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Hay Shelters Help Protect From Winds

Well-conceived shelter construction practices are vital to protect hay supplies from Oklahoma’s often devastating weather, where wind gusts of 50 to 60 miles per hour are not uncommon.

“Producers often talk about the weather, but proper construction of hay shelters is one area where they can actually do something about it,” said Carol Jones, Oklahoma State University biosystems and agricultural engineer.

Most critical wind forces are uplifting forces which tend to pull the roof off the frame and poles out of the ground. Jones said the direction of the force, upward, is the opposite of what many people expect.

Jones said the roof must be tied down all the way to the ground to resist this upward force during high winds.

To read the entire article, link here.

Agriculture Futures, Livestock Prices Trade Mixed

Agriculture futures were mixed Monday in early trading on the Chicago Board of Trade.

Wheat for May delivery rose to $4.86 a bushel; May corn shed 1.5¢ to $3.73/bu.; May soybeans gained 2.75¢ to $9.645/bu.; and May oats were flat at $2.245/bu..

Meanwhile, beef futures fell as pork prices rose on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange.

To read the entire article, link here.

Young Farmers, Ranchers Face Concerns but Express Optimism

Profitability, increasing government regulations and the impact of activist groups are the top concerns of America's leading young farmers and ranchers, according to a survey conducted by the American Farm Bureau Federation.

Despite the challenges, 80% of those responding to AFBF's 18th annual survey of young farmers and ranchers say they are more optimistic than they were five years ago, while 82% say they are better off than they were five years ago.

"Last year was a tough year economically for many sectors of agriculture," said AFBF YF&R Committee Chair Will Gilmer, a dairy farmer from Lamar County, Ala. "But despite the challenges, the survey shows young farmers and ranchers are optimistic and hopeful. We expect a bright future ahead."

To read the entire article, link here.

Ranchers Eligible for Assistance With Wolf-Related Livestock Losses

Ranchers who have suffered livestock losses resulting from wolf depredation are eligible for federal assistance through an emergency assistance program administered by the New Mexico Farm Service Agency.

Salomon Ramirez, the agency's executive director, announced availability through the Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honey Bees, and Farm-raised Fish Program (ELAP) as authorized in the 2008 Farm Bill. Wolf depredation has been determined to be an eligible loss condition under ELAP for livestock death losses occurring on or after Jan. 1, 2008, and before Oct. 1, 2011.

Under the provisions, FSA may spend up to $50 million per year nationwide to provide emergency relief for losses due to feed or water shortages, adverse weather, or other conditions, such as blizzards and wildfires and, now, wolf depredation, losses that are not adequately addressed by other disaster programs. To date, wolf depredation is the only loss condition approved on a national level as an eligible loss condition for livestock death losses under ELAP provisions.

To learn more, link here.

What's With This Cattle Market?

Slowly, methodically and seemingly without fanfare, the cattle market has been rising since about Thanksgiving. As of late, however, the continuation of this "run" in cattle prices has started to gather attention and it has several asking how, why, and more importantly, will it continue?

Fortunately, this situation is less about speculators speculating and more about the fundamentals of both supply and demand that are underpinning this rally. On the supply side, cattle feeders placed 4% fewer cattle in feedlots for March-April-May 2010 delivery, versus the same period in 2009; and each carcass is six lbs. lighter than last week and 26 lbs. compared to a year ago. These lighter weights are the result of one of the longest and most difficult Midwest winters in a long time.

We've also seen about 2% fewer culls cows and bulls coming to market so far in 2010. The combination of these factors means that, although year-to-date U.S. beef production is flat, we should see beef supplies tighten for the balance of the spring. This suggests that cattle feeders will pull market- ready inventories forward to take advantage of these improved marketing opportunities, giving them an opportunity to improve their negotiating position with processors into the summer months.

To read the entire article, link here.

Short Term Calf Removal May Help After Tough Winter

The long, wet and sometimes cold winter has left many cows in less-than-desirable body condition during this spring calving season. Lower body condition at calving equates to a longer time interval until the cows return to heat cycles to have a chance to rebreed. One management strategy that offers a small amount of relief from this situation is called “short-term calf removal.”

Short-term calf removal is the term that describes the temporary physical separation of the calf from its mother. This removes the nursing stimulus from the cow for about 2 days. Removing the suckling stimulus can encourage a few cows to start having estrus cycles a few days sooner than otherwise would occur. Removal of calves for 48 hours has shown to improve rebreeding rates of moderately conditioned (Body Condition Score 4 to 5) cows by 4-8%. This improvement, although seemingly small in magnitude, is substantial compared to the out-of-pocket investment.

