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Friday, September 12,2008

Testing forages will pay dividends

by WLJ
Forages for winter feed will be in short supply in many areas of North Dakota that experienced moderate to severe drought during the 2008 growing season. That shortage will create emergency situations in which livestock producers will use nontraditional feedstuffs and hay from Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) lands as a substantial portion of the ration for their animals. However, some of these forages may be low in nutritional value and high in nitrate, resulting in livestock that are undernourished or at risk of being poisoned by nitrate. Having the forages tested is the best way for producers to know the quality of feed their livestock is consuming, according to Kevin Sedivec, North Dakota State University (NDSU) Extension Service rangeland specialist, and Greg Lardy, NDSU Extension beef cattle specialist. Emergency forages with the potential for nitrate toxicity include small grains such as wheat, barley and oats; late-season crops such as corn and sunflowers; and weeds such as kochia and pigeongrass. Small grains that were planted for grain but harvested for hay due to drought stress conditions will have a greater risk for toxic levels of nitrates. Sedivec suggests producers collect a core sample from three to five bales from each field and send them to a reputable laboratory for nitrate level testing. NDSU publication V-839, Nitrate Poisoning of Livestock, will help producers interpret the test results. The publication is available online at http://www.ag.ndsu.edu/pubs/an sci/livestoc/v839.pdf. Producers who have high nitrate levels should visit with their local county Extension agent for recommendations on feeding high-nitrate feeds. Lardy says predicting the nutritive value of other emergency forages, such as hay cut on CRP wildlife land, as well as crop residues such as corn stalks, is difficult without utilizing the services of a qualified nutrition laboratory. Using book values for these types of forages can lead to erroneous conclusions about forage quality. He strongly encourages livestock producers to test these feeds for nutritional components and, if pertinent, nitrate levels. Certain CRP lands in the region were eligible for haying beginning Aug. 2. Nutritional quality can vary dramatically with CRP hay. Nutritive quality depends on when the field was last hayed or grazed, timing of haying relative to forage maturity, and the proportion of alfalfa to grass, as well as precipitation. In many cases, much of the hay from CRP and wildlife lands harvested in August will be deficient in protein and energy for most classes of livestock, the NDSU specialists warn. Minerals and vitamins, especially Vitamin A, also can be deficient. Producers should have their hay tested for protein, energy, calcium, phosphorus and Vitamin A. CRP hay, as well as most grass-dominant hays, harvested in August will have a crude protein value of less than 7 percent and digestibility value of less than 50 percent. However, if the CRP or hay field was green when harvested or contained greater than 30 percent alfalfa, nutritional quality can approach 9 percent to 11 percent crude protein and digestibility greater than 55 percent. If the field was brown and dry, crude protein can be as low as 5 percent and digestibility less than 45 percent. If the CRP field has not been cut for three or more years and standing litter is high, nutritional quality will be well below the needs of all classes of livestock. Testing forages will allow management decisions that improve livestock productivity, as well as improve overall profitability of the ranching operation, the specialists say. They add that producers should implement feed supplementation programs if the nutritive value of their forage supply is low to balance the ration and ensure healthy, productive livestock. More information on forage quality is avilable in NDSU Extension publication AS-1251, Interpreting Composition and Determining Market Value. It’s online at http://www.ag.ndsu.edu/pubs/ansci/dairy/as1251w.htm. — WLJ

