Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Tuesday December 16 Ag News

Cow Herd Biosecurity
Larry Howard, UNL Extension Educator, Cuming County

Some cattle producers are thinking about increasing their herd size. For many, this increase comes from outside sources- like a neighbor, sale barn, or video auction. What can you do to protect your herd from outside diseases brought in by new cattle? Nebraska Extension Beef Veterinarian, Richard Randle has shared some information that will be useful as producers make decisions. 

Any time animals are co-mingled there is an increased risk of introducing disease into the herd or group of animals. While this risk cannot be totally eliminated, there are steps that can be taken to reduce the amount of risk and minimize the threat.  Start with your local veterinarian to discuss your concerns and needs.  The following are general recommendations that should be considered in developing a plan when contemplating expansion of the herd.


Before you bring animals into your herd from another source, you should work with your veterinarian to assess the status of your own herd. Is your vaccination protocol adequate and current? Consider diseases like IBR, BVD, leptospirosis, Brucellosis and trichomoniasis.


New animals should be isolated from the existing herd for at least 30 days. During this time, close observation should be made to detect any type of health problem early.  The isolation facility should have no fence line contact with the existing herd. These animals should be observed, fed, and handled last.  This isolation period also provides time to perform diagnostic testing and to administer health products such as vaccines, dewormers, and external parasite control to the animals before joining the herd. These new animals should receive the same vaccination protocol as your current herd paying attention to following label directions on the vaccines.


While the new animals are isolated, you can test them for potential diseases. A good example of this is testing for persistently infected (PI) BVD animals. Current tests for PI animals are reliable but if appropriate testing is not performed, the risk is still present. Suppose you buy a group of pregnant females and test them for PI BVD. The test results are all negative. You can be pretty confident none of the females are persistently infected. However, you still do not know the status of the fetus the pregnant female is carrying. In this case, these animals would need to be kept separate from the rest of the herd until they have calved and the calves tested.

An ounce of prevention goes a long way to save your herd from potential diseases and infections! Taking the time to work with your veterinarian on a plan ahead of time is an important first step.

Saunders County Designated Livestock Friendly

Today, Gov. Dave Heineman announced the official designation of Saunders County as Nebraska’s newest county to receive the Livestock Friendly County designation through the Nebraska Department of Agriculture. Today’s announcement marks the final Livestock Friendly County designation of Gov. Heineman’s administration. Since he took office, nearly 1/3rd of Nebraska’s counties have earned this designation.

“Agriculture is our state’s most important industry, and livestock production is an essential part of our success. Being part of the Livestock Friendly program is significant and it is a great way to recognize the tremendously positive impact the livestock industry has on Main Streets and the local economy,” said Gov. Heineman.

With the addition of Saunders County, there are now 29 counties designated as Livestock Friendly through the state program. Saunders County joins Adams, Banner, Box Butte, Cuming, Dawes, Dawson, Deuel, Dodge, Gage, Garden, Grant, Hitchcock, Holt, Jefferson, Johnson, Kimball, Keith, Knox, Lincoln, Merrick, Morrill, Otoe, Pawnee, Saline, Scotts Bluff, Sheridan, Wayne and Webster counties.

Gov. Heineman presented the Livestock Friendly certificate to Saunders County Supervisors Doris Karloff, Dave Lutton, Scott Sukstorf, Darren Martin, Craig Breunig, Leroy Hanson, and Ed Rastovski. Saunders County will receive road signs bearing the program logo to display along highways. The state program is coordinated by the Department of Agriculture.

Department of Agriculture Director Greg Ibach said the official designation makes a positive statement about each county’s commitment to rural economic development through livestock production. “It is clear from the submitted materials that county officials have given some purposeful thought to supporting the livestock industry. We are pleased to welcome Saunders County into the program.”

To apply for a livestock friendly county designation, the county board must hold a public hearing and pass a resolution to apply. A completed application is then submitted to Department of Agriculture for review. Local producers or community groups can encourage their county board to submit a livestock friendly county application.

