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Articles from 2019 In May

The beautiful relationship between cattle & wildlife


After a long spring plagued by cool days, heavy rains and cloudy skies, our cow-calf pairs are finally out to pasture for the summer grazing season. The sun is shining, and even though things haven’t been exactly rosy in the agricultural sector these days, it’s hard not to feel optimistic when your cows are fat and happy out on grass.

I’m not waxing poetic when I say this, but I truly believe one of the most beautiful scenes God paints is a landscape complete with rolling grasslands and cattle grazing peacefully on each hilltop and valley.

There’s no better way to end a summer day than to watch the sunset on our bovines as they happily munch on a mix of native grasses. Bees buzz from flower to flower. Birds take a rest on top of the cows’ backs. Beatles and earthworms dig into the rich, dark soil. Rabbits and mice dart quickly from place to place while foxes and coyotes fix their steely eyes on their prey in the distance.

Environmentalists may argue that this scene would be even more beautiful without ruminant animals on the landscape. What do we need cattle and sheep for, if we have naturally roaming antelope, pronghorns or buffalo on our nation’s lands?

However, without cattle — and the responsible land owners or tenants who manage the land they graze on — much of these rangelands would become barren wastelands or would cease to exist as wildlife habitat altogether.

So often, ranchers and environmentalists are at odds with each other — each having a set of conservationist viewpoints that don’t necessarily match up.

Yet, it’s exciting to see new collaborations taking place between wildlife and conservation groups and the ranching communities who lease federal lands or own private lands.

Because the truth of the matter is this — ruminant animals and wildlife can co-exist and thrive together in the same environment. And it’s because of responsible management practices (not a hands-off approach that so many push for) that allows for multi-purpose use of the land that benefits industries such as timber and agriculture, as well as wildlife, hikers, tourists, hunters, photographers and other recreational uses of the land.

Cattle achieve this by maintaining the grasslands, instead of these acres being converted to fields for crops or concrete for urbanization. Cattle also reduce the fuel for wildfires through grazing and promoting biodiversity of the soil with their manure and by aerating the land with their hooves.

They truly work in beautiful concert with the landscape, and I think it’s something we as an agricultural community should do more to highlight. This is a particularly fitting message this summer as many Americans will travel to cattle country, where they will see wildlife and cattle co-existing on these federally protected lands.

I was pleased to see a recent article in the Mountain Journal that addressed this topic. Written by Lesli Allison, executive director of the Western Landowners Alliance, the article is titled, “Ranchers play key role in saving Greater Yellowstone’s wildlife pathways.”

Allison writes, “If you want to find abundant wildlife, look on a well-managed ranch. If you want to conserve wildlife and wildlife corridors, conserve the ranch.

“This doesn’t just mean putting conservation easements in place. It means keeping working land ranching operations economically viable, so that the land can be well managed, so the kids can come back home, so that rural communities can thrive and in turn sustain the working lands.

"Just as working lands sustain wildlife, so should wildlife be helpful in sustaining working lands. Wildlife are an important economic driver in western states, yet in many places, the working lands that sustain the wildlife see the least economic benefit and often experience the greatest impacts,” she says.

“Forage competition, fence damages, disease transmission, depredation, hunting pressure and more can impact the bottom line in a business where profit margins are already low and getting worse. This lopsided relationship is unsustainable and damaging to all interests.

“The agricultural community has much to gain by taking pride in our stewardship and pro-actively identifying and championing win-win strategies rather than seeming to oppose wildlife at every turn. It’s not enough to say we are the original conservationists. We need to demonstrate active leadership in sustaining the entire living community of the land within our care."  

Read the entire article by clicking here. Let’s own this conversation and start highlighting the beautiful relationship between ruminant animals and wildlife.

The opinions of Amanda Radke are not necessarily those of or Farm Progress.

MORNING Midwest Digest, May 31, 2019

Is it possibly the fed could lower interest rates?

How low can U.S. corn production go this summer? Private analysts are already pondering yield estimates.

