U.S. Animal Agriculture

I recently read an article titled “Economics of Animal Agriculture Production, Processing and Marketing” by Michael J. Boehlje. My marketing professor posted the article to blackboard for us to read. I found the article to be very interesting; it discussed a lot of important agriculture topics. I thought I would share with you all my thoughts on the main points of the article.

Along with higher energy costs comes an increase in costs of livestock production. Agriculture production is greatly affected by changes in energy prices due to energy consumed directly or by energy-based inputs such as fertilizer. High energy production costs will raise prices of agricultural products, reduce overall farm income, and lower agricultural output. Ethanol production is a huge factor in the livestock industry. The demand for corn for ethanol production has been the instigator behind the high feed costs. In my opinion, if ethanol production continues to increase, this creates a risk for animal agriculture as a whole. This affects the demand for higher values meat products, which then affects the overall profitability of animal agriculture.

I do not have a full understanding of how agri-food trade works, but from my knowledge, I think cross border flows are important for U.S. agriculture. Since the value of agricultural exports has risen, profits have also increased. Cross border trade has the potential to generate economic growth as well as reducing poverty among foreign households. In the long run, this product movement would increase U.S. production, productivity, and profitability in the agriculture industry.

The article focused a lot on comparing larger firms to smaller firms. Regulations cost smaller businesses more than larger businesses. I think this will eventually push several smaller businesses off the market, creating a monopoly. Those small businesses will not have the resources to stay in business. This leads me to question the agriculture growth potential and market conditions of the industry.

I believe the advantages of U.S. animal agriculture outweigh the disadvantages. The biggest strength that first comes to mind is our current market. Cattle are currently at record high prices; futures are not showing any sign of decreases anytime soon. Our beef exports have a strong performance with Japan and Mexico being our biggest buyers. We also have a high quality of meat, such as certified Angus beef, especially when selling on a carcass merit basis. Our pork exports are currently facing some challenges such as access restrictions in Russia as well as strong competition in the Japan market. Another weakness would be the fact that we import low grade beef. Finally, packer collusion is a factor in U.S. animal agriculture. Meat packers try to maintain dominance by controlling the meat market prices. This affects the market as a whole.

You can view this article online at http://www.choicesmagazine.org/2006-3/animal/2006-3-08.htm

Skype Session with Dairy Carrie

Last week in my Public Relations in Agriculture class we had the opportunity to meet Dairy Carrie through Skype. I have never participated in a Skype webcam conversation before so I was unsure how well it would work. I thought it was very neat that we were in Missouri and she was all the way up in Wisconsin. Even through Skype I could tell what kind of person Carrie was like and what a wonderful, fun personality she had. Carrie is a big part of the agriculture industry. Surprisingly, she didn’t grow up on a farm; she married into a dairy farming family. She and her husband have 100 cows on 300 acres. Not only does she work on the farm, she has a full-time job as well. She started blogging 2 years ago; on her blog she discusses very interesting and controversial agricultural topics. She also posts educational pictures and stories to inform those who are not involved in agriculture. I asked Carrie about her writing style and what her suggestions were to those who blog. She told us to never write anything unpolished, show your personality, and be creative. Carrie also explained how important it was to reach out to people and tell our agriculture story. This is a way to help those who are not involved in agriculture understand how different parts of the industry work. Social media is a great, easy tool to use to share our story.

 
My favorite post of Carrie’s is “I never wanted to be a Wife”. I found it to be relatable and empowering. Some of her most recent popular posts involve Panera Bread, Chipotle, and even a little Ryan Gosling controversy.

 
For those of you who are not familiar with Carrie you can find her on Facebook as Dairy Carrie or visit her blog at www.dairycarrie.com.

Deer Season 2013

Opening weekend for Missouri’s firearm deer season is just a few days away. The season begins this Saturday November 16 and lasts through Tuesday November 26. It looks like the weather may cause hunter’s a problem; forecasts are predicting rain and warm temperatures all across Southern Missouri and Northern Arkansas throughout the weekend.

Here are a few regulations for those of you who are not familiar with deer hunting.