Additional information on the Livestock Friendly County program is available by contacting the Nebraska Department of Agriculture toll-free at 800-422-6692, or by visiting the Department of Agriculture website at and clicking the Livestock Friendly County link.

Winter Time Feeding

Steve Tonn, UNL Extension Educator, Washington County

Hay feeding time has started and feeding big round bales sure makes the job easier.  Large bale feeding systems are designed to minimize labor but not waste.   Most producers feed hay in some kind of feeder but did you know the type of feeder can affect how much hay is wasted?

Feeding hay in a rack or a round bale feeder limits the opportunity animals have to trample or soil hay, and reduces waste substantially.  Least feeding losses occur where hay is fed with a rack or bale feeder that forces the animal to turn its head when backing away from the feeder.   When animals can back straight out of a feeder, they can pull out large chunks of hay that drop on the ground and are lost as feed.  Research at the University of Nebraska and Michigan State University has shown feed waste of 3.3%, 5.9%, 9%, 11.1%, and 14.2% for cone, ring feeder with skirt, racks, trailer and cradle feeders.  Long feeders are less effective than round or square feeders because boss animals will push others back by walking down the long feeder, interrupting their feeding and reducing their intake.  The Noble Foundation has an easy to use spreadsheet to help you calculate hay wastage:

Cone feeders are more expensive but when you figure the amount and value of the hay that is saved, they may be worth the extra cost especially if you have feeders with no skirts on them.

Hay loss and waste can also be reduced by managing how often we feed.  Daily feeding will force cattle to eat hay they might otherwise refuse, over-consume, trample and waste.  Cattle waste less hay when the amount fed is limited to what is needed each day.   One fourth more hay is needed when a four-day supply is fed with free access.  If hay is fed free choice, cows will over consume.

While some losses will always occur, keeping losses to a minimum can reduce feed costs, resulting in more efficient use of forages and increasing the profitability of the cow herd enterprise.

North Dakota State University has studied the potential for digestive problems in cattle that consume net wrap, plastic twine, biodegradable twine and sisal twine.  Their research shows that after 14 days net wrap, biodegradable twine are not broken down in the rumen.  70% of sisal twine does get broken down.  A little twine or net wrap in the rumen may not be damaging but as the cow accumulates it over time problems could arise.  Might pay to take a little more time and remove all the net wrap or twine.         

Finally, do you know the nutrient content of your hay or forages?  Testing forages lets you determine their best and most economical use.  It helps you to allocate higher quality forage to high producing livestock and poorer quality forages to animals at lower levels of production.  For a list of testing labs contact me.  UNL Extension also has a NebGuide on Sampling Feeds for Analyses.

Questions to consider:

How much hay is wasted by my cows and what is it costing me?
Do my hay feeders have a solid ring or skirt on them?
Is this the year to replace some of my old feeders with a better feeder?  Cone feeder?
Do I get all the strings off my bales before feeding? 
What is the nutrient quality of my hay/forages?

For more beef information, check out the UNL Extension beef web site--  


January 2014 Report Revealed U.S. Cattle Inventory at Its Lowest in 60 Years, Current Count Needed

In January, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) will survey more than 40,000 cattle operations nationwide to provide an up-to-date measure of U.S. cattle inventories. As cattle prices have rebounded and feed costs have declined, an updated look at cattle numbers across the nation will determine if producers have begun rebuilding their herds from last year’s level which was the lowest in 60 years.

“In January 2014, Iowa’s cattle inventory of 3.7 million head ranked 7th in the U.S. Of the total cattle inventory, 1.23 million were cattle and calves on feed which ranked Iowa 4th in the nation,” said Greg Thessen, Director of the NASS Upper Midwest Regional Office. “Obtaining the current count of cattle will serve as a critical decision-making tool for producers and the entire agriculture industry.” 

