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Articles from 2015 In August

Feed weather-damaged, discounted wheat? The price is right

Feed weather-damaged, discounted wheat? The price is right

The old adage "One man's ceiling is another man's floor" often applies to agriculture. When one segment, grain production for example, is doing well, another segment, like cattle feeding, struggles and vice versa. That's just the way supply and demand seems to work.

In many areas, the overabundance of rain this spring and summer has caused small grains to suffer quality issues. While that's bad news for cash grain growers, it's an opportunity for cattlemen to pick up reasonably-priced small grains – barley, milo, oats and wheat – for feed.

The latter is most commonly grown for the cash market, and is the most nutrient-dense.

WEATHER-WORN GRAIN: Steep wheat market discounts make for a right-priced feed grain for cattle.

Let's review use of wheat in cattle rations and explore strategies for feeding wheat that didn't make grade for the cash market.

Feeding factors to consider
Keep these four factors to keep in mind:

* Nutritional value: Being nutrient-dense, wheat generally exceeds corn grain in protein value and is very similar in energy value. But there are differences due to type and variety. For example, hard red winter wheat averages about 14% crude protein and 88% total digestible nutrients.

Hard red spring wheat values are 17% and 89%. Durum wheat averages about 16% and 85%.

Corn grain typically comes in at about 10% crude protein and 90 % TDN. Like all cereal grains, wheat is deficient in calcium, but has adequate phosphorus for all types of beef cattle.

The "rub" with feeding wheat comes from its high starch content and rapid fermentation rate in the rumen. Feeding too much or increasing the level in the ration too quickly can lead to serious problems with acidosis or bloat or founder.

However, when properly processed and fed at recommended levels, wheat is well utilized in cattle diets. So, attention to detail is a must.

* Processing: Wheat's tough seed coat requires that it must be processed for good ration utilization. A coarse roll is preferred to increase exposure to the digestive process without creating too many fines. Excessive fines greatly increase risk of digestive upset.


* Limits: While experienced feeders often push wheat levels higher, a safe upper limit is probably about 40% of the ration. Reaching that level should be accomplished slowly over time, making sure that cattle are adapting well and stabilizing their intake at each increment. (See sidebar.) To go over 40%, it would be best to add grains with a slower rate of ruminal fermentation like dry rolled corn or whole corn.

* Additives: Ionophores have been effective in alleviating the digestive upset and overconsumption issues often associated with wheat diets. Improved feed efficiency is an added benefit.

Adding common buffers has improved cattle performance in some trials. Sodium bicarb, at 3 to 4 ounces per head daily, may help buffer the rumen against acid buildup. Adding finely ground limestone also buffers acids in the lower digestive tract of cattle. Keep total calcium ration levels at 0.7 to 0.9%

Beware of quality problems
Kernel sprouting is a common problem when wet humid conditions occur during and after seed head formation. That's good news for cattlemen. Sprouted wheat has almost the same nutritive value as sound wheat on a pound for pound (not volume) basis -- assuming that the sprouting is not accompanied with molds or mycotoxin problems.

In Washington State University trials, there were no significant differences in feedlot performance or carcass characteristics when cattle were fed 50% sound wheat, 50% "low-sprout" wheat (9% sprouted kernels), or 50% "high-sprout" wheat (58% sprouted kernels).

Test weight or "bushel weight" is often a concern when buying "substandard" wheat for feed. The common bushel weight for wheat is about 60 pounds.

Numerous feedlot trials indicate that performance is seldom affected adversely as long as wheat weighs at least 56 pounds per bushel. Feed conversion decreases below that level.


Any signs of mold in wheat should be followed up with a harmful mycotoxin test. Even when results are positive, it's usually possible to feed that grain at a reduced safe level. This is especially true for ruminants.

Cattle are less susceptible to mycotoxins than swine or poultry. University of Minnesota research suggests that cattle growth and health are unaffected at relatively high vomitoxin levels (21 parts per million of DON). It's always wise to avoid feeding affected feedstuffs to young, reproducing or lactating animals.

Feeding tips
Here are a few management tips for feeding wheat to beef cattle from experts at North Dakota State University:

* Limit wheat to 40% or less of the ration in backgrounding and finishing diets.

* Limit durum to 30% or less of such ration.

* Ionophores should be used with wheat-based finishing diets to improve feed efficiency and reduce acidosis risk.

* Buffers such as limestone and sodium bicarbonate may help alleviate or prevent digestive upsets.