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Friday, September 12,2008

Unruhs will be recognized as Ranchers of the Year

by WLJ
Mercer County cattle producers Shawn and SheVele Unruh will be recognized as the North Dakota Stockmen’s Association’s (NDSA) Ranchers of the Year at the NDSA Annual Convention Banquet in Minot, ND, on Sept. 27. Unruhs were nominated as the District 4 candidates before being chosen by the NDSA Board of Directors to receive the state honor. The couple and their children, 16-year-old Denver and 12-year-old Shawnee, ranch in partnership with Shawn’s mother Sharon and their nephew, Austin Jensen, and his wife Destinee south of Zap, ND, on the family’s third-generation operation. Shawn’s sister Shantell, her husband Dean Hartman and her daughter Rikki Jensen are also involved in the day-to-day work on the Unruh ranch. Unruhs run 460 commercial Angus cow-calf pairs and 10 horses on 8,000 owned and 1,600 state- and private-leased acres. The family also maintains a small band of purebred Angus cattle in order to raise some of the herdsires they use on the ranch. Unruhs calve their heifers in early March and their cows in mid-March. They wean the early calves in mid-September and the older calves in mid-October. They send their steers to Kim Knutson of Dunn Center, ND, where they are backgrounded for 60 to 90 days. They have sold their steers through Superior Livestock Auction for many years. "We have received excellent feedback from the buyers about the quality and performance of the Unruh cattle," said James Erickson, their Superior Auction representative. "It is a pleasure to know and work with a family that is dedicated to ranching." Unruhs breed all their heifer calves, either naturally or through artificial insemination. They retain about 150 for their own herd and then market those remaining as commercial bred heifers off the ranch. Protecting the ranch’s natural resources is a priority for the Unruh family, especially since they keep their cattle on grass 365 days a year and only feed supplemental hay from January until spring green-up. To ensure the best quality and most abundant grass over the years, Unruhs have crossfenced their pastures and enhanced their watering systems by adding three wells, 10 miles of pipeline and 18 water tanks to employ a more efficient rotational grazing system and to encourage better utilization of grasses in even the most remote portions of their ranch. Unruhs believe in the value of performance testing and have been enrolled in the Cow Herd Appraisal Program (CHAPS) for many years. Before the advent of CHAPS, Shawn’s father, Floyd, bought an early-day Apple computer, taught himself how to use it and, with the help of their long-time county agent, Allen Schmidt, set up his own spreadsheet system to record everything from performance information to the ranch’s finances. Unruhs still have the reams and reams of paper documenting the birth dates, birth weights, weaning weights and other measures of the family’s calf crops from more than 40 years ago. The information serves as a benchmark of where they’ve been and how far their cattle have come. Floyd and his dad Ed, Shawn’s grandfather, were known for their innovative thinking and astute management skills. The pair brought the first Santa Gertrudis bulls to North Dakota in the late 1960s, crossed them with their Hereford cows and marketed some of the first Brahman-hybrid cattle in the U.S. The hybrid vigor of those foundation females is still evident in the Unruh herd today. "Both Ed and Floyd, 57- and 56-year NDSA members, respectively, have passed away now, but their commitment to family, the land and their cattle lives on through the daily labor of those remaining on the Unruh ranch," said NDSA Vice President Jack Reich of Zap, a family friend and neighbor. "The Rancher of the Year Award will be a tribute to Unruhs’ three generations of excellence in the cattle business." — WLJ

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Friday, September 12,2008

Genetic link to health traits

by WLJ
A groundbreaking study at Colorado State University (CSU) may lead to early identification of animals with less susceptibility to feedlot diseases, especially bovine respiratory disease (BRD). "This landmark research is providing us with greater insight into the genetic markers responsible for improved feedlot health, a promising significant breakthrough for the beef industry," says Dr. Nigel Evans, vice president of Pfizer Animal Genetics. The study is the first of its kind and is sponsored by Pfizer Animal Genetics and the National Beef Cattle Evaluation Consortium (NBCEC). "Pfizer believes in the opportunity to marry genetics and disease susceptibility to initiate significant improvements in animal health," says Evans. "This study reinforces the importance of research that will lead to economically relevant management solutions for beef producers." The study design and funding originated from NBCEC, a group of universities focused on furthering genetic evaluations of beef cattle. The organization had recently completed a pilot study at Iowa State University that showed encouraging results for genetic control of pinkeye, says NBCEC Director Dr. John Pollak. As a next step, the group decided to focus on the most prevalent disease in feedlot cattle: BRD. "As an organization, one of our goals has been to identify genetic traits related to animal health, which is difficult on a large-scale industry level," says Pollak. "Focusing on animal health, we identified BRD as one of the obvious diseases on which to focus our efforts. We hope the study results will lead to panels of markers indicative of animals less susceptible to BRD." Pollak identified multiple specialists to serve as members of the research team, with Dr. Mark Enns of CSU as the lead researcher. The ongoing research combines multiple past study designs to create a unique methodology focused on genetics under commercial feedlot conditions. "Our goal with this study is to maximize producer profitability through healthier animals, improved animal welfare, and the use of effective genetic management tools," says Enns. "By identifying key genetic markers, the industry can better develop tools for producers to decrease morbidity and mortality, resulting in more profits for beef producers throughout the industry." The study, which began in 2007 and ends next year, involves more than 3,000 steers. All animals originate from one large commercial beef operation and are being fed at a Colorado commercial feedlot. All animals have been genotyped and performance and health traits will be monitored throughout the research while overall health and carcass quality will be charted after harvest. The first-year data already is being used to discover and identify possible genetic marker panels that are indicative of animals less susceptible to common feedlot diseases. Currently in its second year, researchers are beginning to validate research results. Data from the study also is being utilized by Pfizer Animal Health Veterinary Medicine Research and Development. Pfizer is looking at the synergies between animal health and genetics to develop therapies that will improve the health of the animal, says director of Livestock Pharmaceuticals Dr. Jeffrey Watts. "Pfizer believes the Colorado State University research will help us in developing new products which can be tailored for certain management protocols that fit the needs of the animal subpopulations in the feedlot," says Watts. "For example, in the future it may be possible to design pharmaceuticals to fit animals based on their genetic predispositions for carcass quality, tenderness and susceptibility to common feedlot diseases." "We may find that as we improve animal growth and productivity, animals will remain susceptible to certain diseases," adds Watts. "From a protocol standpoint, we will be able to recommend different management regimens to treat common feedlot diseases and improve the overall performance based on an animal’s specific genetic makeup." — WLJ