Corn prices need to continue to rally to entice corn producers to keep planting.

Overall college enrollment is down for the seventh year in a row.

Iowa residents will have a front row seat for the upcoming presidential election.


Photo: pabradyphoto/Getty Images


Farm Progress America, May 31, 2019

Max Armstrong looks at the upcoming first-ever Global Hog Industry Virtual Conference sponsored by National Hog Farmer on June 6. The event will cover a range of topics pertinent to the swine industry. The event was in the wake of the cancellation of the World Pork Expo. The virtual session will kick off with the announcement of the 2019 list of Global Mega Producers and National Hog Farmer Editor Ann Hess will be on hand along with Max Armstrong for the day-long event.

Farm Progress America is a daily look at key issues in agriculture. It is produced and presented by Max Armstrong, veteran farm broadcaster and host of This Week in Agribusiness.

Photo: metamorworks/iStock/Getty Images Plus

7 ag stories you might have missed this week - May 31, 2019

NolanBerg11/flySnow/SteveOehlenschlager/ThinkstockPhotos 7AgStoriesNEW051517-1540x800

Many parts of the nation are dealing with historic flooding that rivals the Great Flood of 1927, which is sending grain markets higher. Here’s a look at seven stories making the news this week.

1. A Farm Futures analysis found the average county payment for the second round of Market Facilitation Program payments could run around $47 per acre nationwide, but payments will vary widely from county to county. – Farm Futures

2. Farmers felt they could spray glyphosate with a clear conscience. Monsanto started selling Roundup in 1974. For 20 years, it didn’t attract much attention, but after the introduction of Roundup Ready soybeans in the 1990s, sales of the chemical increased more than ten-fold. Most recently, three civil trials have went against Bayer, which purchased Monsanto. – National Public Radio

3. An Ohio State University agricultural economist says the damage done from the ongoing trade war with China could take years to undo. China was the second-largest market for U.S. agricultural exports in 2017. – Ohio Farmer

4. A growing number of young, college-educated Africans are seeking to professionalize farming in Africa, where the profession is viewed as synonymous with poverty. These millennial farmers are applying scientific approaches and data-crunching apps to increase yields and show that farming can be profitable. – The New York Times

5. Thinking about taking  prevent plant this year? Purdue experts suggest you may want to take another look. In neighboring Illinois, 2019 is the most delayed year for planting dating back 40 years. – Indiana Prairie Farmer, Prairie Farmer

6. Franny Kansteiner is a self-described “designing shepherd.” She raises about 300 sheep on Gum Tree Farm in Virginia and knits wool goods that she retails. – The Alton Telegraph

7. Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds signed the Iowa Hemp Act into law on May 13. Passage of the law is the first step before growers can legally plant and market industrial hemp in the state. – Wallace’s Farmer

And your bonus.

Luke Bryan has announced the dates of his 2019 Farm Tour. Tickets go on sale next week. He’s visiting Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, Kansas and Oklahoma in September and October. – Rollingstone

MIDDAY Midwest Digest, May 30, 2019

We're now in the timeframe of the most deadly driving of the year. 

Challenging farm economy is also challenging for companies that serve the farmers.

A few times a year we hear of church vandalism. An Indiana church reveived damage to the altar, organ and more, recently.

Governors of Iowa, Nebraska, Kansas and Missouri are meeting again, about flooding.

What are the most popular ice cream flavors?


Photo: Kwangmoozaa/Getty Images


MORNING Midwest Digest, May 30, 2019

A Michigan State Patrol officer saved a child who had wandered out in the road.

The grain market slipped back slightly after a holiday rally. 

News crews are making their way out to farms because of late planting.

A foul ball hit a child at the Cubs game last night. The player who hit the ball was devastated and the child seemed to be OK, save for some crying.




