An Estimate of March 1 Corn Stocks

On March 29, the USDA releases the Quarterly Grain Stocks report, which delivers an estimate of corn stocks in storage as of March 1, 2018. This estimate provides the ability to calculate the extent of feed and residual use of corn during the second quarter of the marketing year. The report also provides insight into the pace of feed and residual use during the entire marketing year and information on the potential size of corn ending stocks.

According to University of Illinois agricultural economist Todd Hubbs, the estimates of corn stocks at the beginning of the second quarter totaled 12.516 billion bushels in the December Grain Stocks report. Currently, the Census Bureau estimates for corn imports are available through January.

“An estimate for second quarter corn imports of 9 million bushels appears reasonable and is used in this analysis. A combination of imports with beginning stocks indicates a total available supply for the second quarter of 12.525 billion bushels,” Hubbs says.

Except for feed and residual use, consumption levels for other corn consumption categories are available from a variety of sources. The Grain Crushing and Co-Products Production report released on March 1 estimated corn used for ethanol and co-product production during December and January at 964 million bushels.

Weekly estimates of ethanol production provided by the Energy Information Administration indicates ethanol production increased by one percent in February 2018 from the preceding year.

“By calculating the amount of corn used to produce ethanol from these February numbers, corn used for ethanol production in February was approximately 428 million bushels,” Hubbs explains. “At 1.392 billion bushels, total use for ethanol production during the second quarter outpaces last year’s use by 21 million bushels.”

Corn used to produce other food and industrial products during the current marketing year is projected at 1.47 billion bushels by the USDA. Using historical corn-use data, typically around 49 percent of the final marketing-year food and industrial products use occurs in the first half of the marketing year.

According to Hubbs, if this historical pattern holds and the USDA projection is correct, corn use for the first half of the marketing year totaled 720 million bushels. Corn use during the first quarter equaled 354 million bushels which sets the second-quarter use estimate at 366 million bushels.

An estimate of corn exports during the second quarter can be established from the cumulative weekly export inspections estimate available through February for the marketing year. Cumulative marketing-year export inspections through February totaled 739 million bushels.

During the first four months of the marketing year, total Census Bureau corn exports exceeded cumulative export inspections by 62 million bushels. “Assuming the margin stayed consistent through February, corn exports during the first half of the year equaled 801 million bushels,” Hubbs adds. “Since exports in the first quarter totaled 349 million bushels, the estimate for second-quarter corn exports equals 452 million bushels.”

The current USDA projection for feed and residual use sits at 5.55 billion bushels. Feed and residual use projections have increased by 100 million bushels since last August.

“However, in January, the projection was lowered by 25 million bushels due to the disappearance associated with the Dec. 1 stocks report. The historical pattern of feed and residual use in corn may provide some indication of the second-quarter use.

“For the five previous marketing years, use during the first half of the marketing year ranged from 69.5 to72.9 percent with an average of 71.6 percent. Second-quarter feed and residual use ranged from 25 to 29 percent of the total use over this time span,” Hubbs says.

For this analysis, the 71.6 percent average during the first half of the previous five marketing years is used to calculate expected feed and residual use during the second quarter. Hubbs adds that if the USDA projection is correct, feed and residual use during the first half of the marketing year totaled 3.974 billion bushels. Feed and residual use equaled 2.298 billion bushels in the first quarter. Therefore, the second-quarter estimate totals 1.676 billion bushels.

By adding the estimates for exports and domestic uses, the total use of corn during the second quarter is 3.886 billion bushels. The total use estimate for the second quarter places March 1 corn stocks at 8.639 billion bushels. At this level, March 1 stocks come in 17 million bushels above last year’s corn-stocks estimate.

Hubbs adds that the planting intentions estimates released on the same day in the Prospective Plantings report should attract more attention than the information provided in the Quarterly Grain Stocks report.

“Despite being overshadowed, the quarterly stocks report establishes a basis for the magnitude of stocks that are considered neutral for corn prices. A corn-stocks estimate that supports the USDA projection of 5.55 billion bushels of feed and residual use is neutral.

“An estimate of March 1 corn stocks that deviates significantly from 8.64 billion bushels provides insight into whether feed and residual use is on track to meet the current marketing-year projection,” Hubbs says.

Discussion and graphs associated with this article available here:

Source: University of Illinois

Helping Calves Survive This Stressful Season

In the Upper Midwest, spring calving can prove challenging with unpredictable weather bringing frigid temperatures and mud. Therefore, as beef producers do their best to tend to newborn calves and help get them off on the right hoof, sometimes plans don’t go right and a backup plan is needed. Here’s some tips to navigate calf health products that might be handy this calving season.

The first milk a dam produces after calving is called colostrum which is highly concentrated in antibodies or immunoglobulins such as IgG. Newborn calves need to receive colostrum within 12 to 24 hours after birth to obtain passive immunity from the dam as antibodies are not transferred across the placenta during gestation. It is recommended that beef calves receive 2 – 3 quarts of colostrum within the first 24 hours of life. But what options are available when this first milk is not available?