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Friday, September 12,2008

Early calf weaning could be cost control strategy this fall

by WLJ
High fuel and feed costs are pressuring beef producers’ bottom line, but there are options to help relieve the financial pressure, a Kansas State University researcher (KSU) said. "Early weaning is a cost-control strategy that beef producers might consider," said K.C. Olson, who is a cow/calf nutrition specialist with KSU Research and Extension. Speaking at KSU’s Beef Conference Aug. 7-8 in Manhattan, KS, Olson said that producers may think of early weaning as a last resort, but a better approach might be to consider the strategy before the situation is dire. "Economic damage is almost certain when decision-making is delayed," he said. "The decision to wean early, for example, is most often made when the cow is perilously thin and feed costs are out of control." Early-weaned calves are no more prone to health, nutritional, or environmental problems than calves in conventional weaning programs, Olson said. And, there are well-established benefits in terms of calf performance, forage conservation and reduced nutrient requirements for cows. Weaning calves earlier than usual—at 30 to 150 days of age, rather than the more typical 240 days—takes them off of pastures, which both reduces the stocking rate and halts lactation in the cows. In turn, halting lactation earlier trims a cow’s nutritional needs and, therefore, its forage needs earlier. Because calves are functionally monograstric at birth, some producers may have concerns about whether a calf’s rumen can handle grain consumption early in life. But studies have indicated that the rumen develops as it needs to, Olson said. Beyond that, the things to think about when it comes to managing early-weaned calves are the same things a producer should plan for in traditional operations. Vaccination, parasite control, stress management, disease monitoring and treatment, diet composition and intake management are all important with early-weaned calves—just as they are for later-weaned animals, the researcher said. Considerations for pen layout, sanitation and animal comfort are still necessary, too. "All aspects of the nutritional management of early-weaned cattle should be geared toward encouraging dry matter intake," he said, noting that this also is one of the biggest challenges: "Overcoming the reluctance to eat is arguably the most important aspect of weaning management." Early-weaned calves are even more selective about what they’ll eat than traditionally-weaned calves are. This makes the composition of feed critical to a successful transition, he said. Palatability factors—moisture content, particle size and ingredients—are all key to the process. A clean and abundant water supply is also important. "Early-weaned calves are small, compared to calves weaned at conventional age," warned Olson, who told conference attendees that he’d seen plenty of cattle-watering devices that were the proper height for 600-pound calves, but not for 400-pound calves. Because calves are not accustomed to eating from bunks, he suggested that producers place an extra feed bunk and watering device in calf pens, perpendicular to the normal feed bunk. When calves circle the pen, they will encounter the feeding and watering devices. "Once a few calves encounter and use bunks and waterers, those behaviors will transfer quickly from one individual to another within the pen," he said. Many producers assume that early-weaned calves are lighter in weight and not as marketable, Olson said. Numerous studies have shown, however, that early-weaned calves fed concentrate diets in confinement have body weights equal to or greater than those of conventionally-weaned animals at the normal weaning time. "But the real advantage of early weaning is linked to the performance of the cow," he said. Data from several studies indicate that following earlier calf weaning, cows’ pregnancy rates are higher, the number of days from calving to conception are fewer, and significantly more cows cycle within 85 days of calving. The same research also found body weight at normal weaning time is higher in cows whose calves were weaned early, rather than at the more conventional times. Olson cited several studies in which cows lost either one body condition score or about 100 pounds of body weight over the course of 60 days. He estimated producers could save up to $140 per cow during winter 2008 if they prevent this cow body-weight loss by weaning calves 60 days earlier. Even selling a lighter calf immediately after weaning could bring a greater return ($40 to $80) to producer labor and management than waiting for a conventional weaning age. — WLJ