During the first two weeks of January, Iowa producers will have the opportunity to report their beef and dairy cattle inventories, calf crop, death loss and the number of cattle on feed.  “This information helps producers make timely, informed marketing decisions and plan for herd expansion or reduction,” Thessen explained. “Additionally, the information producers provide helps promote exports, inform the public about the industry, and determine expected future slaughter volume.”

As is the case with all NASS surveys, information provided by respondents is confidential by law. NASS safeguards the privacy of all responses and publishes only state- and national-level data, ensuring that no individual producer or operation can be identified.

The January Cattle report will be released on January 30, 2015. This and all NASS reports are available online at

Master Equine Program Provides Training for Those Interested in Horses

The Master Equine Manager program offers participants a comprehensive educational series on horse management and riding and training concepts.

A partnership of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and Iowa State University, the course is available online at A complete program description and registration information are available there.

Kathy Anderson, UNL Extension horse specialist, said the program is designed to enhance the broad-based horse industry by informing and educating people on quality horse care and responsible horse ownership.

Horse owners, enthusiasts, boarding facility managers and industry employees benefit from increased knowledge and networking with others in the horse industry. The program combines focused learning opportunities with a hands-on practical evaluation.

The learning modules and topics include:
            – Welfare of Horses: Understanding Horse Behavior, Facilities and Equipment, Equine Quality Assurance
            – Horse Nutrition: Forages for Horses, Feeds and Feeding
            – Horse Health: Equine Emergency Treatment, Vaccinations for Horses, Understanding Horse Parasites, and Hoof Care
            – Selection of Horses: Conformation and Evaluation, Unsoundness's and Blemishes

Cost is $325 for adults (19 and older), $250 for youths, who might be high school juniors or seniors.

More information is available from Anderson, 402-472-6414,

Registrations are accepted from junior and senior high school students and adults with an interest in horses. Graduates of the program will become a certified Master Equine Manager and are encouraged to share their skills and knowledge with others. The program is approved by Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship and Certified Horsemanship Association – Certified Riding Instructors for CE credit for recertification.

Iowa's Winter Manure Application Rules Kick in Dec. 21

Animal producers with totally roofed (confinement) facilities face limits on applying liquid manure starting Dec. 21 if the ground is snow-covered.

The state rules kick in then, because runoff and nutrient loss after winter manure application is more likely when manure can't be injected into the soil or incorporated into a field.

Starting Dec. 21, liquid manure cannot be applied on snow-covered ground. These limits affect confinement facilities with liquid manure that have 500 or more animal units. Generally, 500 animal units is 1,250 finishing hogs; 5,000 nursery pigs; 500 steers, immature dairy cows or other cattle; or 357 mature dairy cows.

Except in emergencies, the law limits liquid manure application from Dec. 21 to April 1 if the ground is snow-covered with an inch or more of snow or one-half inch of ice. If manure can be properly injected or incorporated, it can be land applied during this time.

Starting Feb. 1, liquid manure application on frozen ground is restricted.

Producers must call the local DNR field office to report emergency applications before they apply.

While the law affects confinements with liquid manure, open feedlots and poultry producers can help keep manure in place by using common sense and choosing application areas far from a stream, on flat land with little snow cover.

All producers must follow setbacks from certain buildings and environmentally sensitive areas.

Search for more information on separation distances and winter manure application at Recommendations from the Iowa Manure Management Action Group about applying manure in winter are available at or

Strategies offered by Iowa AgState to help farmers capture value from ‘Big Data’

Leading Iowa farm organizations, agribusinesses, state government and Iowa State University have developed comprehensive action steps to help harness the power of agricultural data to the benefit of farmers.

“The Digital Transformation of Row Crop Agriculture” report, developed by The Hale Group at the direction of Iowa AgState (Agricultural Strategic Thinkers Acting Together Effectively), provides a roadmap for how agricultural data can be protected and used to boost farmer productivity, efficiency and profitability.