Farm Progress America, May 30, 2019

Max Armstrong looks at the challenge of USDA’s distribution of surplus commodities to food banks which is a challenge. The abundance of these products and their perishability can be a blessing and a curse for food banks. Release of milk to a Colorado food bank presents an opportunity to help many, but will have to be distributed quickly.

Farm Progress America is a daily look at key issues in agriculture. It is produced and presented by Max Armstrong, veteran farm broadcaster and host of This Week in Agribusiness.

Photo: Steve Debenport/iStock/Getty Images Plus

Bear Grylls: 4 pillars to apply to your family ranch business

Alltech Alltech

Last week, I was humbled to be one of 116 speakers who presented at Alltech’s ONE19 in Kentucky. With 3,500 people from 70 countries gathered for this annual event, it was an awesome opportunity to interact with like-minded individuals who care about the planet, animals and feeding a growing world population.

Headlining the event was inspirational speaker Bear Grylls, a famed survivalist and host of the television show, “Man vs. Wild.” In his presentation, Grylls shared the highs and lows of his world travels, and how four pillars — failures, fear, fire and faith — have helped him overcome challenges and reach new heights in life.

These four “f’s” can be applied to anything, whether that’s climbing Mt. Everest like Grylls or achieving business goals in your ranch operation.

Today’s blog recaps these four pillars and how we can apply them at home on our agricultural enterprises.

1. Embrace failure

“My failures, trust me, far outweigh my successes,” said Grylls. “Those failures have made me. They have built my resilience and forced me to get stronger. There is no shortcut to success. Embrace failures. Don’t run from them. They are the essential doorways to pass through to reach our dreams.”

My husband Tyler is famous for saying that ranching is a marathon, not a sprint. Along the way, we will surely hit some stumbling blocks. The point is to keep jogging along and putting in the miles, even if the road feels long.

In our nine years of marriage, we have certainly had to overcome battles as we worked to build our family and our cow herd. Whether it’s an unexpected cost for an equipment breakdown, losing a calf in a winter storm, getting off track with the budgeted expenditures of the ranch or failing to communicate with each other or members of our extended family farming team, these big and small battles are won (or lost) on how we respond to and learn from them.

2. Face your fears

“Life is scary sometimes,” Grylls said. “We all face battles of confidence and nerves. It’s a universal truth that no matter who you are, life will challenge us physically, emotionally and mentally.

“How we respond will determine our outcome. Life rewards the determined and those who walk toward their fears. When we edge toward our fears, they so often melt away. The only way to get over fear is to face it.”

What do I fear? I fear failure. I fear not being able to maintain this multi-generational operation for my kids and grandkids. I fear farm accidents. I fear the mom guilt of having a demanding work schedule while balancing precious time with three small children. I fear the unknown of what production agriculture will look like for ranchers in the future. I fear what my legacy might be, and if I'm making the right choices now to shape a bright future.

So what can I do to alleviate those fears? Dream big, but create tangible, realistic goals to achieve along the way. Plan and prepare for the unexpected. Give myself grace when grace is needed. Keep working, growing and building upon what we have started. And communicate with my spouse to keep us on the same page to address these underlying fears.

3. Fire

“Fire has been my most valuable weapon — not talent, not wisdom,” said Grylls. “How do you access that fire? Nobody is brilliant or brave all of the time, but it’s important to deliver the extra effort during life’s big moments.

“That’s what makes your work extraordinary — that little bit extra. Whenever life is grim, and people want to give up, that’s when you’ve got to dig deep to access that fire. And it’s always there, even if it’s just an ember. So what are you made of when life hurts the most?”

There are times I have flirted with the idea of quitting or pursuing something “easier.” For example, yesterday we worked in the mud after weeks of unrelenting rain and stormy days and I thought to myself, this is just so hard. Did I choose the right path in life?

However, even in these moments of doubt, I remain steadfast because this is my passion, my livelihood and my future. I’m fortunate to have a partner in life who feels the same way, so when either of us is having a rough day, we lift each other up and remind ourselves of our long-term goals. This shared fire is what keeps us going in our agricultural enterprise, and it’s a passion we hope to pass on to our children, as well.