Colostrum Replacers & Supplements

The best colostrum replacement out there is one usually not found in the store, but in your freezer. If colostrum can be sourced from well vaccinated, disease free herd, it can be frozen in quart size freezer bags for future use. Thawing frozen colostrum should be done slowly by placing the bag in warm water (110 F) and stirring every five minutes until warmed to 104 – 110 F (this will take about 40 minutes). Do not use a microwave oven as overheating proteins in the colostrum will cause them to denature and deliver little immunity to the newborn calf.

Commercial colostrum replacements can be purchased in products with greater than 100 g of IgG per dose. Colostrum supplements are also available and will have less than 100 g of IgG per dose (normally 50 g). How do producers decide between using a colostrum replacement versus a supplement? If maternal colostrum is entirely unavailable, a replacement product should be used. However, if some maternal colostrum is available to the newborn but not an adequate amount (2 – 3 L) a colostrum supplement can help make up the difference. Price is reflected in the different options as colostrum replacements provide more IgG and will be more expensive, but both will help ensure successful passive transfer of immunity and nutrients during the first 24 h of a calf’s life.

Other Products
Oral calf paste/gel products that come in 30 mL tubes have become popular in recent years as an easy way to provide additional nutrients to newborn calves. But do these pastes provide the same immunity as colostrum? Calf pastes will vary in design to provide all or some of the following supplements: energy, vitamins, minerals, E.coli prevention, probiotics and lactic acid to name a few. Note that these are not colostrum replacements or supplements; therefore; it is important to not substitute one for the other based on calf needs. If a calf needs a small burst of energy on a cold day or appetite stimulation, these paste may be a convenient option for producers. Yet, long term benefits are not the goal of these products.

Electrolyte solutions should be used to provide fluid to calves that have scours. Source electrolytes that contain vitamins and minerals, especially sodium, potassium, chloride and bicarbonate, in addition to electrolytes. A dose of electrolytes should contain 2 quarts of fluid and be repeated every 2 – 6 hours as needed. As electrolytes are not a complete nutrient replacer, some energy and protein supplements may be necessary if the calf is not nursing consistently. As long as the calf is not in severe dehydration, nursing does not prolong or worsen diarrhea. Keep in mind that the gut healing process is still taking place after scours have stopped; therefore, continued treatment is important for full recovery.

The Bottom Line
Calf products are not the main place that emphasis should be placed when preparing for calving season. Year long, producers should be evaluating their management program in regards to providing proper nutrition for the dam during gestation, body condition going into calving season and prime management of both dam and calf at birth by providing dry clean calving areas. However, when the stars don’t align, make sure you know what products are available and which ones will be handy to have on the shelf this calving season. For assistance in preparing a calving barn health kit, visit with your veterinarian or beef extension specialists so you have options ready when newborn calves are in need.

Source: Taylor Grussing, iGrow

Corn Rootworm Management for 2018

Corn growers have come to expect some rootworm damage, but University of Illinois entomologists say putting management plans in place now could help growers avoid major losses.

“Over the last few years, western corn rootworm populations with resistance to toxins present in common Bt corn hybrids have been documented in Illinois,” says Joseph Spencer, insect behaviorist at the Illinois Natural History Survey (INHS) at U of I.

“We’re specifically seeing resistance to Cry3Bb1 and mCry3A toxins, but we know that resistance to these toxins also confers resistance to the structurally similar eCry3.1Ab toxin,” he says. “Cross-resistance among these ‘Cry3’ Bt toxins should be expected for Illinois western corn rootworm populations.”

Resistance to pest-control practices in western corn rootworm is nothing new; the insect is notorious for developing resistance to control tactics such as insecticides and crop rotation. Part of the concern with these recent developments is that there are relatively few Bt toxins available to combat corn rootworm.

“All available hybrids with pyramided traits for corn rootworm use either Cry3Bb1 or mCry3A in combination with a second toxin, either Cry34/35Ab1 or eCry3.1Ab,” Spencer says. “This means where resistance is present in the population, there might be at best only one effective toxin at work.”

There are steps producers can take to manage corn rootworm and possibly slow further development of resistance. Nick Seiter, entomologist in the Department of Crop Sciences at U of I, says the best way to delay resistance to any control tactic is to reduce exposure of the target insect to that tactic in the environment. This can be accomplished using the following strategies.

Apply rootworm control, whether in the form of a Bt hybrid or a soil insecticide, only where it is economically justified. This determination should be based on sampling rootworm adults the previous year. According to surveys conducted by Kelly Estes, agricultural pest survey coordinator for Illinois Extension and INHS, densities of rootworm adults have been relatively low in recent years, although they did trend slightly upward in 2017.

“If you monitor using a yellow sticky trap, the economic threshold is two rootworm beetles per trap per day in corn following corn,” Spencer says. “For rotated corn, the economic threshold is 1.5 western corn rootworm beetles per trap per day in soybean.”