Key recommendations resulting from the 10-month study include:
·         Provide continuous, ongoing education for farmers, ag retailers and policy makers about the issue and its implications to expedite informed decision making;
·         Create an independent, farmer-controlled data warehouse for farm level data and aggregated agronomic data that can be used to better serve farmer participants; and
·         Continuously assess products, services, and business models in the market while promoting uniform, agreed-upon industry standards and guidelines pertaining to farmer data.

The report also recommends obtaining additional input from farmers on the digital information products and services that best serve their needs and creating a center for inter-disciplinary research that positions Iowa farmers to be at the cutting edge of digital technology for generations to come.

“It’s about optimizing farmer productivity, profitability and sustainability,” said Brian Kemp, AgState immediate past chair and grain farmer from Sibley, Iowa. “Digital transformations will create structural change in agriculture. Farmers are still able to help shape these outcomes and this report provides direction.”

Dean Lemke, nutrient management and environmental stewardship director of the Agribusiness Association of Iowa and AgState member, said the project complements other regional and national projects focused on similar concerns and opportunities.

“With this report in hand, we will now pivot quickly to include national organizations and other state organizations,” he said. “This is the beginning of exciting developments that will serve farmers and the greater industry. As a national agricultural leader, Iowa has a unique role to provide key insight.”

The report, posted online by many AgState partners, focused on four major topics: technology, business models, policy and farmer education. It approached the issue from the perspective of Iowa row crop farmers with the implication of the findings for other sectors of agriculture also addressed.

“Big Data” is not a new issue for agriculture but the ability to collect, interpret and put it to use is increasing exponentially. Questions by farmers about how the data is being collected and who has rights to it serves as the catalyst for the AgState digital farming project.

“Ultimately, a better understanding and use of data will help farmers continuously improve,” Lemke added. “It will also give them a more authoritative voice that provides leverage in matters that affect their business.”

Kemp agreed, saying it’s about farmers capturing the value of the data they produce without compromising their proprietary information and intellectual property rights.

Big data, as defined by The Hale Group, is both structured and unstructured data whose scale, diversity and complexity require new architecture, techniques, algorithms and analytics to manage and interpret it and extract value and hidden knowledge.  Big data is a key element in the new industry of Digital Agriculture which is built on the collection, use, coordination, and analysis of data from a multiplicity of sources with the goal of optimizing productivity, profitability and sustainability of farming operations.

Recently, a national coalition of major farm organizations and ag technology providers announced an agreement on data privacy and security principles which focuses on priority issues for farmers, including Big Data ownership, transparency, portability and data availability.

AgState is committed to exploring potential questions related to the use of Big Data on behalf the respective constituencies it represents while working closely with national partners to serve farmers.

'Raising Your Best Calf Ever' Workshops Start Jan. 5

Dairy producers are encouraged to attend one of the, one-day workshops, focused on Raising Your Best Calf Ever, hosted by the I-29 Dairy Outreach Consortium. The workshops will be held in South Dakota, Iowa, Minnesota and North Dakota beginning Jan. 5.

Topics to be covered include:

-- Automatic Calf Feeders - Pro's and con's when utilizing: presented by Jim Paulson and Jim Salfer, Regional Extension Educators/Dairy, University of Minnesota.
-- Ventilation - When tube ventilation works and doesn't work: presented by Kevin Janni, Ag Biosystems Engineering Specialist University of Minnesota.
-- Milk Replacers: Accelerated growth vs. non-accelerated feeding: presented by Hugh Chester Jones - Dairy Specialist University of Minnesota.
-- Heifer diets and considerations when feeding DDGS: presented by Jill Anderson, Assistant Professor SDSU Dairy Science Department.
-- Calf Health - Dealing with respiratory and scours problems, and considerations for raising a healthy calf. Also a 15 minutes brief FYI on the Veterinary Feed
-- Directive update - presented by Russ Daly, DVM, SDSU Extension Veterinarian.