4. Faith

“We must have faith in ourselves, faith in others and faith in a universal truth of goodness,” said Grylls. “We all face Everests — whether that’s climbing a mountain, battling a hospital stay, keeping a job or raising a family — in the darkest moments, I have leaned on my Christian faith.”

Faith, to me, is the most important “f” of them all. I put my trust in God, and I pray he will lead me down the right path in life.

Looking back on my 31 years on this earth, I feel God has played a hand in weaving every moment of my life to get me to where I am today. And in the years ahead, when things look uncertain or bleak, I know that God will give me strength to get me through anything.

Realizing that many are facing difficult circumstances right now due to market volatility, depressed commodity prices, ongoing trade wars, increasing input costs and debt loads, unpredictable and harsh weather events and more, now is the time we should be leaning on our faith more than ever. Pray for wisdom, fortitude, determination, clear mind, sound judgement and resilience.

Grylls’ speech was certainly motivational and gave me a lot to think about as I traveled home to the ranch in South Dakota. I hope sharing some of his highlights will help you as you go through the highs and lows of production agriculture. Ranching isn’t always easy, but it sure is a rewarding and challenging experience that I’m honored to be a part of.

The opinions of Amanda Radke are not necessarily those of or Farm Progress.


South Dakota ranchers facing weather challenges

Chimperil59 / Getty Images Cows on mud

Amy G. Hadachek

If there’s a silver lining to the winter and spring that South Dakota ranchers have endured, it’s this: No one is talking drought.

But ranchers are most certainly talking about the weather.

“We calve on the range and are sure getting tired of the weather.” That’s how South Dakota rancher Larry Stomprud summed up the latest seasons which have been affecting many South Dakota farmers and ranchers. Stomprud, of Mud Butte, who is immediate past-president of South Dakota Cattlemen’s Association, said ranchers have been dealing with a double whammy from this past late winter Arctic blast that challenged young calves and depleted the hay piles that cattle need to eat.

The big struggles have been mud, slow growing pastures and death losses in calves due to mud or chilling snow and rain. “Fortunately, we’ve not experienced any health issues. After three blizzards within 10 days in 2009, we made some changes that have addressed the problem of late winter or spring adverse weather,” Stomprud told

“We’re turning bulls out later than we used to. We also built several five to 10-acre ‘traps’ in our pastures to keep heavies confined during adverse weather events so we can watch them easier, and we installed windbreaks.

“Even with all that, we made the choice to bring all our heavies into our corrals during this last blizzard. It was a mess, but we didn’t lose any calves during that storm.”

 90-Day % of Avg. Precipitation

90-Day % of Avg. Precipitation

livestockwx.com90-Day Temperature Departures

90-Day Temperature Departures

Eric Jennings, who ranches near Spearfish, S.D., said after two consecutive years calving in extreme winter conditions, several cattlemen and women are dealing with some sickness in calves, including scours and pneumonia.

“It’s been very similar to last year’s blizzard. Although snowstorms have been one-to-three day deals…I personally have not had any losses with the storms although I have talked to several ranchers who told me the storms have been severe enough that cattle crowded into shelters…and some calves ended up with broken legs. One calf was injured in its middle. A few died,” said Jennings, vice president of South Dakota Cattlemen’s Association.

Calving challenges

On top of February’s grueling -56 degree wind chills, South Dakota has recently been dealing with flooding from the James River. As eastern South Dakota is very flat, there’s been standing water in fields.

“We’ve had a lot of rain since the snow melted. During early May, from west to east brought 2 to 3 inches of rain from Wall to Brookings. No question; it was a really difficult calving season,” said Laura Edwards, South Dakota State University Extension state climatologist.

Early cold weather beginning in January required producers to feed cows more hay and feed to help livestock through negative temperature degree days. “Even with the extra feed, many cows didn’t come out of the winter in as good of body condition as we’d like them to be going into calving,” said Taylor Grussing, cow-calf field specialist at Mitchell Regional Extension Center, Mitchell, S.D.

