Escalating unrest in the Middle East is going to continue to drive gasoline and diesel fuel prices up to 2008 levels, and there’s a good chance it will do the same to the cost of fertilizing pastures, according to a Texas AgriLife Research expert.

Even if it doesn’t further contribute to rising fertilizer costs, they’re high enough already that livestock producers “absolutely must learn to better-manage nitrogen applications to stay in business,” says Monte Rouquette, AgriLife Research forage scientist.

Rouquette will be one of the instructors at the upcoming Pasture and Livestock Management Workshop, a 2½-day course set for March 29-31 at the Texas AgriLife Research and Extension Center in Overton.

The course has always been about helping both novice and experienced producers Better-manage inputs and utilize forage resources, he says. Now, with fertilizer costs rising again, it’s more critical than ever for those in the cow-calf business to “fine-tune livestock production inputs and management skills from the grass roots up,” he adds.

“The cost of ammonium nitrate today is $460/ton, or about 68¢/lb,” Rouquette says. “Last year about this time it was 53¢/lb.”

Fertilizer costs have been rising for the last six to 10 years. They relaxed somewhat after 2008 when they reached 70-75¢/lb. But even before the Middle East meltdown, prices had been steadily climbing.

Though nitrogen fertilizer is made from natural gas, all fuel prices are linked, he explains, so the increase in one leads to a rise in others. There’s also the associated cost of transporting and applying fertilizer as the cost of diesel rises.

This all could mean that cow-calf and other livestock producers will have to drastically rethink their production strategies as all the modern, improved warm-season grasses are big users of nitrogen.

“We are revisiting the dilemma of the price of fertilizer becoming a major constraint on pasture use, and that would indicate that if managers don’t have efficient cattle that have sales value – as well as a plan for utilization of the forage that is produced – then fertilizers may wind up on the endangered list,” says Rouquette.

Dealing with these issues and others will be a major thrust of the grazing school, he says.

Registration for the course is $350 per person. The fee includes breakfast and break refreshments along with two noon and evening barbeque and ribeye steak meals.

Workshop instruction is divided between the classroom and the field. In-field demonstrations cover all aspects of running a beef operation, including establishing and maintaining high-quality forages, calibrating sprayers, taking soil samples, castrating and vaccinating cattle and dehorning calves.

A full agenda can be found at http://overton.tamu.edu/beef_cattle/grazing_school/grazingschool.php .

Enrollment is limited to 60 individuals. To register or for more information, contact Jennifer Lloyd at 903-834-6191 or jllloyd@ag.tamu.edu. Lloyd will have information on class openings, local accommodations and driving directions to the center, says Rouquette.