Rotating corn with soybean or another non-host crop remains an effective management strategy in the southern portion of the state. While crop rotation is no longer a reliable method to protect first-year corn from western corn rootworm damage in central and northern Illinois, Seiter notes, all larvae that hatch into soybean still die, and every acre planted to soybean is an acre where larvae are not being exposed to Bt toxins or soil insecticides.

Where monitoring indicates that control is justified in corn, rotate the control measures used from year to year. This means rotating Bt hybrids with different trait combinations and non-Bt hybrids treated with a soil insecticide.

“Follow all refuge requirements for any Bt corn hybrids you plant. In many cases, the ‘refuge in a bag’ or ‘RIB’ approach is now used, but check with your seed distributor on specific requirements for your hybrids,” Seiter says.

Finally, an important step is to monitor the performance of control methods. While lodging is often the cue growers look out for to identify rootworm damage, it’s important to remember that corn can take a lot of damage without lodging, and plenty of factors other than rootworm damage can lead plants to lodge.

“The best approach to evaluating rootworm damage is to dig a representative sample of roots in late July and evaluate them for feeding damage: unpleasant work, but necessary if we want to understand the true extent of the damage,” Seiter says.

Consider planting a small area or a portion of a row with a non-Bt/untreated hybrid as a check strip. Having an untreated patch in the field will allow growers to compare the efficacy of the management tactic vs. the background level of damage where no rootworm protection was used.

Finally, if you experience greater damage than expected in Bt corn hybrids in 2018, let Seiter know by emailing “Your reports will help us document the status of resistance in Illinois and provide updated information to producers,” he says.

For more information, read the full report on The Bulletin.

Source: University of Illinois

Evaluate Hay Inventory and Cow Condition

Good cow body condition is the precursor for a successful calving and rebreeding season.

This year’s discussion actually started prior to bull turnout last year. Maintaining good cow condition is an ongoing, year-round discussion requiring input based on yesterday, today and tomorrow.

Some of the facts we know, and we only can speculate about some others. But either way, the discussion gets serious at the start of the cow’s second trimester of pregnancy.

This year, the question is even more sinister because last year’s dryness has forced producers to look critically at feed supplies and implement scenarios to conserve hay. Monitoring cow body condition is critical as producers count hay bales to access the available feed. Body condition scoring of the cows, recording the scores and analyzing the data are necessary to stay on top of herd management.

An internet search on condition scoring beef cows will bring up copious examples. Many have charts and images. I like to review the “2001 IRM Pocket Reference” published and sponsored by the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association.

Let’s review: Cows with a body condition score of 3 or lower have little to no fat cover, with prominent backbone, hips and ribs evident, and in the extreme case, are emaciated. These cows are problematic because they seldom will rebreed in a timely manner and certainly exhibit indicators of pending nutritional issues.

If present, these signs are indicating at least some of the cows are not meeting their nutritional requirements. The herd may look fine as a whole, but pay attention to the younger and older cows.

As pressure for feed increases with limited feed, herd hierarchy takes over. The middle-aged cows eat first and the rest fend for themselves. When feed is plentiful, contentment within the herd offsets bullying by hungry cows. Thus, lower condition score cows are indicators that feeding issues are present.

What percent of the herd is condition score 3 or lower? The answer is that even 1 percent is too many because these cows are unlikely to rebreed or, in some cases, even raise a calf.

Producers should condition score monthly to watch for cows that are pushed aside. For every 100 cows that walk by, if five cows are trending to condition score 3 or lower, the operation has problems. More feed needs to arrive or fewer mouths need to be fed. Always keep in mind that as difficult as it is to part with cows, allowing cows to lose condition is not a good approach.

On the positive side, the goal of the monthly walk-by is to see borderline condition score 4 cows advance to a condition score 5 or 6. That’s an indication the feed supply is meeting the cow inventory’s needs.

Let’s review some more: Cows with a condition score 5 or 6 do not have visible ribs, and the backbone and hips are smoother, without pronounced visual evidence of individual bones.

The cows appear physically fit, and move well, alertly and contently. Cows with body condition scores of 5 or 6 will assure a good pregnancy rate and certainly will reward the producer’s effort. Essentially, the management plan is working, reflecting the appropriate allocation of feed to meet good management goals with good genetics.

Looking forward to this spring’s grass, revisiting the condition score 4 cows and setting them aside for some extra nutrition certainly will help initiate gain on grass and help boost their ability to rebreed as well. Thus, make sure pasture management provides good spring pasture as a final checkup coming out of a difficult winter feeding period.

Discussing heavily conditioned cows has little purpose in years when hay is short; however, keeping track of those cows that flesh well, and their sires, certainly should help plan for future genetic opportunity to combat feed shortages. Forage efficiency and gain for brood cows always should be part of long-term replacement discussions.

Finally, let’s not forget the thin cows if present; those cows with a body condition score of 3 or lower simply should not be in the herd. But when they are, pen cows that are having difficulty, as noted by body condition, separately. Particularly do that for the older and younger cows. Feeding the correct amount plus some supplement while penning separately will help the thinner cows.

When feed is short, always, always keep an eye on cow condition. However, producers have no magical cure. Cows need a daily supply of adequate feed.