“This snowballed into more calving issues than normal; decreased colostrum quality due to thinner cows, and calves not getting as much nutrition in their first hours of life as we’d like to see.”

Besides losing calves in the cold, death losses have also resulted more recently from the mud and rain. “In fact,” Grussing relayed, “I heard just recently of a producer losing three cows in the mud, and with that happening, we know that we’re losing calves, too.” 

Also, with a late spring and delayed planting, many producers are still feeding cows as they wait to go to grass. “That’s further decreasing the hay supplies.”

At least with excess moisture, South Dakota ranchers hope to have plenty of grass to graze when their livestock does get to pasture. “Continue communicating with your management team of other ranchers, financial advisers, veterinarians, nutritionist. Remember you aren’t alone in this,” Grussing recommends. 

She suggests monitoring for potential pneumonia cases or other chronic issues with livestock challenged by El Niño’s fierce later winter.

Available assistance

For cattle ranchers who need assistance, the livestock indemnity program has business management specialists within Extension and FSA. “This program saved many livestock producers last year, and I expect it to do the same for some cattlemen, depending on which or how many snow or rain storms they got hit with in 2019 so far,” she said.

“We recommend taking pictures and documenting every death loss so ranchers have records if they decide to turn in losses.”  She also suggests communicating with a veterinarian who can stop by the ranch and review health protocols and assist with health documentation.

Hadachek is a meteorologist and storm chaser as well as a freelance writer who lives on a farm and cow-calf operation with her husband in north central Kansas.

Source: Livestock WXwhich is solely responsible for the information provided and is wholly owned by the source. Informa Business Media and all its subsidiaries are not responsible for any of the content contained in this information asset.

Golden Spike ceremony commemorates 150th anniversary of historic event

Re-creation of Champagne Toast of 1869.JPG

Editor’s Note—Occasionally, it’s important to remember our past. Here’s an article about a truly historic event for the entire nation and particularly for the cattle business. Enjoy.

Fully 150 years ago, one of the biggest infrastructure projects ever attempted up to that point in history was completed. At Promontory Summit, Utah, the last spike was driven in the Transcontinental Railroad, an artery that would enable trade and travel between America’s East and West like never before. 

A trip from the East Coast to the West Coast would soon take a week where not long before it took six months. The future was coming at the speed of…well, a steam locomotive.

On May 10, 2019, the Golden Spike commemoration celebration was held where the momentous day was re-enacted, while dignitaries and some estimated 15-20,000 spectators looked on. The spot is now the Golden Spike National Historic Park.

The attendees at the 2019 reenactment didn’t do the heavy lifting that most of the estimated 500 original attendees did 150 years ago to earn their place at the ceremony. Nonetheless, the 2019 crowd could not contain the same patriotic pride and exuberance at the significance of the event that the original attendees surely felt. The Utah governor, cabinet officials and other dignitaries gave speeches, a Chinese diplomat send a video and the Irish ambassador gave a toast.

It’s hard to know how much pride the workers building the road felt at the time, but it is certain their descendants and citizens today appreciate and recognize the significance of their accomplishment. Much was made of the labor supplied by Chinese immigrants on the Central Pacific, as well as the Irish, Civil War veterans from both the Confederate and Union armies, newly freed slaves and other immigrants making up the construction crews on the Union Pacific. As construction neared Utah, the Church of Latter Day Saints provided grading crews and labor to both the Central Pacific and the Union Pacific.

Descendants of those who’s sweat built the railroad were honored on stage. A representative of the native tribes whose lands were forever changed offered a prayer.

Ranching reimagined

The railroad had a huge impact on farmers and ranchers in the West, as they acquired markets for their livestock and produce never before attainable. They also could get supplies faster and at lower costs than ever before. Instead of driving herds to Dodge City or the closest railhead, they could ship on the railroad directly to Kansas City or Chicago from points west.