* Adapt cattle to wheat-based diets incrementally; starting with low levels (10 to 15%) and then gradually increasing to 30% (durum) or 40% (hard wheats).

* Wheat should be coarsely rolled or cracked -- not finely ground – for optimum performance.

* As a beef cow supplement, hard wheat levels should be kept under 5 to 6 pounds per head per day. For durum wheat, keep it under 3.5 to 4.5 pounds.

* When used as a supplement, feed wheat every day, not every other day or every third day.

* Do not use wheat in creep rations or self-feeders. Rapid starch fermentation rates raise risk of acidosis, founder and/or bloat.

* Damaged wheat (sprouted, frosted, drought-stressed and vomitoxin-infested) can be fed after careful inspection and laboratory analysis of the condition and quality of the grain.

Harpster is a beef cow-calf producer and retired Penn State animal scientist.

Extension crop field day events coming up

Extension crop field day events coming up

Farmers are invited to attend this month's University of Minnesota Extension events to view crop research and tillage equipment.

Events include:
1-4 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 9: Soybean Cyst Nematode Plot Tour, Southwest Research and Outreach Center, Lamberton. View current soybean cyst nematode research on resistant variety performance, chemical control evaluations. Visit with U of MN researchers. For more information, please visit the Southwest Research and Outreach Center home page:

Extension crop field day events coming up

9 a.m.-3:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 10: Tillage and Technology Field Day, West Central Research and Outreach Center, Morris. Crop producers and other agricultural professionals can see the latest in variable depth tillage equipment, watch side–by–side field demonstrations by national and regional manufacturers, and learn how to build soil structure for maximum soil productivity.

Other highlights include the following:

Discover how strip tillage can fit into your rotation and individual soil situations.

Check out proper planter set–up for improved crop emergence and residue management.

Discuss how to save time and money while building soil productivity.

Visit with equipment reps about their new products and services.

For more information and to register, visit the Tillage and Technology Field Day website

Tuesday, Sept. 15: 44th Annual Crop Production Field Day, Kuiters' Farm near Clarks Grove. Registration starts at 9:30 a.m. with the program following at 10:00 a.m. Topics will address current crop and economic concerns: fertility, recent developments with soybean aphid, buffer strips, variable rate nitrogen, controlling resistant giant ragweed and waterhemp, and economic considerations for 2015/2016.

This event is free and open to the public. Lunch will follow the program. For more information, call 507-536-6310 or check out the program online.

Tuesday, Sept. 15: Cover Crop Learning Tour - Interseeding into Row Crops, Lakefield. Attendees will tour research and demonstration plots, hear from farmers currently planting cover crops, and see interseeding equipment in action. Registration will begin at 8:30 and the program will run from 9:00 to 2:30. Pre-registration is strongly encouraged for this program and required to guarantee a meal.

Corn stalk quality could be an issue this harvest

Corn stalk quality could be an issue this harvest

It is a great time to get out in the field and see which corn hybrids are drying down. At this point in the game, it is a race to see which corn hybrids make it to black layer first.

Unfortunately, increased disease pressure this year is putting some corn hybrids ahead of schedule and making fall harvest come quicker than expected. Before you pull the combine into these fields, take a little of time to assess stalk quality.

Impact of stalk quality in fields

While taking that morning drive to double check which corn fields are “turning” the quickest and assessing which fields you will combine first, jump out of the cab to and inspect at corn stalks.

STALK STRESS: Stalk quality may be a problem during this year's harvest. Stress on plants creates weaker stalks. Farmers might want to consider harvesting early.

Ideal growing conditions this year and large amounts of rainfall have given our crops that boost to put everything into that corn ear. At times though we have seen stress in the month of July towards the beginning of August with some heat. With that corn plant focusing its energy on the ear, stalk quality of some hybrids may suffer.

Instead of shucking back corn ears and doing yield checks, evaluate overall plant health of your corn hybrids.

Time to take the push test

While walking your fields, a simple way to test overall plant health of your cornfields is doing the “Push Test.” This test will give you an overall view of the stalk quality of your corn in the field.

Pick three to five random hybrids scattered all across your field. While standing next to the corn plants, push the plant in the middle of the stalk. If it pushes back and forth, the quality of the plant is good overall.

On the other hand, if it snaps from the bottom, stalk rot is starting to set in the plant and take note this field needs to be a priority on beginning fields to be harvested.

Towards the bottom of the corn stalk, pinch the stalk right about the ground. Check to see if the stalk feels hallow towards the bottom. It could result in snapping during a windstorm.

