April 24, 2018

• Efforts are underway to help with wildfire relief in western Oklahoma. Donations of hay, cash, and supplies are being accepted. Donation contact information can be found here.

• Cattle and calves on feed for the U.S. slaughter market (feedlots with capacity of 1,000 or more cattle) totaled 11.7 million head on April 1, according to USDA’s Cattle on Feed report. The inventory was 7 percent above one year ago and is the second highest April 1 inventory since the series began in 1996. Placements in feedlots during March totaled 1.92 million head, 9 percent below 2017.

• Even with dismal prices, milk production in the U.S. during March rose 1.3 percent from one year ago. The nation’s dairy herd was also up 23,000 head from March 2017, according to USDA’s monthly Milk Production report.

• Barring a future adjustment, average monthly milk production per cow during March hit an all-time record at 2,019 pounds. The previous high was May 2017 with 2,016 pounds produced per cow. This might be a short-lived record with the normal spring flush just around the corner.

• This year’s Grassfed Exchange Conference will be held June 20 to 22 in Rapid City, S.D. Registration and program information is available here.

April 17, 2018

• With the past weekend’s extreme rain and snow events in a large section of the U.S., an early-planting season can be taken off the table. There’s still some hope for near normal, but things will need to turn around quickly. Spring forage growth will also be slowed.

• On April 13, the 2018 Farm Bill was introduced in the House of Representatives.

• A Penn State University agronomist encourages growers to scout for cereal rust mites in timothy fields.

• Sales of four-wheel-drive farm tractors were down 5.2 percent in March but up 4.8 percent over the first quarter of 2018, according to the Association of Equipment Manufacturers. Total farm tractor sales were up 4 percent in March and were 0.3 percent higher during the first quarter.

• Kansas State University will be hosting a Beef Cattle and Forage Crops Field Day on May 3 at their Southeast Research & Extension Center in Parsons. Moving far to the southeast, the University of Georgia will be offering several Alfalfa in the South workshops from May 1 to 10.

April 10, 2018

• Total U.S. alfalfa exports for February were 197,838 metric tons (MT), according to data from USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service. That export total was up 16 percent from January but down 11 percent from February 2017.

• China continues to be the 800-pound gorilla when it comes to buying U.S. alfalfa, but their thirst for the crop has waned so far in 2018 compared to last year. That country imported 87,721 MT of alfalfa in February, down from 109,541 MT (20 percent) in 2017.

• Saudi Arabia bought 28,437 MT of U.S. alfalfa in February, up 53 percent from one year ago. Alfalfa production in that country is being severely restricted by water conservation rules. Their biggest purchase month to date was September 2017 when they bought 41,841 MT.

• Early alfalfa weevil feeding is being reported by Kansas State University entomologists.

• The Noble Research Institute in Ardmore, Okla., is having success breeding oat varieties with significantly improved winterhardiness.

April 3, 2018

• Acres harvested for hay in the U.S. are expected to remain unchanged in 2018 compared to last year, based on USDA’s Prospective Plantings report released last week. Farmers and ranchers expect to harvest 53.78 million hay acres in 2018.

• Soybean acres are expected to outpace those of corn for the first time ever. U.S. farmers intend to plant 89 million acres of soybeans compared to 88 million acres of corn. The corn number is down 2 percent from last year and initially pushed markets upward. Cotton acres in the U.S. are expected to jump 7 percent in 2018. There’s still plenty of time for these dynamics to change.

• With the downturn in wheat acres and prices, alfalfa is now the nation’s third most valuable crop, according to a recent National Alfalfa & Forage Alliance (NAFA) news release. Based on USDA’s 2017 figures, alfalfa is valued at over $9.3 billion, $1.2 billion more than wheat.

• Based on data from Kansas State University, many wheat varieties have now reached the first hollow stem stage of development. Grazing past this stage significantly reduces grain yields for dual-purpose wheat.

• More and more, it’s becoming obvious that any summer grazing plan must also include a drought plan. The latter is what we fondly call Plans B and C.