Not all plans work, though, and sometimes producers may find themselves between a rock and a hard place. Still, even if the answer is not the desired answer, if stored hay or upcoming grass is inadequate, then make plans to move the cattle. Every day a cow goes without adequate feed, the pending situation only will get worse. Cows need to eat and calves need to nurse.

Source: North Dakota State University

Scout Your Cover Crop Fields for Wheat Stem Maggot in Corn

Last spring, wheat stem maggot damage was reported in corn fields that were previously planted to a cover crop. In most cases, cover crops (wheat or rye) were still green at the time of planting corn. In some cases, cover crops were only planted on part of the field.

In these situations, damaged corn plants were confined only to the areas where a cover crop was present. Such observations suggest that larval movement between the cover crop and corn may have been the primary source of infestation.

The frequency of damaged corn plants in fields ranged from 1% to 60% with some farmers reporting losses of 30 bu/acre in fields with a high number of infested plants.

As farmers and consultants gear up for spring planting, many are expressing concerns and asking questions about managing wheat stem maggot in their cover crop. The most common question is in regard to tank mixing an insecticide with a herbicide at the time the cover crop is terminated.

We do not recommend this practice for two reasons. First, an insecticide application without any knowledge of pest presence will likely kill beneficial insects in the cover crop that may provide a benefit to the subsequent cash crop. We encourage ag professionals to scout cover crops for wheat stem maggot adults or larvae prior to termination to assess pest pressure.

Second, tank-mixed insecticides are unlikely to have enough residual to control insect pests when they leave the cover crop. No information is currently available on when wheat stem maggot will leave a cover crop following a herbicide application.

If farmers or consultants find high numbers of wheat stem maggots in their cover crop, we would suggest terminating the cover crop at least 14 days prior to planting corn. If such practices are not possible, producers should consider making an insecticide application 11 days after a glyphosate application.

Such tactics don’t guarantee effective control but maximize the likelihood based on common stalk borer control tactics.

We will be collecting sweep net samples every few days throughout the spring to determine first emergence of wheat stem maggot adults and peak flight periods. We would encourage ag professionals to sweep their cover crops for these insects.

Source: University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Feed at Night. Calve During the Day.

Calving season is in full swing for some and coming soon for others. With that in mind, questions have been raised as to whether or not time of feeding affects time of calving, and the answer is “Yes”. Feeding cows later in the day and evening will increase the number of calves born during daylight hours, when it is easier to watch them more closely.

Feeding For Daytime Calving
Gus Konefal, a rancher in Manitoba, first developed his feeding method after he discovered that 80% of his cows calved between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m when they were fed later in the day. Konefal’s method included a twice a day feeding, with first feeding between 11:00 a.m. and noon and second feeding between 9:30-10:00 p.m.

Similar research at Iowa State University using the Konefal feeding system, but only feeding one time per day at 4 p.m., starting 2 weeks prior to the expected start of calving, resulted in 82% of cows calving between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m. In addition, calves born between 5 a.m. and 11 p.m. (75% of the 24 hour day) was 91%. Therefore, only 9% of calves were born outside the window when traditional calf checks are performed. Perhaps, important to note that when heifers were separated from the data set and analyzed, 90% calved in this same time frame. A survey collected from 15 beef producers in Iowa and Missouri also reported feeding once daily between 5 pm and 10 pm resulted in 85% of cows calving between 5 am and midnight. Compare this data to cows not on the Konefel feeding system in the same herds that were calving 50/50% day and night.

Researchers at USDA-ARS at Miles City, MT completed at three-year study evaluating differences in feeding time on calving time, but the numbers were not as dramatic as Konefel and Iowa State data. However, there was a consistent 10-20% decrease in the number of cows calving between 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. in the late fed cows compared to the early fed cows.

Konefal Calving Method Tips
Here are some brief points to remember if Konefal calving is a method that could be implemented:

  • Research has indicated that for this method to be most effective, it should be started one month in advance of calving, but shorter duration before the start of calving will have some effect.
  • Iowa State advises staying as close to the same feeding schedule and feed amount as possible each day. Deviating more than 15 minutes or providing too much feed will yield less desirable results.
  • Maintain regular night checks. Konefal calving may simply mean that there will be less work to be done between checks due to fewer calves born during the night.
  • Works best in a drylot situation where all feed is provided. Desired effect in a grazing situation may not be seen unless supplemental hay or timing of grazing can be regulated.
  • Weather can play a role in effectiveness. Before or during storms, cattle may not come to the bunk to eat and may be more likely to calve at night.
  • Additional research indicates that a first calf heifer that calves during the day will tend to calve during the day the remainder of her productive years.

This method of management may help to decrease the number of nights spent up waiting for cows and heifers to calve by helping to move more of the calving to daylight hours.