Harvest early

Don't forget to evaluate corn ears as well. This year with the large early amounts of rainfall, we are seeing ears dropping early and corn plants firing quicker as we continue to scout fields.

Once the combine gets fired up and starting to roll in corn this year, take note on those fields that the stalk quality and overall plant health is not the best. Those fields may not be ready to harvest, but it might be a good idea to roll through them early. It's better to harvest corn early with a little moisture in those kernels rather than corn that is dry that laid down to an early windstorm that came through the area.

Harvest will soon be running full swing. Good luck with your upcoming harvest. Remember to check those cornfields for stalk quality.

Allen is owner of Allen Seed and Service where he scouts 3,500 acres of corn and 10,000 acres of soybeans annually. He writes from Hawk Point.

HMC Farms harvests nectarines for the community

Some of these fresh nectarines being harvested in central California will wind up in food banks and food pantries throughout the Golden State because of the generosity of San Joaquin Valley growers and a program operated by the California Association of Food Banks (CAFB).

More than one million pounds of stone fruit -- nectarines, peaches and plums -- are donated each year by HMC Farms in Kingsburg, Calif. The fruit first goes to food bank and pantry programs in nearby Fresno, then to other food banks throughout the Golden State.

A CAFB program called "Farm to Family" provides fresh fruit that would otherwise be thrown away because markets will not take blemished, but otherwise edible commodities, to needy families.

HMC Farms has participated in the program for about a decade, according to HMC Farms President Jon McClarty.

Looking beyond the current market to the next equipment wave

Looking beyond the current market to the next equipment wave

One of the highlights of attending major farm shows is the chance to connect with high-level individuals who can offer an interesting perspective on the industry. I got that chance just before the 2015 Farm Progress Show when I connected with Jim Walker, vice president, North America, Case IH.

Walker has been with Case IH for nine years and he's shepherding the company through this latest industry downturn with an eye on the future. And he's already starting to see some good news. "Dealers are seeing more interest in product than they're willing to trade," Walker points out.

Jim Walker, vice president, North America, Case IH, sees a return of demand for new, tech-filled farm equipment.

That means that more farmers are interested in buying, but dealers aren't ready to take in the used equipment, as they work down the backlog of machines on their lots. That's a good sign that demand is slowly trickling back in, and a great sign for the industry. "Producers want the new technology," Walker notes.

The overhang of used equipment on dealers' lots does create a tough situation for the industry. Walker notes that the Certified Pre-owned program his company fired up this year is for that customer who used to be a buyer of that 'first trade' machine. But as the market got better they became new-equipment buyers. The CPO program is a way to return that customer, with confidence, to being a first-trade buyer in this market.

Looking at the numbers

Case IH showed a little track history in its exhibit at the Farm Progress Show - this first-year Case IH Steiger QuadTrak - which was pulled out of the field (the owner still tiles with the machine) for the show.

Of course the market numbers get a lot of attention. "The market would have looked entirely different if we had entered this slump after 2012 rather than 2013," he notes. In 2012 the farm equipment industry sold about 10,000 combines, and now it appears sales will be about 7,000 units. However, the market in 2013 climbed to 13,700 combines, so that slide to 7,000 units is a much greater slide, or what Walker calls a "devastating level."

His comments are interesting given that a couple years ago at the height of the market, Walker talked about the need for the industry to 'get a breather' in sales. A chance to catch up and manage production and inventory levels. Well that chance has arrived, and he notes that the industry has responded well too. He notes the slide was farther than anything he thought, but he also points out that sales this year are at about 2010 levels, which back then the industry thought were pretty good.

Yet the demand should return as farmers are called on to increase capacity by 50% by 2050. That will call on farmers to use the latest technology maximize every acre and ever bag of seed.

Future of R&D, and a look back >>>


And he notes another fact that many might not think of: for the past few years the entire equipment industry has been investing most research and development cost into meeting tighter emission standards. It's an interesting observation since those emission improvements meant some major changes in tractor design.

"While R&D spending may be lower as sales fall, it will be a higher percentage of those sales," Walker notes. "And we can look at innovating product how that we don't have to focus on emissions technology." The cue there is that companies, including Case IH, will be turning their attention to more innovations in their businesses.

A look back

There's been some buzz about track tractors, yet Case IH points to the original QuadTrac, which was introduced to the market 23 years ago at the Farm Progress Show as a prototype. The final machines came out a few years later, and in 2016 the company will celebrate the 20th anniversary of the machines.