  • The shooting hours are from one-half hour before sunrise to one half hour after sunset.
  • Each hunter may take only one antlered deer during the firearms deer season.
  • All hunters may purchase any number of permits to take antlerless deer, but some county restrictions apply.
  • All hunters are required to wear orange (a hat and also a shirt, vest, or coat) so the color is clearly visible from all sides.
  • The use of bait while hunting is illegal. This includes grain or other feed placed or scattered to attract deer.
  • An area is considered baited for 10 days after complete removal of the bait.
  • It is legal to hunt over a harvested crop field, but it is not legal to add grain or other crops, such as apples or oats, to the field after it has been harvested.
  • All harvested deer must be labeled with the taker’s full name, address, Telecheck confirmation number, as well as the date taken.
  • All hunters born on or after Jan. 1, 1967, must complete an approved hunter-education program and display their card before they can purchase a firearms deer hunting permit.

You can view more deer hunting rules and regulations on Missouri Department of Conservation’s website at http://mdc.mo.gov/hunting-trapping/deer-hunting. If you are not from Missouri, please visit your state’s Department of Conservation website.

I recently got a new app on my iPhone called Hunt Predictor. This app lets you plot your hunting locations to get location based weather and prediction data. Hunt Predictor shows you a detailed weather forecast, best moon/sun times, barometric pressure, wind speed and direction, and much more helpful information. This app can not only be used for deer but turkey and waterfowl as well. Hunt Predictor is a very neat tool to use- I recommend you all to download it and check it out.

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Good luck to all of the hunters this deer season and remember to be safe!

Tyson Stops Buying Canadian Cattle

Tyson Foods, Inc. is one of the world’s largest meat processors and marketers of beef,pork, and chicken. I recently read several articles online stating that Tyson will no longer be purchasing Canadian cattle for the U.S. beef plants. The company announced that the change was due to the U.S. country-of-origin labeling rules which require labels to be placed on packages that indicate where the animal was born, raised, and slaughtered. However, Tyson will continue to buy Canadian-born animals sent to U.S. feedlots.

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Since Tyson will no longer be purchasing Canadian cattle, the company will experience a decrease in costs. The new rules would have increased costs because they entail additional requirements such as product codes and production breaks. Also, a Tyson spokesperson said that they do not have enough warehouse space to separate, categorize, and label products accordingly to the COOL requirements. The rule is designed to help the consumer during their purchasing decision.

Canada and Mexico are currently challenging the country-of-origin labeling rules before the World Trade Organization. They are claiming that it is a U.S. trade barrier.
Tyson is the third-largest buyer of Canadian cattle. Weekly, Tyson purchases roughly 3,000 cattle from Canada. What does this mean for our nation’s exports? Analysts predict that our nation’s exports will most likely decline more than 150,000 head a year

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This decision will come into effect starting November 1st. I believe this will have a chain effect on everyone from consumers to cow-calf producers, not to mention the direct effect on the Canadian beef industry. What are your thoughts and opinions on this topic? How is this going to affect you personally?

Why I Farm

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Image from whyifarm.com

Do you ever get so caught up in life that you forget to appreciate your blessings and surroundings? Just like most of you, I have several stressful and busy days trying to juggle school, work, and extra-curricular activities. During my study break yesterday, as I was scrolling through my newsfeed on Facebook, I found a video that resonated with how I was feeling. The video was posted on a Facebook page called Why I Farm, which was then shared by one of my friends.  Beck’s Hybrids is sponsoring a video contest to honor farmers and their story. They encourage everyone to make a video telling their personal story on why they farm. As I watched the first video my emotions began to intensify because it automatically hit home for me. To put it simply, farming and agriculture is my passion and life. It has been in my blood since the day I was born. To carry on the traditions and values my parents and grandparents have developed is a privilege and blessing and then to hopefully pass them on to generations to come. There are many characteristics you develop when you are raised on a farm. Work ethics, responsibility, and respect are just a few to mention. Knowing it not only benefits you and your family, but others as well is the most rewarding aspect. When you are involved in agriculture, you are connected with it every day. You are not only a part of your family farm, but the worldwide agriculture family as well. For me, personally, it is what drives me to get out of bed each morning. It is the accomplished feeling you get when you put a full, hard day of work in. You are able to see life grow, transform, and develop right before your eyes. Watching the crops grow from planting to harvest or seeing a newborn calf take its first steps is both physically and mentally rewarding. There are both good years and bad years, with many challenges and rewards in between. You are not able to call in sick or take holidays off, but the most beneficial part is being able to work side by side with your family every day. Sometimes we have to have reminders to thank God for the gift and ability he has given us to do. Tell your story and help tell agriculture’s story. To view the Why I Farm videos please visit whyifarm.com and remember to vote for your favorite.