Source: Adele Harty, iGrow

Trade Retaliation Measures Could Hurt U.S. Farm Sector

A FarmPolicyNews update last month discussed executive branch implementation of U.S. import tariffs on solar panels and washing machines, as well as the possibility of future implementation of import barriers on steel and aluminum. That update also included a look at the potential of retaliatory measures, particularly by China, that could have a negative impact on U.S. agricultural exports and farm income. On Thursday, President Trump signaled that he plans to levy the tariffs on steel and aluminum imports soon. This update looks at recent news items that highlight the negative impact trade retaliation measures could have on U.S. agriculture if the President follows through on his import tariff promise.

Jim Tankersley reported on Friday at The New York Times Online that, “[President] Trump said on Thursday that he would soon levy tariffs on imported steel and aluminum from every foreign country, a move that sent stocks tumbling through the end of the day. On Friday, he ramped up his rhetoric in the face of criticism, saying on Twitter that ‘trade wars are good, and easy to win.’”

Mr. Tankersley explained that, “What worries many economists, particularly on Wall Street, is the prospect that Mr. Trump is set to launch a broader trade war. The national security grounds he is invoking as rationale for the tariffs could provoke swift retaliation from trading partners such as Canada, which will be affected far more by the measures than China will.”

Meanwhile, The Wall Street Journal editorial board stated in Friday’s paper that, “Donald Trump made the biggest policy blunder of his Presidency Thursday by announcing that next week he’ll impose tariffs of 25% on imported steel and 10% on aluminum.”

The Journal added that, “The economic damage will quickly compound because other countries can and will retaliate against U.S. exports. Not steel, but against farm goods, Harley-Davidson motorcycles, Cummins engines, John Deere tractors, and much more.”

Agricultural Worries, Implications
Wall Street Journal writer William Mauldin reported on Saturday that, “For Kansas farmer Dan Atkisson, tensions over trade surfaced weeks before President Donald Trump announced plans to slap tariffs on imported steel and aluminum.

“On Feb. 4, Mr. Atkisson woke up to news Beijing had launched an investigation into alleged American dumping of—and subsidies on—sorghum, a grain known as ‘milo’ in western Kansas. Mr. Atkisson, 32 years old, grows one variety of sorghum to feed his cattle but devotes most of his fields to ‘grain sorghum,’ which in large part is exported to China.

“Beijing’s probe, which some in Kansas fear could end in painful tariffs on American sorghum, came shortly after the Trump administration imposed tariffs on solar cells and washing machines in January.”

The Journal article indicated that, “Some saw China’s move as retaliation against those tariffs. ‘Countries sometimes utilize these issues to send messages,’ said Sen. Jerry Moran, a Kansas Republican who hails from the same county as Mr. Atkisson. ‘In this case, the message China was sending hits agriculture in the middle of the country.’

“China’s sorghum move amounts to a foretaste of what U.S. farmers and manufacturers might face now that Mr. Trump has announced a plan to slap 25% tariffs on steel imports and 10% on aluminum. The White House is also looking at options for punishing China broadly over intellectual-property violations.”

The Journal article added that, “Economists say bigger crops are at risk, including soybeans, whose exports to China last year reached $12.4 billion. Other countries could target U.S. dairy, almonds, blueberries, apples, beef, pork and wine.”

And DTN Ag Policy Editor Chris Clayton reported Thursday that, “Soybeans amount to $14 billion in export value to China, making it the largest U.S. commodity shipped there.”

The DTN article noted that, “‘Brazil has got a pretty big crop, and they (China) can buy more from them for a while,’ [John Heisdorffer, president of the American Soybean Association and a farmer from Keota, Iowa] said. ‘Brazil has so many acres they can put into production pretty fast. Let’s say if we lose 20% to 30% of our market, and they pick it up, then what happens?‘”

Nathaniel Taplin reported on Thursday at The Wall Street Journal Online that, “How might China respond [to restrictions imports on steel and aluminum]? One possibility is soybeans. The country imported $12.4 billion of American soybeans last year to feed its pigs. China relies on these imports to keep feed prices low, which in turn keeps low the politically-sensitive price of pork. The meat is China’s staple protein, and a sizable component in household budgets.

The Journal article stated that, “U.S. farmers’ leverage with China, meanwhile, is exceptionally weak. Farm debt is high and incomes are falling. Global soybean prices remain mired at barely half their 2012 peak. And Brazil, America’s main competitor for the Chinese soy market, is growing another bumper crop.

“Brazil’s 2017-18 soybean harvest is expected to clock in at 112 million metric tons, the second highest ever, according to Reuters’ February survey—surpassed only by last year’s record of 114 million.”

In a related article, Reuters news reported on Friday that, “Brazilian farm exports may benefit from rising trade tensions between the United States and China, an official from Mato Grosso state, Brazil’s largest grain growing region, said in an interview on Friday.”

Also, Bloomberg News reported on Saturday that, “The man who runs China’s biggest consumer of American soybeans said he hopes his country will avoid a clash with the U.S. over trade, though his firm can line up alternative suppliers if necessary.

“‘We hope that China and the U.S. will not have a trade war, which is also in line with the interests of business and people in both countries,’ Liu Yonghao, founder of New Hope Group, one of China’s largest pig feed companies, told reporters Saturday ahead of National People’s Congress meetings in Beijing. ‘Any trade war will have an impact on our business.’”