The first refrigerated railcar was patented in 1867 but it took fits and starts of innovation for some years, until Swift in 1881 was shipping 3,000 carcasses a week from the packing industry’s core in Chicago to Boston.

Secretary of Transportation lends perspective

“As the first U. S. Secretary of Transportation of Chinese ancestry, I have the unique and moving opportunity to fully acknowledge and recognize the contributions and sacrifices of the laborers of Chinese heritage to the construction of the transcontinental railroad,” Secretary Elaine Chao said. She added that of the 15,000 Central Pacific workers, 12,000 were Chinese.

U. S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao

U. S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao

“The Chinese workers blasted and chiseled their way through the rugged Sierra Nevada mountains. Using manual hammer drills, pick axes and explosives, they dug 15 tunnels through hard granite.

“The Transcontinental Railroad was a tremendous feat of engineering, innovation and manpower that was key to unleashing the economic prosperity of the United States for generations,” Chao said.

The act of building the transcontinental railroad was transformational, she added.

“The government provided land and other resources to encourage private sector investment in the railroads. Innovation and planning guided the project. Standard gauge track was adopted on a national basis. Telegraph lines were built along the track right of way. Nitroglycerin gradually replaced less powerful black powder when blasting tunnels through the Sierra mountains. The railroad workers became so skilled that a legendary team of workers built 10 miles of track in a single day.”

Historical reflections

Historian and author Jon Meacham gave the keynote address, reflecting on the meaning of the Transcontinental Railroad, including parallels and contrasts to our world today.

Golden Spike

He noted Lincoln’s signing the authorizing legislation in 1862 amid the Civil War, “a thought of the future amid the storms of the present. The Transcontinental Railroad stands even now as an emblem of American boldness, and of American union,” he said.

He gave a note of optimism and confidence, quoting Winston Churchill:

“You can always count on the Americans to do the right thing…once they have exhausted every other possibility.”

The railroad made possible a continent that would bring together what Jefferson called the “empire of liberty. The nation was united here…in fact.”

“We stand, therefore, on a kind of sacred ground,” Meacham continued. “The story of the Transcontinental Railroad is the story of America.”

“We--you and I--are caught in a moment of public dispiritedness, of reflexive partisanship, and of a broad distrust of the future.

“This is a good moment and a good place to reflect on who we’ve been, who we are and where we might go in the next 150 years.

“It’s especially significant that we’re here at this particular moment in the life of our nation. For many of the elements so essential to the conception and to the realization of this vast project seem all too elusive in our own time.

“If the men and women of the past, with all their flaws and limitations…could press on…to form a more perfect union …then perhaps we, too… can leave things better than we found them.

“Still, I would argue that history has the capacity to bring us together. For our story, for all of its faults, is ultimately the story of obstacles overcome, of crises resolved, of freedom expanded.”

What can we learn from the past, Meacham asked? That perfect should not be the enemy of the good.

The visionaries and the workers of 150 years ago knew that “a nation connected might just be a nation unified.” The powerful in government and commerce worked with the powerless, the immigrant laborers like the Chinese and the Irish and other countries, to build a railroad.

“The work of America is not done. In many ways, the American Revolution unfolds still. That’s our blessing and our burden.

“The Transcontinental project was shaped by sectionalism, by battles for power, by party politics, by slavery and freedom. And yet our forebears delivered.

“Let’s not indulge ourselves in the narcissism of the present, and act as though our problems are more insufferable that anything that ever confronted any previous generation.

“For all our unhappiness, what is our immigration issue in this country? Our immigration issue is that people want to come here.

“If Americans want to know what is possible, come here.” Our leaders of the past had “faith founded on the conviction that tomorrow can be better than today.  If you want to know how that “faith can find tangible expression, come here.”

“Big ideas and big dreams are the stuff of the best of American history. And in that history lies our hope.”

Dittmer is a longtime beef industry commentator and executive vice president of the Agribusiness Freedom Foundation.