To register for the workshop, visit online event registration. The early registration rates are $50 for adults and $20 for students. After December 30, the rates will adjust to $65 for adults and $25 for students. The Western Iowa Dairy Alliance (WIDA) will cover up to $50 of the registration fee for members.

Workshops begin at 10 a.m. and run until 3 p.m.
-- Iowa: Jan. 5 at the ISU Sioux County Extension Complex, Central Ave. NW, Suite 700, Orange City, Iowa
-- South Dakota: Jan. 6 at the Days Inn, 2500 6th Street, Brookings, S.D.
-- Minnesota: Jan. 7 at the Ottertail County Government Center meeting room 520 West First Ave, Fergus Falls, Minn.
-- North Dakota: Jan. 8 at the Baymont Inn - Seven Seas, 2611 Old Red Trail, Mandan, N.D.

For more information, contact Tracey Erickson, SDSU Extension Dairy Field Specialist, at 605-882-5140.

ASA Hails Senate Passage of One-Year Tax Extenders Package, Renews Call for Longer-Term Solution

Earlier this evening, the Senate passed a one-year extension of multiple tax incentives and credits, including several that have direct impacts on soybean farmers. The American Soybean Association (ASA) welcomed passage of the bill, which would extend the dollar-per-gallon Biodiesel Tax Incentive, as well as the Section 179 expensing provision that farmers and other business owners use when purchasing new equipment and infrastructure, among other items.

“Today's passage of the tax extenders bill is a welcome relief to farmers as we close our books on 2014," said Wade Cowan, a farmer from Brownfield, Texas, and the new president of ASA. "While it's not the long-term fix we need, the legislation does include the dollar-per-gallon biodiesel tax credit, expensing for farm equipment and infrastructure under Section 179, and bonus depreciation on farm assets, all of which provide greater certainty and a more stable climate for the farmers and producers who make use of these programs."

In noting ASA's approval of the one-year extension, Cowan pushed Congress to redouble its efforts to pass a longer-term tax extenders package. "These aren't solutions that benefit farmers in some years and not in others; we need them every year on every farm," he said. "So we encourage both chambers of Congress to come together and find a solution that extends these beneficial provisions for the long term. What we need is certainty in the tax code, not a guessing game."

Also included in the package was language from the House's Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act, which carried with it a provision to increase the barge fuel fee by nine cents a gallon to fund needed waterways infrastructure projects. The fee, which is supported by those in the waterways industry, dedicates funds to new waterways infrastructure construction and major rehabilitation of the inland waterways system through the Inland Waterways Trust Fund.

Congress Passes Key Tax Extenders Legislation

Today, the U.S. Senate voted 76 to 16 to pass a tax extenders package that holds key provisions for small businesses such as section 179 expensing and bonus depreciation. The tax extenders package was previously approved in the U.S. House of Representatives and now heads to the White House for approval. National Cattlemen’s Beef Association President Bob McCan said this is great news for cattlemen and women.

“America’s cattle producers are primarily family-owned small businesses who need stability in the tax code in order to make sound business decisions,” said McCan, a cattleman from Victoria, Texas. “This tax extenders package encourages economic growth and provides greater certainty in the tax code.”

Kent Bacus, director of legislative affairs for NCBA, said the extension of Section 179, a provision that provides a higher deduction level for some capital expenditures, like machinery and equipment, and the extension of bonus depreciation are key for producers.

“Last year producers were able to expense up to $500,000 on capital investments, but this year that was lowered to $25,000,” said Bacus. “For large equipment purchases and other capital investments, cattle producers need certainty in order to properly plan for their business.” 

Unfortunately, the retroactive extension means producers will be operating under an expired tax code in 2015, but it could add the needed pressure to complete a comprehensive tax reform deal in the New Year, said Bacus.