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Friday, September 12,2008

Cattlemen mull new, innovative ideas to save cash, boost profits

by WLJ
When it comes to saving money, Dennis Anderson and his wife Phyllis of Waxahachie, TX, already do a lot of things to help their ranch. The Andersons, who have a small cow/calf herd of about 25 Brangus cows just south of the Dallas/Fort Worth area in Ellis County, buy some feed in bulk, have changed the vehicles they drive, check their cattle less often, and even sell scrap metal from their farm. "Any little bit helps, especially these days," Dennis said. The Andersons also continue to look for other ideas, and that is why they joined cattlemen from around the world at the 54th Annual Texas A&M Beef Short Course. In meeting rooms full of cowboy hats, shiny boots and blue jeans, cattlemen gathered on the campus of Texas A&M University to learn what might allow them to be more efficient to survive challenging times of higher input costs. There are several tips and techniques cattle producers can use to limit feed, fuel and fertilizer costs, according to Jason Banta, extension beef cattle and livestock specialist with AgriLife Extension, part of the Texas A&M educational system, located in Overton, TX. Be careful with instinct In times of high feed costs, cattle producers’ first instinct is to cut feed costs. Some eliminate supplemental feed and others cut back on hay. The problem here, Banta explained, is that cutting back on feed is a slippery slope. If you cut back, too many cattle can lose Body Condition Score (BCS) and their conception rates fall. "When you move from a BCS of 5 to 4, conception rates will begin to drop considerably and instead of saving money you just cost yourself money, so you have to be very careful and think about the ramifications of cutting feed," Banta said. Matching calving season to forage production is something cattle producers should keep in mind. A good rule to remember is to calve 60 days before the best grasses are available because this will be when the mother cows will have the highest nutritional requirement. Plenty of forage will allow the cow to keep the proper condition to support a calf and get rebred, he said. Check cattle less often When it comes to fuel, one of the first things Banta tells cattlemen is to restrict their calving season to as small a window as possible so they can reduce the frequency of checking cattle. Many ranchers in this expansive state have several miles of land to go over; checking cattle every day or even several times a day can burn up quite a bit of fuel and oil. Banta said cattlemen should reduce the frequency of feeding cattle. "You have to be careful with this to make sure you are doing it appropriately, but there are protein supplements that can be fed a couple times a week and not every day." Banta also suggested producers re-evaluate certain self-feed products. These types of feed would save trips to the pasture. Using more fuel-efficient vehicles is another way to limit fuel. Instead of purchasing a full-sized, one-ton diesel pickup for checking cattle and hauling cattle once in a while, buy a smaller 1/2 ton pickup that gets better gas mileage, he said. All-terrain vehicles are another good fuel-efficient vehicle to get around a ranch. A smaller pickup means bigger trailers to haul livestock to town cannot be used. Consider a bumper-hitch trailer instead of a more expensive, larger gooseneck-hitched trailer, Banta said. If you need to haul a large number of calves to market, you could always hire someone to do the job. "When you do haul cattle yourself, make sure trailer loads are full to utilize the trip fully," he said. "Plan trips to town to combine chores together like getting feed and supplies." There are other forms of transportation that could save some fuel, said Ron Gill, an extension beef cattle and livestock specialist with AgriLife Extension located in Stephensville, TX. "Everyone has some horses there in the pasture; ride them out and check some cattle in order to save some money on fuel," said Gill. "Cheap fuel has allowed us to get sloppy." Apply enough fertilizer When it comes to fertilizer costs, both Banta and Gill suggested producers apply just enough fertilizer for the stocking rates and rainfall for their area. The only way producers can know this information precisely is to conduct soil tests on their land. Gill suggested producers concentrate their fertilizer dollars on the most productive soils for necessary hay production. Cattlemen should consider what happens if they stop fertilizing their grass. "There are some guys that are reverting back to some native species of grass that require less fertilizer, but these systems would also need a higher level of management to assure the grass remains vital," Gill said. Alternative sources of fertilizers are available to producers other than commercial fertilizers. Chicken litter, cattle or hog manure and biosolids are all viable alternative sources that can be used as fertilizer. The problem with these other sources is they are not nearly as accessible and plentiful as commercial fertilizers, he said. Banta also said producers should optimize their reproduction—purchase quality seedstock, consider the value of male and female calves, and consider the value of market cows and bulls. One of the areas many Texas cattlemen overlook is castrating their bull calves. About 60 percent of the calves that go to sale barns in Texas are still bull calves, according to Greg Goudeau, president/owner of Navasota Livestock in Navasota, TX. "If you don’t cut that bull calf, there is about a $4 to $8 a hundredweight discount on a 400-pound calf, up to a $7 to $14 a hundredweight discount on a 700-pound calf," Goudeau. "Just take the time to castrate your bull calves and right there you will get more for your calves." Cutting feed costs To cut down on their feed costs this year, the Andersons bought high protein range cubes in bulk. This lowered the price of the cubes, but the down side to this was they had to purchase a certain quantity. "We don’t have that many cows, and that many cubes will last us a while, but we did get the cubes at a discounted price," Dennis Anderson said. They also bought a different vehicle with better gas mileage. They drive about 45 miles to check cows sometimes, so they thought it was a good idea to invest in a more fuel-efficient car. "We just don’t check the cows as much now with the higher gas prices," said Phyllis Anderson. The Andersons also recycle scrap metal on their farm to get some additional income and to clean up their farmstead. They had a 20 x 30 foot barn catch on fire and burn down a while back, and they are in the process of hauling the tin from the barn to the metal recycler. — WLJ