Walker, who worked at another company at the time, recalls that when he saw that early QuadTrak he had his doubts about its success. He was wrong, the product performs well, and the tech is now not only on Steiger large horsepower tractors, but in Row Track form, on the Magnum Row Track and even on combines - all the same basic tech from Case IH.

Track machines are here to stay, and QuadTrac was an early winner for Case IH.

Prepping for the big show

A show takes a lot of people to put together, and that means everything from putting up big tents to arranging the flowers must right to make an exhibitor happy. Here's a short, fun gallery the day before opening day for the 2015 Farm Progress Show.

We're having a little fun with this, so enjoy these images, and if you're coming to the show you'll get to see just how well the setup work went!

We found our share of people with pressure washers, machines covers and even some earth moving so you can have a super ATV/utility vehicle ride-and-drive experience. The show site's expansion area looks good too with a new Varied Industries Tent, and more.


A day in the field with Syngenta's Gary Prescher

Last week, Syngenta invited Farm Industry News to a crop test site in Morgan, Minnesota, to showcase some of the company’s newest seed, seed treatments, and pesticide products in the field.  

The Morgan, MN, location is one of more than 30 Grow More Experience Sites scattered throughout the Midwest and run by Syngenta local staff. Each site consists of small sections of land that are devoted to different products used on crops.

Some of the ones shown at the Morgan site trial included:

  • Acuron, Syngenta’s newest corn herbicide. It features a new active ingredient and three complementary modes of action to target difficult broadleaf and grass weeds that the company says current products are missing.
  • BroadAxe XC herbicide, the company’s newest soybean herbicide, designed to provide growers more flexibility for soybean weed control programs.
  • Clariva Complete seed treatment, a season-long nematicide for soybean nematodes.
  • Solatenol fungicide, a new broad-spectrum active ingredient marketed under the brand name Trivapro

Gary Prescher, product development agronomist from Delavan, MN, says the Grow More Experience Sites are used for research, trialing, demonstrations, and training.

“Syngenta is working with many new products out here. From new herbicide products to new seed treatments to new traits and genetics,” Prescher says. “So what we want to do is talk you through how we are approaching the market from an integrated perspective to help growers grow better corn and soybean crops.”

“For us this year, we are focusing on residuals, which cover the gamut of production issues,” adds Prescher, citing the problems of corn rootworm, Japanese beetles, and Northern corn leaf blight. “With our current portfolio, and now, with our new products we will be releasing, we are providing for that longer residual.”

During the morning-long tour Prescher also covered where Syngenta is as a company and its focus on sustainable agriculture.

“Syngenta is a well-diversified company that is solely focused on agriculture,” Prescher says. “Our focus is on providing a sustainable production system by looking at ways to produce more with less. Syngenta also is interested in biodiversity and preserving what we have today and improving everyone’s lot in life so they can have affordable food. So, that is the 50,000 ft. view from looking at Syngenta.”

Advice for new ag lenders

Advice for new ag lenders

As an experienced lender, you may notice some new, younger faces in your office. I am familiar with this experience because as an educator, each new group of students seems to be younger. It is as the ancient proverb says, “time and tide wait for no man.”

Within five years, one half of Farm Service Agency staff will be gone. The trends are similar within the Farm Credit Associations and other agribusinesses. From my observation, I believe the economic downturn occurring in some agricultural sectors and rural America will accelerate retirements. Before 2021, 95 percent of the banking institutional memory from the 1980s will be retired. Recently, a Farm Credit CEO shared with me the tales of a disastrous Monday that occurred as a result of a century’s worth of experience retiring the previous Friday. The void left was undoubtedly, quite noticeable.

Increasingly, new lenders will be less familiar with agriculture and farm backgrounds. Further, expect individuals from varied backgrounds, national origins as well as perspectives to enter agricultural lending. Often, I have the privilege of conducting training for many of these new lenders and in my observation, most of them are eager to learn and provide good service to their clients.

From my perspective, I offer the following thoughts to new lenders:

Be a quick study of your client, their business and overall industry trends. In the agriculture industry, change can occur rapidly which affects your client. Make the time to understand new technology, innovation and practices. This is critical to a good lender-client relationship.

Be prepared to listen. I have heard it said, “We were given two ears and one mouth because we should listen twice as much as we speak.” The more experienced producer may test the relationship with a new lender. Be prepared to accept the challenges and then, move forward.