And Reuters news reported on over the weekend that, “China does not want a trade war with the United States but will defend its interests, a senior Chinese diplomat said on Sunday, after U.S. President Donald Trump announced a plan to put tariffs on steel and aluminum imports.”

Meanwhile, Tom Meersman reported late last month at the Minneapolis Star Tribune Online that, “Minnesota soybean growers can be forgiven if they are a little on edge lately.

“About half of the 380 million bushels they produced last year were exported.

“China is by far their largest customer, and Minnesota soybean sales to China reached nearly $1.2 billion in 2016.”

The article stated that, “So the risk of an escalating tariff war between the U.S. and China — and the chance that it may suck in agricultural products — is receiving their full attention.

Nonetheless, the Star Tribune article pointed out that, “Su Ye, chief economist and market research leader with the Minnesota Department of Agriculture, said China would need to think long and hard about trade retaliations against the U.S. that included soybeans.

“Making those changes would hurt both countries, she said, because China has grown to depend on huge soybean imports to supply its immense soybean crushing industry and its expanding dairy, cattle, hog and poultry farms.”

With respect to lawmaker perspective on the Trump Administration’s tariff actions, Lindsay Wise reported on Friday at The Kansas City Star Online that, “Kansas Sen. Pat Roberts, the Republican chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, struggled to find words to describe his state of mind after hearing Thursday that President Donald Trump would impose tariffs on imported steel and aluminum.

In her article, Ms. Wise explained that, “Roberts said he and other Republicans from farming states and from the Senate Finance Committee had lobbied Trump hard to try to convince him that raising tariffs would blow back badly on the very rural and middle-class voters who supported his election in 2016.

“‘These are the people who voted for the president,’ Roberts said. ‘These are his people. One county in Kansas even voted for him 90 percent, and they’re not going to be happy at all about this.’

“Roberts is beginning to wonder if the president is at all persuadable on trade.”

Outside of the Midwest, Geoffrey Mohan reported in Saturday’s Los Angeles Times that, “Steel and aluminum may be the intended quarry of a trade war that President Trump has said would be ‘good’ for the U.S. economy, but the casualties of the conflict could be food, agricultural economists warn.

“China, the European Union, Mexico, Canada and other trading partners have sent strong signals that they may retaliate if Trump succeeds in imposing stiff tariffs on imports of steel and aluminum.

“Each of those trading partners is a major buyer of U.S. agricultural goods, which amass a surplus of about $21 billion from worldwide trade, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.”

Mr. Mohan pointed out that, “The wheat industry, which has pushed for more open international markets, blasted the proposal Friday. ‘It is dismaying that the voices of farmers and many other industries were ignored in favor of an industry that is already among the most protected in the country,’ a joint statement from the National Assn. of Wheat Growers and U.S. Wheat Associates said.”

The LA Times article stated, “No state has more at stake than California, which leads the country in agricultural revenue.

“World leaders also likely know that Trump enjoyed deep support in rural, agricultural areas, including much of the Central Valley, said Dan Sumner, an economist who directs the Agricultural Issues Center at UC Davis.”

Source: Keith Good, University of Illinois

A Positive Outlook for Corn

A strengthening trend in corn consumption, smaller corn acreage, and the developing production issues in South America signify a positive outlook for corn in 2018. The expectations for corn in the 2018 crop year put forth in this analysis show lower production leading to decreased ending stocks in 2018-19.

According to University of Illinois agricultural economist Todd Hubbs, “The big ending stocks projected for this marketing-year continue to hang over corn prices and an upward price movement in corn during 2018 appears likely under a reduced production scenario.”

Corn consumption currently is showing signs of building strength in exports, ethanol production, and other domestic uses. As 2018 progresses, an expectation of continued growth in corn consumption is the baseline for this analysis.

“Expectations for the 2018-19 marketing-year for consumption exceed projected production, which leads to a lower level of ending stocks by the end of the marketing year. Corn exports will be influenced by trade policy, world corn production, and economic growth,” Hubbs explains.

While changes in trade policy may impact corn exports over the next year, the following analysis assumes a minimal impact due to trade disruptions. “Corn export projections by the USDA for the current marketing-year sit at 2.05 billion bushels. Current production issues in South America and the competitiveness of U.S. corn export prices increase the probability of exceeding the current USDA marketing-year projection,” Hubbs adds.

Current corn production projections for Brazil (3.7 billion bushels) and Argentina (1.53 billion bushels) appear likely for downward revisions in the upcoming USDA reports due to adverse weather. The potential for 400 million fewer bushels is increasingly probable in the two major South American countries.

With a revision in South American production, world production projections come in approximately 4.5 percent lower in 2018. Building on the strength expected in export markets for the remainder of this marketing-year, 2018-19 corn export projections in this analysis sits at 2.025 billion bushels.