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Friday, September 12,2008

Fall best time to eliminate perennial weeds

by WLJ
Fall is the best time to treat perennial weeds in crops and pasture, said a University of Nebraska–Lincoln (UNL) specialist. Herbicides sprayed in fall weaken the weeds and then the winter kills them, said Bob Klein, cropping systems specialist at UNL’s West Central Research and Extension Center in North Platte. Spring spraying weakens weeds, but then they have ideal conditions to recover. Klein advised producers to spray when the weeds are actively growing. As they prepare for winter, they’re taking nutrients down to the roots to store them for winter, he said, and the herbicide also moves down into the roots, which adds to its effectiveness. Sometimes weeds become dormant as a result of drought, Klein said, but a lot of times we have good fall rains. Wait a week after a rain and spray when the weeds are growing again. A number of new herbicides, such as Milestone, have become available in recent years. Klein advised producers to investigate these new chemicals because some of them have really provided good results. These new products incorporate new chemistry and different modes of action. Different crops and different weed infestations will require different treatments, Klein said. To get the latest recommendations, Klein recommended getting a copy of UNL’s Weed Management Guide, EC130. It’s available at county extension offices, but also on the Web. It’s a large document, about 200 pages, so producers will probably want to print only the pages they need, he said. Not only are the product labels legal documents, they are also a source of important information about weeds the product will kill, what crops it can be used on and how long the residual action will last. Growers should be very careful in choosing an herbicide, taking into account what crop might come after the one they’re treating. With guidance from product labels and UNL’s Weed Management Guide, producers can make good decisions about herbicides, both old and new, for eliminating problem perennial weeds. — WLJ