Cultivate the relationship. The current economic conditions are perfect for education and growing a side-by-side relationship with a producer client. However, that requires acceptance from both lenders and producers of changing times and challenges. During times of good profit, the lender-producer relationship can often be about the lowest interest rate. In more difficult times, it is about education and solutions. In almost any scenario, the relationship between the lender and producer is critical.

Do not rely solely on the numbers to identify potential problems. Credit issues and other problems start outside the numbers first. Death, disease and divorce are obvious issues that do not discriminate. However, I have noticed lately that disinterest is also a serious issue. Whatever the challenge, some producers have the ability to successfully weather a major setback. Other producers may not. As a good lender, make it your job to understand the difference.

Lenders must play several roles including teacher, coach and facilitator. Sometimes, education is required. Other times, congratulations are appropriate or perhaps, corrective actions. Often, facilitating a workable solution or plan is the lender’s job. Regardless of the required role, long-time lenders find the greatest satisfaction in relationships they develop with their clients year after year.

In summary, there is much to learn from older, more experienced lenders. However, in the absence of such opportunity, there are still several ways to serve your clients and industry well. Stay acutely aware of the industry in which you work as well as that of your clients. Be willing to serve in whatever capacity needed whether that is educating, problem-solving or just listening to your client. At the end of the day, you may find that a strong business friendship not only improves your success as a lender, it could also be quite rewarding. 

4 ways to give weaned calves an ideal start

4 ways to give weaned calves an ideal start

Calves never get over a bad start, but they also never get over a good start, according to Ted Perry, a cattle nutritionist with Purina Animal Nutrition.

"If calves get a good start on feed in the first 10 to 14 days after being weaned, it's amazing how often health issues can be minimized and the calves' performance can take off," Perry says.

Related: Quick treatment options for preventing, eliminating calf scours

Perry acknowledges that weaning time is stressful for calves. He points out that calves typically are on pasture with their dam where "life is good," when they are suddenly faced with a plethora of stressors and challenges.

Life will change soon: Calves need good nutrition as soon as they are weaned. (Thinkstock/flowersandclassicalmusic)

Calves are then weaned, shipped, commingled, processed, faced with a diet change, and face shifting weather.

Additionally, freshly weaned calves are often hungry, meaning they tend to bawl for their dam. Bawling for extended periods can irritate a calf's throat and potentially lead to respiratory disease.

"All of that stress can lead to reduced disease resistance for the calf," Perry says. "But, if you are able to get weaned calves eating quickly, then you may be able to address and potentially overcome stress and sickness."

Here are some tips to get your freshly weaned calves eating quickly:

1. Use lick tubs.

Perry suggests placing lick tubs as a free-choice supplement in calf receiving pens. He notes that supplement tubs are often popular in cow herds and calves tend to be familiar with them.

The lick tubs offer two benefits for calves. First, the licking action produces saliva that can help ease any throat irritation from bawling. Second, licking the tub stimulates calves' appetites; and they may then look for feed and water.

2. Offer palatable feeds.

When calves go in search of feed, Perry emphasizes that having palatable feed in the bunk is critical.

"If calves like the feed, they will start to eat and continue to come to the bunk," Perry says. He notes the worst-case scenario is that calves come to the bunk for the first time and find an unpalatable feed; it can then become challenging to get them back to the bunk to eat.

Perry advises using a starter ration that includes proper nutrition for calves and palatable feed ingredients, including intake control properties that can help stimulate consumption.


3. Find the right feed form.

Perry says the physical form of the feed can influence consumption. Specifically, he says, bigger pellets tend to work better for calf starter feeds.

"They are softer, and calves get more with every mouthful, which is especially important if a calf is not aggressive at the bunk," says Perry.

He adds that, in his experience, mealy feeds which tend to separate are often less appealing to calves.

4. Quality is critical.

While it may be easiest to find low-cost meal feed, Perry suggests evaluating the quality of whatever feed options are available.

"When it comes to starter feeds, you really get what you pay for," says Perry. "A lower-cost feed may be cheaper upfront but is also likely to be less palatable."

"A quality, palatable starter will get calves eating during the first 10 to 14 days post-weaning and will help your calves avoid potential sickness during this critical time frame," adds Perry. "And that's exactly what you want to achieve when you are starting calves."

Planning for all possibilities is the best way to prepare for a successful calving season. But do it right! Download our free report, Best Practices for a Successful Calving Season, to ensure you have everything in place to limit stress on you and your herd.

Source: Purina