Corn used for ethanol production during this marketing-year continues to show tremendous consumption potential. “Through February 28, an estimate of corn use for ethanol sits slightly above 2.8 billion bushels. An expectation of small increases in gasoline consumption in 2018 and 2019 combined with growth in the ethanol trade balance provide support to the continued increase in corn used for ethanol,” Hubbs says.

Corn used for ethanol expectations increase to 5.57 billion bushels in the 2018-19 marketing-year. An assumption of moderate growth in other domestic uses for corn is projected for the next marketing-year. Total food, seed, and industrial use projections come in at 7.065 billion bushels.

According to Hubbs, the pace of corn consumption for feed appears set to pull back from recent growth in the 2018-19 marketing-year. Livestock production growth over the last few years will moderate and reduce corn feed use during the upcoming marketing-year. Recent increases in soybean meal prices combined with increased distiller’s grain availability portray a mixed picture for corn use.

Increased availability of feed grains across the board may suppress some corn feed use. Residual use of corn could be reduced if the 2018 crop is smaller than the 2017 level. “Feed and residual use is projected down slightly at 5.25 billion bushels. Overall, corn consumption shows moderate growth in the 2018-19 marketing year. Total consumption is projected at 14.6 billion bushels and may outpace domestic production,” Hubbs says.

Current market consensus projects farmers to plant fewer corn acres in 2018 than the 90.2 million acres planted last year. The current profitability advantage for soybeans over corn along with stronger prices in other crops create an incentive to reduce corn acres.

The USDA Outlook Forum projected 2018 corn acres at 90.0 million acres. Various estimates from trade analysts set corn acreage in a range of 89 to 92 million acres. In this analysis, Hubbs explains that a reduction of corn acreage is expected. Planted acreage at 89.5 million acres would lead to around 82.2 million acres harvested for grain in 2018.

Yield expectations typically use trend yield analysis to generate yield projections for the next crop year. National average corn yield came in above trend for the last four growing seasons and culminated in an estimated 176.6 bushels per acre in 2017. Using a linear trend of actual U.S. corn average yields from 1960 forward, the trend estimate for 2018 is 168.6 bushels per acre.

By adjusting the trend estimation for weather influences and recent trend deviations, we generate a national corn yield expectation of 172.3 bushels per acre. “At this yield level, the 2018 crop projection is 14.2 billion bushels. By including the current projections for ending stocks of 2.36 billion bushels with 50 million bushels of imported corn, the 2018 corn supply comes in at 16.6 billion bushels. The 2018 corn supply estimate is 332 million bushels less than the current marketing year supply estimation,” Hubbs explains.

The potential for lower corn acreage in 2018 combined with an increased consumption scenario presents a positive outlook for corn prices in 2018. While the corn price will continue to struggle with ending stocks, an upward price movement in corn during 2018 appears likely.

“Current expectations for corn consumption in the 2018-19 marketing year are 14.6 billion bushels. Ending stocks would be 2.00 billion bushels, which is 350 million bushels lower than the current marketing year projection. Based on this analysis of corn production and consumption, season average market price comes in at a range of $3.50 – $3.60 for the 2018-19 marketing year,” Hubbs concludes.

Source: Todd Hubbs, University of Illinois

Start Your Vegetable Garden Early With Cool Season Crops

After a long winter, gardeners are always eager to get outside again. “Get a head start on your vegetable garden by planting cool-season crops,” says Gemini Bhalsod, a University of Illinois Extension horticulture educator. “Cool spring weather favors vegetables like leafy greens, root vegetables, and members of the onion and cabbage family.”

Most cool-season vegetables, also known as “cold crops,” can withstand light frosts. Cool-season vegetables can be direct-seeded or transplanted outside much earlier than late summer favorites like tomatoes.

Bhalsod explains that these plants are more frost-tolerant than others because the cool weather triggers the plant to produce more sugars, which act as a natural antifreeze for plant tissues. When this happens, we also benefit by getting sweeter tasting produce.

So what plants are cold hardy? “First, we need to go over some definitions,” Bhalsod says. “’Hardy’ plants can withstand the coldest air and soil temperatures. These plants can be planted outside about four weeks before the frost-free date in your area. In some places, that is as early as April. ‘Hardy’ plants include spinach and kale.”

Frost-tolerant, or “half-hardy,” plants can tolerate cool temperatures and can be seeded outdoors in early May, or about two weeks before the predicted frost date in the spring. Frost –tolerant plants include cabbage, carrots, chard, and broccoli.

“Be aware that the frost date is location-based, so check with your local Extension office for specific dates,” Bhalsod suggests.

In general, root crops do not do well being transplanted and should be direct-seeded. Thin seedlings to three to four inches apart, but be sure to read your seed packet to learn your plants’ specific requirements. Thin seedlings when they are a few inches tall and enjoy them as microgreens, or wait until the leaves are bigger and eat the tops.

“With root vegetables, it is important to make sure your soil is loose and well-drained,” Bhalsod says. “This prevents root stunting and gives plants ample space to grow.”

Plants with a longer growing cycle should be started indoors about five weeks before planting outside. Harden plants off by gradually and progressively exposing them to outdoor conditions. This works well for crops like head lettuce, collards, kale, broccoli, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts. Starting these plants indoors means earlier maturation and harvest.