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Friday, September 5,2008

Net farm income forecast up 10 percent

by WLJ
Net farm income is forecast to be $95.7 billion, 10.3 percent above the $86.8 billion farmers are estimated to have earned in 2007 and 57 percent above the 10-year average of $61.1 billion. Net cash income, at $101.3 billion, is forecast to be $13.9 billion above 2007. This would be the first time that net cash income has exceeded $100 billion. Net cash income is projected to rise more than net farm income because of the carryover of 2007 crops, which are being sold in 2008. The story for 2008 is the value of crop production which, at $188.8 billion, is forecast to exceed its previous record (set in 2007) by $38 billion, a 25 percent increase. Prices of major crops (corn, soybeans, wheat) were trending upward in late 2007 and continued doing so in the first part of 2008. The values of livestock production and livestock cash receipts are projected to increase about 6 percent in 2008. Higher sales are projected for all livestock sectors, but particularly for broilers, hogs, cattle, and eggs. In 2007, net farm income was at a record level and ended the year strong with many key economic indicators at very favorable levels. Commodity prices were above recent levels and in some cases (wheat, soybeans, corn, milk), continued to rise. Exports were strong as the weak dollar made U.S. commodities more competitive in international markets, and ending-year stocks of many commodities were low. Commodity prices continued to surge in the early months of 2008 and are expected to remain relatively high throughout 2008, even though they have backed off their highs for the year. Corn production is projected to be the second highest on record and soybean production is projected to be the fourth highest on record. Consequently, with large harvests to sell at high prices, the outlook for the farm economy as a whole is for another good year in 2008, driven by strong demand for feed crops, oilseeds, and food grains. There are many unknowns when forecasting farm income in the third quarter of the year, but based on the best information available on production and market conditions, the farm sector’s net value added to the national economy is forecast to be up 8.9 percent in 2008. Its projected value of $144.2 billion would be $11.7 billion over 2007 and 39 percent over its 1998-2007 average. The values of both crop and livestock production have trended steadily upward since 1970. However, the year-to-year movements in the two measures have not always been synchronized. In 2008, the rise in the value of crop production is expected to be nearly five times that of livestock. Feed costs are a large component of livestock expenses and the exceptionally high prices for feed crops are pinching livestock producers. Rising costs cause livestock producers to eliminate their least productive animals and cut back in less profitable areas of their operations. Net value added and net farm income have followed the value of commodity production over both the long term and in year-to-year fluctuations. Because farmers typically do not vary their production mix dramatically from year to year, purchases of production inputs have been relatively stable. Thus, the direction and magnitude of annual changes in the value of livestock production have arisen primarily from market prices for livestock and livestock products. On the other hand, variability in the value of crop production is determined by both market prices and production levels. Crop production varies with changes in yields due to weather, plant disease, and pests. — WLJ

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Friday, September 5,2008

Finalists for 2008 Nebraska Leopold Conservation Award

by WLJ
Sand County Foundation and Nebraska Cattlemen (NC) are proud to announce the finalists for the 2008 Leopold Conservation Award in Nebraska. The Leopold Conservation Award, named in honor of world-renowned conservationist Aldo Leopold, is comprised of $10,000 and a Leopold crystal. The award is presented annually in seven states to private landowners who practice responsible land stewardship and management. "These finalists were chosen from a number of exceptional, well-deserving candidates," said Dr. Brent Haglund, Sand County Foundation president. "This is proof that Nebraska ranchers’ long-standing ethic of conservation continues to flourish." The 2008 finalists (in alphabetical order): A.B. Cox—Valentine; Gosnell Ranch, Gordon and Sandy Gosnell—Maxwell; Hamilton Ranch, Dave and Loretta Hamilton—Thedford; Ridder Hereford Ranch, John and Mary Ridder—Callaway. The 2008 Leopold Conservation Award recipient will be recognized Dec. 11 at the NC Annual Convention in Kearney. The 2007 award recipient was Rod and Amy Christen of Steinauer and the 2006 recipient was the Wilson Ranch, Lakeside. For more information, please visit www.leopoldconservationaward.org, or contact Mike Fitzgerald, 402/475-2333, or at mfitzgerald@necattlemen.org. Sand County Foundation (www.sandcounty.net) is a private, non-profit conservation group dedicated to working with private landowners to improve habitat on their land. Sand County’s mission is to advance the use of ethical and scientifically sound land-management practices and partnerships for the benefit of people and their rural landscapes. Sand County Foundation works with private landowners because the majority of the nation’s fish, wildlife, and natural resources are on private lands. The organization backs local champions, invests in civil society, and places incentives before regulation to create solutions that endure and grow. The organization encourages the exercise of private responsibility in the pursuit of improved land health as an essential alternative to many of the commonly used strategies in modern conservation. The Leopold Conservation Award is a competitive award that recognizes landowner achievement in voluntary conservation. The award consists of a crystal depiction of Aldo Leopold seated on a horse and a check for $10,000. In 2008, Sand County Foundation will present Leopold Conservation Awards in Wisconsin, Nebraska, Wyoming, Colorado, Texas, Utah and California. The awards are presented to accomplish three objectives: First, they recognize extraordinary achievement in voluntary conservation on the land of exemplary private landowners. Second, they inspire countless other landowners in their own communities through these examples. Finally, they provide a visible forum where leaders from the agriculture community are recognized as conservation leaders to groups outside of agriculture. — WLJ