South Dakota Cattle Loss

We all know how powerful and temperamental Mother Nature can be at times. Just over ten days ago, South Dakota farmers and ranchers experienced an early season snowstorm that dumped four feet of snow in parts of the state. Along with the snow came rain, freezing temperatures, and seventy miles an hour winds. All of these factors contributed to a farmer’s worst nightmare.

During this time, cattle were still grazing in summer pastures where adequate shelter for winter like conditions was not available. A few inches of rain fell creating a muddy mess at first. After that came the wind, freezing temperatures and snow. Livestock died of suffocation, exposure, and many froze to death. Many of them huddled up in open pastures and ravines to try to stay warm. News stations are reporting that tens of thousands of cattle did not survive this disaster. Farmers woke up devastated to their cattle scattered across the land. Most ranchers lost 50-75 percent of their herd. Can you image that? Anyone involved in agriculture knows how much of a tremendous affect that has on a farmer and our economy. This disaster, including financial loss, will take many farmers years to recover from.

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Image from thefencepost.com

The government shutdown that we are currently experiencing only makes things worse for these South Dakota farmers. Since the agriculture department is closed during this time, farmers are unable to report their loss. Also, the farm bill extension has been delayed due to the government shutdown which funded programs that provided disaster relief for farmers in similar situations.

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What does this mean for our economy?

South Dakota is our nation’s 6th leading producer of cattle. They average around four million head of cattle per year, much of which are raised for slaughter. Beef prices could drastically increase due to the losses in South Dakota, depending on how fast we can get cattle to market again.

This disaster is devastating to cattle producers and anyone involved in the agriculture industry. Those who know how much time, money, and labor that are put into a farming operation know what affect a disaster like this can cause. Since winter hasn’t even begun, many farmers are wondering what our winter is going to be like.

You can stay up-to-date on this issue at brownfieldagnews.com

Ag Industry Receives 2 Hits

As you all know, our federal government has been on a shutdown since October 1st. This happened because members of Congress could not come to a budget agreement. The shutdown has forced about 800,000 federal employees off the job. So what impact does the government shutdown have on the agriculture industry?

Farmers are currently unable to access vital agriculture reports to make critical marketing decisions. The National Agriculture Statistics Service has stopped putting out new reports. These reports include information about supply and demand, prices, and exports. These reports are also used to set prices at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. Feeder cattle are currently at a record high. According to the CME, live cattle and feeder cattle futures could be impacted. All website with past information have been taken down due to this government shutdown. Farmers are not able to track cattle auction prices as well. However, some USDA duties will continue through this shutdown such as meat and poultry inspections.

Since the United States Department of Agriculture is not operating, neither are local farm service agencies. This means farmers can not apply for loans, sign up for different governmental programs, or receive government checks from programs that are already enrolled in.

This shutdown occurred just at the same time our current farm bill expired. The combination of the two events will have short and long term impacts. This bill does a number of things including managing food stamps and regulating crop insurance. Many farm bill programs are funded through the whole year so the first major effects will take place at the beginning of 2014. Also, the farm bill expiration caused funding to expire for a few different conservation programs such as the Conservation Reserve Program and the Grassland Reserve Program.

The effects of the government shutdown will be different for each person and business involved in the agriculture industry. It is unclear how long this shutdown will continue. How long do you think this shutdown will continue? How is this government shutdown affecting you and your family?

Ozarks Farm & Neighbor

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Last week in my Public Relations in Agriculture class we had a guest speaker. Lynzee Glass, who is the managing editor for Ozarks Farm & Neighbor, visited with us about their newspaper and discussed social media’s role in their business. Ozarks Farm & Neighbor was first published in September of 1998 covering only 9 counties in Missouri. Today, this newspaper goes out to 58,000 different readers in 60 counties across parts of Southwest Missouri, Northwest Arkansas, and Eastern Oklahoma. This publication, which comes out every 3 weeks, offers a variety of different benefits for today’s farmer including: educational tools and articles, neighbor stories, breaking news, community news, and classified ads that are beneficial before making a purchase. The average reader of Ozarks Farm & Neighbor in Missouri is a male between the ages of 35 and 64; surprisingly, his main income is not from a farm. On average, he runs a 329 acre cow-calf operation.