NCBA on Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee Meeting

Statement by Texas medical doctor and cattle producer Dr. Richard Thorpe on today's Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee meeting to discuss the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, where the Committee made clear their intention to remove lean beef and reduce red meat consumption from  healthful dietary patterns:

"Despite a large body of strong and consistent evidence supporting lean beef’s role in healthy diets, the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee appears to be out of touch with today’s lean meat supply in the retail counter and the 30+ years of nutrition advice showcasing benefits of lean beef. I am deeply disappointed that the Committee missed this opportunity to positively influence the American diet by blatantly disregarding sound science and removing lean beef from a healthful dietary pattern. 

"Today, for the second time, the Committee presented and agreed to evidence showing that there are healthy dietary patterns with red meat intake above current U.S. consumption levels.  Against their own review of the science, the Committee is recommending healthy diets should be lower in red meat than they are today. The Committee has turned a blind eye to their own evidence library criteria, arbitrarily excluding peer-reviewed, sound science on the health benefits of lean beef. To recommend that Americans eat less of a heart healthy protein, the only area of the existing guidelines currently consumed within the recommended amounts, demonstrates that this Committee has its own agenda, and it is not guided by the evidence. This flawed process and Committee bias is preventing a fair and reasonable discussion of the true science. I encourage the Secretaries to take a step back and look closely at the inconsistency and absurdity of the Committee’s recommendation."

2014/2015 Corn Harvest Quality Report Indicates Good Quality For Record Crop

The overall quality of the United States’ 2014 corn crop was good, with 88 percent of samples rating at grade No. 2 or better, according to the U.S. Grains Council’s (USGC) 2014/2015 Corn Harvest Quality Report.

“This year’s report shows for the second year in a row that the United States has an abundant supply of high-quality corn available to export,” said Kurt Shultz, USGC director of global strategies. “The average values from the report indicate that the United States will have a crop that will store and handle well as it moves through the market channels to export.”

According to the report, the 2014 corn crop is entering the marketing channels with the following key characteristics:
-    average test weight well above the limit for No. 1 grade corn, indicating overall good quality.
-    low levels of broken corn and foreign material, with 96.2 percent below the limit for No. 1 grade corn.
-    100 percent of sampled corn testing below the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) aflatoxin action level of 20 parts per billion.
-    slightly lower moisture content than in 2013, as was the incidence of stress cracks. However, total damage levels were significantly higher, likely due to weather conditions, though 94 percent of samples were still below the limit for No. 2 corn.
-    protein concentration lower than in 2013, likely due to higher yields in 2014.
-    comparable starch concentration to 2013, indicating relatively good kernel filling and maturation.

This report is based on 629 yellow commodity corn samples taken from defined areas within 12 of the top corn-producing and exporting states, including Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota and Wisconsin. Inbound samples were collected from local grain elevators to observe quality at the point of origin and to provide representative information about the variability of quality characteristics across the geographic regions.

The corn samples were tested at the Illinois Crop Improvement Association’s Identity Preserved Grain Laboratory (IPG Lab) in Champaign, Illinois, in accordance with the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Federal Grain Inspection Service’s (FGIS) Grain Inspection Handbook. This follows the methodology that was developed for USGC’s 2011/2012 Corn Harvest Quality Report.

Total U.S. corn production for 2014 is estimated at 14.4 billion bushels (365 million metric tons), an all-time record, according to the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates (WASDE) report.

The weather, like usual, had a significant impact on the crop’s development and ultimately on many of the corn quality factors measured including moisture content, total damage and stress cracks. During the planting season, the U.S. Corn Belt experienced a cool, wet spring that delayed planting. The summer months offered excellent pollination conditions, which set the stage for high yields, while the harvest season brought cool average temperatures along with extreme moisture in many areas, which slowed the dry-down of the corn and delayed harvest in U.S. Corn Belt.