Short-term calf removal can be used at the first of the breeding season or in the middle or both depending on the labor situation. Do not expect short term calf removal to replace normal good nutritional management. Short term calf removal is not a powerful enough stimulus to "jump start" very thin cows.

To read the entire article, link here.


DuPont To Expand Plant Genetics Research Facilities

$40 million investment to focus on advanced plant genetics to help farmers boost agricultural productivity

DES MOINES, Iowa, March 18, 2010 - DuPont announced plans to expand its cutting-edge plant genetics research to help farmers increase agricultural productivity. DuPont business Pioneer Hi-Bred will expand its presence in central Iowa with additional lab facilities and jobs focused on advanced plant genetics.

The planned investment will include new research facilities and space for 400 new research positions based in Johnston, Iowa. This increased investment in research will help meet the global challenge to double agricultural productivity by 2050 and will provide a significant boost to the economy in Iowa.

"First-class research facilities and people are required to deliver innovative solutions to farmers worldwide, and we have both," said Paul E. Schickler, Pioneer president. "Our planned expansion will take Pioneer's R&D capabilities to the next level, which is critical to meet the growing demand for agricultural products."

The proposed $40 million facility will include state-of-the-art laboratories in multiple connected buildings covering approximately 200,000 square feet. Construction is anticipated to begin in September with occupancy early in 2012.

This is another key investment in the Pioneer global growth plan. To accommodate its rapidly growing business, Pioneer has expanded by more than 130,000 square feet of office and laboratory space in central Iowa in the past two years alone. During that period, Pioneer's central Iowa workforce grew by approximately 500 employees and today numbers about 2,400. Pioneer employs more than 9,500 people worldwide.

"Today's announcement is about three things - jobs, jobs, jobs," said Governor Culver. "I want to thank Pioneer for continuing to choose the state of Iowa as a place to grow their business and create jobs. Today's announcement is one more sign of what we have known all along - that with our highly skilled workforce, inviting business climate and quality of life, Iowa is a great place for business. As Governor, I will not rest when it comes to helping Iowa businesses to expand business and create jobs like these in the state."

Increasing food production is a priority initiative for DuPont. The company invests about half of its $1.4 billion annual research and development budget to furthering this goal.

Pioneer Hi-Bred, a DuPont business, is the world's leading source of customized solutions for farmers, livestock producers and grain and oilseed processors. With headquarters in Des Moines, Iowa, Pioneer provides access to advanced plant genetics in nearly 70 countries.

DuPont is a science-based products and services company. Founded in 1802, DuPont puts science to work by creating sustainable solutions essential to a better, safer, healthier life for people everywhere. Operating in more than 70 countries, DuPont offers a wide range of innovative products and services for markets including agriculture and food; building and construction; communications; and transportation.


Hitting Bottom Can Force You To Look Up

Someone once told me that agriculture is great because it’s always teaching you valuable lessons. Unfortunately, many of those lessons tend to be imparted as a result of some minor calamity.

People talk about practicing law or practicing medicine, but I’ve become the living embodiment of practicing agriculture. I used to think large multigenerational operations were largely successful because of the inherent economic advantages that accompany such operations. While those are indeed important, I’ve come to understand that a large part of these operations’ success is simply the generations of wisdom created through experience.

There are times where I feel like I could provide Baxter Black with a year’s worth of columns; I’m just not sure he could make them funny because they sure don’t feel funny to me sometimes.

One title would be “1,000 ways to screw up calving.” Looking back, the winter of 2007 hit us hard; the experience taught us so many lessons, but the irony is that while we eliminated lots of management mistakes, we seemingly have found more to replace them.

I try to internalize the optimism of Thomas Edison who rationalized that every mistake/failure led him one step closer to success. But as I grow older, it sometimes becomes harder to focus on creating the future rather than focusing on the past.

Everyone understands that when it comes to Mother Nature, and agriculture in general, there will be humbling moments. Still the challenge is inherently rewarding and it’s always just when one feels like they’re at rock bottom that one begins to appreciate those rewards.

I’ve always remembered a Sunday school teacher teaching us that God won’t challenge you with more than you can handle. Strangely, when things are going badly for me, I’ve always laughingly interpreted it as a sign that God actually has quite a bit of confidence in my abilities.

