percent and will follow through in the spring by calving out 92.

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Friday, September 24,2010

BEEF bits

by WLJ
Officials from Japan and the U.S. met in San Francisco last week for two days of much-anticipated discussion about American beef safety, but the talks ended without any change to Japans strict laws barring meat from older American cows. Japanese import regulations toward U.

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Friday, September 24,2010

GUEST opinion

by WLJ
When U.S. Magistrate Judge Candy Dale ruled in favor of two eco-extremist groups attempts to gain private information regarding federal grazing permits, she put at great risk the rural backbone of the West and the families that hold it together. On Sept.

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Friday, September 24,2010

Proven profit in first Shorthorn Great State Feedout

by WLJ
A positive fluctuation in the cattle market set the pace for the Great State Feedout (GSF) program implemented by the American Shorthorn Association (ASA) this past year. The GSF is designed to help members of ASA profit through retained ownership of steer progeny.

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