Lynzee informed us that Ozarks Farm and Neighbor utilize a few different types of social media. They joined Facebook in 2009 and now have around 1400 followers. Since their paper only comes every 3 weeks, they use Facebook to publish stories in a timely manner to keep their audience informed. Ozarks Farm and Neighbor recently joined Twitter to stay in touch with their readers and to hopefully expand their audience. Another form of social media the business utilizes is HootSuite. HootSuite is a form of social media management. It enables a business to manage multiple networks and profiles at the same time; it allows the operator to schedule status updates and tweets as well. Using these forms of social media has created a new door for Ozarks Farm and Neighbor. They are now available to reach a newer audience at a cheaper and faster way. It allows them to stay in touch with their audience every day and get as many people involved with their magazine as they can. Also, using social media has targeted a new market/audience for their newspaper.

Using social media has allowed Ozarks Farm and Neighbor to expand its audience. This is return creates more interest and business. No matter what kind of business you have, I believe any business can benefit from utilizing social media. I encourage each of you to “like” Ozarks Farm and Neighbor’s Facebook page and visit their website at http://ozarksfn.com/ as well. You can follow them at https://twitter.com/OzarksFarm.

 

 

Missouri Food Dialogues

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Recently, the Food Dialogues were held in Columbia, Missouri. It was sponsored by Missouri Farmers Care and U.S. Farmers & Ranchers Alliance. I watched the discussion on Missouri Farmers Care’s Facebook page. The first discussion was regarding animal welfare and livestock. The second discussion focused on biotechnology- conventional and organic. Each discussion had a different set of panelist who had a background and expertise in a certain agriculture field. For myself, I have a strong background dealing with livestock so I had a more of an interest in the second panel than the first because I felt that I could relate my story and opinions to theirs.

One of the experts on the panel, Travis Tucker, who is the owner of Bleu Restaurant in Columbia, Missouri, is originally from my hometown of Thayer, Missouri. This made me have a special interest due to the fact that I actually knew someone on the panel.

I was pleased with the overall message that was given during the Food Dialogue. There were several current controversial topics that were discussed. One topic was regarding labels on food and the confusion that comes along with them. I think Chris Chinn, the owner of Chinn Hog Farm, made an excellent point regarding this topic. She stated that when people see the word “organic” they are lead to believe that the product is healthier than its counter product- when in reality the nutritional value is the same. Organic just pertains to the method of how the object was produced. Of course the infamous Chipotle video was brought up. I agreed with the panelist; I believe that the video was just a way for them to market their product and to beat their competitors. However, the video is a complete misrepresentation of the agriculture industry.

I personally think this is the best way to educate the public. In order to educate others we must tell our story and pass our knowledge onto others who are indecisive or have an uneducated view about an issue. We must educate people that have misconceptions because the agriculture industry is a vital part to our economy and country. These issues are highly concentrated on today and I believe they will continue to be that way.

I think anyone can learn something by watching the Food Dialogues. I learned that Missouri is ranked 3rd in the country for our cow-calf operations. Also, I learned that our country’s beef herd is the lowest it has been in 60 years.

If you have not watched the Food Dialogue video I strongly encourage you to do so on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/MoFarmersCare or on their YouTube channel.

Photo provided by brownfieldagnews.com

The Drought Returns

Despite the record amount of rainfall Missouri has experienced this past spring, the recent heat and lack of precipitation has the area in a drought.  According to the United States Department of Agriculture, Iowa, Illinois, and Missouri are currently in a “flash drought.”  A flash drought is defined by high temperatures, cloudy days, low humidity, and high evapotranspiration rates along with lack of rainfall. This all coincides poorly with the stages of corn and soybeans.  Driving around it is obvious that these crops are nearing physiological maturity and this correlates with grain fill.  Lack of moisture at this crucial time simply means yield will be reduced.  This is ironic because of the growing conditions we had this spring which led farmers and speculators to foresee a record yields.  However, currently producers are becoming uneasy with the recent environmental factors and the current market prices.  Farmers don’t see the record yields that the speculators do and therefor believe that prices should be higher.  It is early to tell what yields will actually be, but some early reports are leaving some people optimistic.  I have heard of yields that range from 70 to 189 bushels per acre.  Not only is this a concern, but a lot of acres in Iowa didn’t get planted because of the rain.  This leads us back to the current flash drought and the effects it leaves on the acres were planted before the rains and had good growing conditions.  I find this interesting because we had an excess rainfall which led us to recoup moisture lost in the 2012 growing season. Flash forward to now and we are experiencing a lack of moisture when we really need it and what is funny is that this all happened in one growing season.   I am curious to see how the markets follow the yields as they come in this harvest season.  Do any of you have a prediction? Will the markets be volatile?

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