Hitting bottom, or facing difficulties, isn’t a bad thing. Our actions and responses are what set us apart. This isn’t some new sort of epiphany but we all need to remember that the past doesn’t determine the future; it merely gives us the tools to create a better one. Positive change usually comes at the foot of adversity and not prosperity.

“When you hit bottom, the only direction is up” is more than just a cute saying. Onward and upward!

Something That’s Worth Fighting For

My 13-year-old boy is focused on a whole host of things that a normal 13-year-old boy is focused on – sports, school and the like (not girls too much yet, thankfully). But he also has a passion for animals and ranching. Judging, riding and working with his family and the cows – that’s where he feels at home.

It’s a passion that feeds my own life, and anyone with kids understands how much one can love the other. Increasingly my own personal driver is tied to providing a better future for my kids, and that’s changed not only my perspective and my efforts, but in some cases also my focus.

In some ways, I don’t feel like I have to answer to many entities outside of God, family and friends, and myself. But if one can answer those calls, I also believe that all else will be good. My focus used to be myself and my goals in nearly every aspect of my life from finances to career, but that’s shifted dramatically. It’s no longer so much about my future as it is “their” future.

Maybe I’ve shifted because it merely improved my motivation, but I don’t think that’s the primary reason. I’ve come to believe that many decisions personally, politically and industry-wise have been somewhat shortsighted and maybe even selfishly made. When it’s about my family, my friends, my industry or my God, sacrifices seem nominal and the effort required is never more than a mere inconvenience.

What more can we really do than make sure that the next generation has more opportunity for success and happiness than we had? Our country, our family, our industry and our lifestyle aren’t just worth fighting for, they’re our responsibility.

Now more than ever, the stewardship of our families, our industry and our country is under attack. How we respond and the commitment we show is as important as it’s ever been. Perhaps there’s never been a more critical time.

We must respond with concerted effort and with a hint of desperation that we may not have always had. This is a fight we can’t afford to lose, and one that should have been engaged in more fully years ago. But then, all we have is today and the hope of tomorrow.

January Meat Exports Show Mixed Results

The pace of U.S. beef and pork exports cooled in January, say statistics compiled by the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF). Muscle cut exports held up fairly well in January, but total exports were held down by a very sluggish market for variety meat.

Beef plus beef variety meat exports were 9% higher in volume and 6% higher in value than in January 2009. Beef muscle cuts fared even better, rising 16% in volume and 15% in value. However, these totals represented a decline from December 2009 and lagged the 2009 monthly average. Beef variety meat exports were down only 4% in volume but plummeted 26% in value compared with January 2009.

Exports are on the rise to Canada, the second-largest market (after Mexico) for U.S. beef. January exports were 11,064 metric tons (24.4 million lbs.) valued at $47.6 million, a 21% volume increase and 29% value increase over January 2009.

Key Asian markets continued to perform well compared with a year ago, including:

  • Japan – 5,602 metric tons (12.4 million lbs.) valued at $27.9 million, an increase of 38% in volume and 28% in value.
  • Taiwan – 3,017 metric tons (6.7 million lbs.) valued at $17.5 million, an increase of 166% in volume and more than triple (+204%) the January 2009 value.
  • Hong Kong – 2,037 metric tons (4.5 million lbs.) valued at $8.4 million, nearly a fivefold increase in both volume (+379%) and value (+378%).
  • South Korea – 7,327 metric tons (16.2 million lbs.) valued at $27.2 million, a 3% increase in volume and a slight decline in value from January 2009. However, it was 67% higher in volume and 56% higher in value than the 2009 monthly average.
Beef exports to the Middle East continued their positive momentum in January, led by strong sales in Egypt and a growing presence in the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia. Exports to the EU are also growing.

The trend for beef exports to Mexico is positive, with January volume up 28% and value up 8% vs. the previous month. While Mexico is still the largest destination for U.S. beef, exports were down 24% in volume and 32% in value compared to January 2009. Mexico’s economy is showing signs of improvement and the peso has reclaimed some of the value it shed last year, but its purchasing power lags below 2008 levels, when U.S. beef exports to Mexico set an all-time record.

The only other major market showing a decline from last year was Vietnam, where beef/beef variety meat exports fell 22% in volume and 29% in value from January 2009. However, weekly export data for February show higher volumes destined for Vietnam.

Complete January 2010 export statistics are available at
-- USMEF release