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Friday, September 5,2008

Cull cow prices at record high, says economist

by WLJ
"This year, we’ve had some record high cow prices and we expect them to go even higher next year, said Jim Robb, director of the Livestock Marketing Information Center. During a recent Open House at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln Gudmundsen Sandhills Laboratory, Robb said the demand for hamburger has increased dramatically as the U.S. economy has slowed. This is an area where cow/calf producers need to focus some of their management attention. Even though cow slaughter in the U.S. has been very high, mostly in the southeastern states and California, beef imports from Australia, New Zealand and South America have declined dramatically. So the domestic supply of cow beef is very tight. "The U.S. cow herd is shrinking. The North American cow herd is shrinking, the South American cow herd is shrinking, and the Australian cow herd is shrinking. So we’re looking at tight supplies ahead," Robb said. He predicted a new all-time high fed cattle prices. By 2010, calf and yearling prices might be on the trail of higher prices, but with high corn prices, they’ll be held down somewhat. Although the fed cattle market is supportive of yearling prices, it’s been a volatile time that will probably continue for a while. The overall ag sector is more volatile because of the ethanol/energy interaction, international trade, both imports and exports, and an overall weak U.S. economy in terms of consumer spending. The exchange rate helps determine how much beef we import and export. It has a major influence on the price of oil and the cost of production. Consumers look into the grocery meat cases and see chicken and pork as well as beef, Robb said. Historically, there’s been major competition for consumer dollars there. But the pork and chicken industries are beginning to adjust rather quickly to the higher grain prices by cutting their numbers. In addition, exports of chicken and pork have been very robust, decreasing their availability domestically. So in contrast to most years, there’s less competition for consumers’ dollars. While beef imports have decreased, exports are increasing. South Korea is buying U.S. beef again. "We’re exporting about half what we sold there before BSE, but we’re making progress," Robb said. Despite market volatility, Robb said prospects for the next couple of years will be brighter than they are today. — WLJ

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Friday, September 5,2008

Annual directory connects hay producers and buyers

by WLJ
As a service to hay producers and buyers, the Colorado Department of Agriculture publishes the Colorado Hay Directory annually. The 2008 edition of the directory is available to the public at no cost. "Hay continues to be one of Colorado’s top crops," said Wendy White, marketing specialist for the Colorado Department of Agriculture. "The directory helps Colorado’s hay producers market their hay, and is a valuable resource for buyers across Colorado and the nation." The 22nd edition of the Colorado Hay Directory features more than 100 producers and brokers of hay as well as companies that provide hay-related products and services. Categorized by region, each listing includes the type and amount of hay available, bale type and size, whether or not laboratory analysis is available, certified weed free status and identifies organic hay. The Colorado Hay Directory is published by the Colorado Department of Agriculture in cooperation with participating Colorado hay producers, the Colorado Hay and Forage Association, Colorado State University Extension, and with support from Anderson Alfalfa, Dr. Fish Fertilizer Co., Hutchinson Western and Wagner Equipment Co. In 2007, Colorado produced nearly 4.4 million tons of hay valued at $597 million. Production of hay in Colorado for 2008 is estimated at 4.2 million tons. The directory is available online at www.coloradoagriculture.com and at www.coloradohay.org. For more information or to request a copy of the 2008 Colorado Hay Directory, call the Colorado Department of Agriculture at 303/239-4115. — WLJ

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