Tools & Technologies
5 Food Production Risks Digital Ag Can Solve
Technology and precision ag tools can help producers “grow more with less.” However, technology tools can truly prove their value in risk reduction across the food chain, helping producers, processors, retailers, and consumers identify and manage risk. Digital agriculture can help reduce risk in five main areas:
News & Research
Stocking Rate Still Reigns Supreme
When it comes to planned grazing, there are a lot of opinions, debates, and opposing articles to decipher. Often, authors and speakers use “science” to justify their opinion, often deeply rooted in politics. Most of the time, the specific climate, soil, grass varieties, and other variables are absent from the argument. According to Rob Cook of Progressive Cattlemen, it is often best for grazing managers to choose the middle ground at first, and make small changes over time to optimize grass performance on their particular ranch. Cook explains that setting a proper stocking rate is the key decision producers must make before any other changes will be effective. Read full article
Expert Analysis: Still-strong calf prices receive seasonal squeeze
Calf prices are still strong, but narrow, uncertain cattle futures and the increasing number of calves going to market put downward pressure on calf prices this week. Fed cattle prices remain relatively steady, with negotiated prices hanging around $111 per cwt. Read full article
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Tools & Technologies
Rotational Grazing Programs Can Help Drive Profitability
Rotational grazing methods can significantly lower input costs and improve profitability. This article by Beef Magazine provides a case study of the potential benefits. On a ranch southeast of Waco, Texas, the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service is conducting a 10-year study of conventional grazing vs planned grazing with multi-species cover cropping. After five years of the study, results indicate the planned grazing portion of the ranch is significantly more profitable than conventional grazing. Despite reducing the herd size of the planned grazing portion of the ranch by 40%, researchers obtained a $4.16 profit per acre, while the traditional portion of the ranch lost $0.28 per acre. Read full article.
Rotational Grazing Planning Tool
Planning a rotational grazing program depends on many variables and can quickly become complex. PastureMap is a software program that simplifies the process of planning grazing rotations to maximize profit. Read full article
Live cattle markets pushed into a 3-month high at the end of last week, and the trend is continuing this week. In-line with historical seasonality, market data is indicating a slight tightening of market ready live cattle supplies. The slight reduction in supply combined with the reduced weight gain during the cold, sloppy weather is helping to push the LC market higher. Read full article
News & Research
Colder & Wetter than Average Winter Expected in Most Regions
Many regions of the US experienced a wet summer and early fall, but what’s in store for the winter? That depends on who you ask. Many meteorologists recommend not trusting weather predictions outside of about 10 days because long-term forecasts may be wildly inaccurate for a narrowly defined periods of time. However, research indicates forecasters can identify general trends. Winter forecasts from Accuweather and Farmer’s Almanac generally agree this winter will be wetter and slightly colder than normal in most regions. Read the articles from each agency for a more detailed forecast of your region.
The Hard (but rewarding) Work of Farm & Ranch Life
Recent studies are confirming what we already knew--ranchers and farmers are some of the hardest workers in the world. A 2013 survey by Agweb.com showed the average daily hours worked by ranchers and farmers is 10.8, and nearly 20% work more than 15 hours per day. Ag production is a 6-7 days per week job, putting the average work week for ranchers and farmers around 65-70 hours.
Amongst the world's largest economies, Americans work the most, with an average work week of 34.4 hours. This means that most ranchers and farmers work twice as long as the average worker in the world's hardest working labor force. The good news is the long hours spent outside helps build a healthier immune system.
Studies indicate farmers & ranchers are healthier
We all know that hard work and responsibility are good for our mental health and personal development. Science also tells us life in the dirty outdoors is good for health. Studies show kids and adults who are exposed to dirt, dust, and animals (manure) have better immune responses and lower sensitivity to allergies.
Our View - Solid end to 3rd quarter; high inventory raises caution
The third quarter ended better than expected for producers, with prices being $10-11 higher than a year ago. This equates to a 30% recovery from the lows of 2016. Despite the highest September beef production in eight years, global demand for beef is on the rise and futures markets are displaying trader's confidence in a rising market. However, with increased numbers in the supply chain, the current level could be hard to sustain.
The recent optimism in the feeder market is largely attributable to the lack of any positive move in the corn market. The historical relationship between corn prices and beef prices may indicate that producers should consider opportunities to hedge or contract their near term feeders. The longer term implications suggest we will probably enter another phase of over fed and heavy weight cattle in the spring.
More Expert Analysis
Cassandra Fish, former risk management executive at IBP/Tyson Foods, generally agrees with our view. For both technical reasons and fundamental supply chain issues, she expects the sideways pattern in the market to continue in the near term. Read her analysis here.
Technology and Tools
Drones are coming...but not quite yet
For some ranchers and farmers, drones are becoming an indispensable tool. They're providing a vantage point previously not possible, and they are flexible tools that can be adapted to a wide variety of use cases. For farming, they bring unprecedented insight into soil and crop health, helping producers to optimize inputs and maximize production. While the adoption in ranching has not been as quick, the potential for drones to help livestock producers is significant. As discussed by Danielle Schlegel of Progressive Cattleman, appropriately equipped drones can help ranchers save time and find lost livestock. In the future, drones may even be used to track livestock with RFID tags.
At Barn Owl, we agree drones will bring significant value to ranchers and farmers in the future. However, we believe drones are not quite ready for wide-spread adoption. Technology limitations and regulatory constraints will limit the value and adoption of drones for at least a few more years. See our analysis of drones for ranchers for more details.
Barn Owl provides remote monitoring solutions to improve the efficiency and security of farmers & ranchers. See an overview of our solutions here, or give us a call at 720-593-6957 to see how we can help you.