Most cold crops have two “seasons” in a vegetable garden, one in spring and again in the fall. Avoiding the high temperatures and long days of summer is key. Long summer daylight causes salad greens, for example, to produce flowers and set seed, also called “bolting,” which results in a bitter tasting, unpleasant salad.

No matter what plants you decide to grow, do not forget to plan your garden to get the most out of your space. Stagger your planting times to increase your harvest period and consider intercropping different varieties or plants to maximize your production.

Visit the University of Illinois Extension, “Watch your Garden Grow” website at, for more information.

Source: University of Illinois

The Concern is a Dwindling Hay Pile

This time of year, most beef producers have an eye on the hay pile, knowing pasture turnout is still several weeks away.

As they scan the cow herd and count bales, they know the hay pile has to match the herd’s daily feed intake, and several weeks of winter feeding still are left. A country drive will note the status of the hay pile, and to be honest, this year’s hay piles are noticeably dwindling.

Generally, following a good forage year, producers have those hay piles that are fed out of and those that are set aside as carryover for next year. But they won’t have much, if any, carryover this year, and copious hay is not found close to many cow herds.

Obviously, the attention to the hay pile is increased this year because of the memories of the limited forage harvest last summer. The drive for me is relatively short because those of us at the Dickinson Research Extension Center also are eying the hay pile. The hay bales are easy to count because the numbers are getting low.

The center’s livestock inventory includes 228 calves born in 2017, 247 cows, nine bulls, four long yearlings, one spayed cow, 116 sheep and nine horses. On a good note, the 86 bred heifers have been at a feedlot, but they to need to come home by the end of March to prep for calving starting in May.

What does all that inventory mean? It means the center has a lot of breathing, living livestock that are solely our responsibility, something we take very seriously. This responsibility is a daily obligation to provide shelter and feed, something farmers and ranchers understand well.

But what does that mean in terms of feed? First, let’s calculate just how much living mass the center must feed. Using the body weights that the center knows and estimating the body weight on the rest, the center has 542,000 pounds (271 tons) of living body weight that must be fed every day. We usually do not think of the livestock that way, but we must know the total weight to calculate the center’s feed needs.

The 271 tons of livestock are going to require 2.5 percent of their living body weight in daily feed intake, or 13,550 pounds of feed from now until the end of April. May 1 is the target for turnout on spring grass for the center.

So let’s figure our feed needs. If the bales’ average weight is 1,300 pounds (bale weight will vary, and I estimated on the light side), the center needs about 11 bales every day (rounding up 13,550 pounds divided by 1,300 pounds), or 539 bales for the next seven weeks (49 days).

The current center hay inventory is 97 bales, with contacts made to deliver 350 bales. The current inventory and purchased hay bales total 447 bales, leaving the center 92 bales, or three-plus standard truckloads of hay, shy of what it needs.

But we are close and we are offsetting the hay shortage as follows: The calves receive 4 pounds daily of a commercial 15 percent protein supplement (44,688 pounds for 49 days) and the cows receive an average of 6 pounds daily of a 22 percent protein supplement alfalfa plus 30 percent pea cake (72,618 pounds for 49 days). This is a savings of 90 bales.

The center contracted for an alfalfa plus 30 percent pea cake early to help ensure adequate feed when the growing season comes up short. The cake was a good investment this winter.

Additionally, the center shops for and purchases hay of good quality with well-prepared bales that ship well and, in reality, average around 1,700 pounds.

The center will make it. This past winter could have been much worse. Memories of prior winter feedings from November through April (roughly 180 days) are vivid. If the center had to feed harvested feed for those six months, the center would need 2,439,000 pounds, 1,220 tons or 1,876 big round bales that average 1,300 pounds; that’s 63 trucks of 30 bales per load. That is a lot of feed.

If that were the case, the center would be looking for more than 20 loads of additional hay. However, the center sold half the cow herd in anticipation of a low hay inventory and sent all the bred heifers to the feedlot to be custom fed.

In addition, the move to May calving has been a lifesaver. If the cows were calving in March/April, the daily feed intake could go up another 35 to 40 percent, or another 90 bales or three truckloads of hay, to meet the demands of lactation and motherhood.

But as the winter season comes to an end, adequate feed will be laid in with the anticipation of upcoming spring rain and an optimistic growing season. That is all we can do.

Remember, the glance at the hay pile is more than a glance. The glance at the cows is more than a quick look. Producers need to pull the pencil out, calculate the hay inventory, determine the pounds of cattle and other livestock to be fed, and plan accordingly.

The nice winter was a plus. Every three days that the center does not have to deliver harvested feed spares one truckload of hay.

But you don’t cheat Mother Nature. Plan on enough hay to get to pasture turnout in May. Early turnout is not an option. Cows need to be cared for, but that dry grass from last year needs care as well.

Source: Kris Ringwall, North Dakota State University

Your browser is out-of-date!

Update your browser to view this website correctly. Update my browser now