The Council has chronicled these growing conditions in its U.S. corn production video available online at The video examines the crop quality and growing conditions of U.S. corn producers located in Illinois, Nebraska, Kansas and Ohio. This video will be presented to international audiences in conjunction with findings from this report.

Though the harvest quality report is valuable to customers, corn quality will be affected by further handling. The Council will publish a second report, the Corn Export Cargo Quality Report, assessing the quality at the point of loading for international shipment, in March 2015.

The two reports are intended to provide reliable, timely and transparent information on the quality of U.S. corn as it moves through export channels by utilizing consistent methodology to permit the assessment of trends over time. The 2014/2015 editions of both reports are the fourth such reports in a series.

Retail Fertilizer Prices Firm Again

As has been the case for months now, average retail fertilizer prices continue to show little movement in either direction, according to data tracked by DTN for the second week of December 2014.

Six of the eight major fertilizers recorded slightly lower prices compared to a month earlier, while the remaining two were up just slightly. No fertilizer price moved significantly.

DAP, MAP, urea, anhydrous, UAN28 and UAN32 were slightly lower in price compared to the previous month. DAP had an average price of $568/ton, MAP $591/ton, urea $483/ton, anhydrous $709/ton, UAN28 $323/ton and UAN32 $368/ton.

The remaining two fertilizers were higher in price compared to a month earlier, but again these moves were fairly minor. Potash had an average price of $481/ton and 10-34-0 $571/ton.

On a price per pound of nitrogen basis, the average urea price was at $0.52/lb.N, anhydrous $0.43/lb.N, UAN28 $0.58/lb.N and UAN32 $0.57/lb.N.

Three of the eight major fertilizers are now double digits higher in price compared to December 2014, all while commodity prices are significantly lower from a year ago. DAP and anhydrous are both 12% higher while 10-34-0 is now 11% more expensive compared to a year earlier.

In addition, urea is 9% higher, MAP is 8% more expensive and both UAN28 and UAN32 are 2% higher from last year.

Potash remains the only nutrient which is still lower compared to retail prices from a year ago. Potash is 1% less expensive from a year previous.

Forward Contracted Fed Cattle and Basis

Matthew A. Diersen, Professor, Department of Economics, South Dakota State University

Heading into the New Year is a good time to think about price and basis levels. The markets currently reflect steep inversions as cash prices for live and feeder cattle are higher than their respective futures prices. On the basis side, there was talk for much of the past year about the relatively high basis levels occurring in the area. Related to that would be the forward basis information from the USDA-AMS report "LM_CT153", which covers weekly fed cattle volume contracted with basis levels.
The report is titled "National Weekly Direct Slaughter Cattle: Prior Week Slaughter and Contract Purchases" or "Weekly Direct Slaughter Cattle - Packer Owned Cattle". It does not receive much attention, but it gives the weekly volume (number of head) of new forward contract signings between feeders and packers. It also tracks the cumulative volume and a breakdown by delivery month with an average basis and a basis range of the related futures contract. The report is available at:

The volume contracted is high. With all of the talk about tight fed cattle supplies the volume contracted for delivery in recent months has been quite high. There were over 400,000 head contracted for October, with slightly less in November and so far in December.

The highest amount for a given month is usually April delivery. In April of 2014 there were 421,737 head contracted - a monthly record. Seasonally, it would be unusual to see such high volumes for the other months. Looking at April of 2015, there are currently 250,636 head contracted. A year ago at this time there were 228,855 head contracted. The point is there have been large shares delivered on contracts in recent months and large shares expected in the coming months. The cumulative total continues to hover above 2 million head.

The basis pattern is consistent with the inverted market. Earlier this year local feedlots wondered about higher basis levels. Since March of 2014 in South Dakota the basis on fed cattle for non-delivery months has been much higher than average. June and October were close to the 5-year average. The constant surprise of higher cash prices at least partially explains the pattern. The general expectation has been for lower prices, at least by the next delivery time. That has carried over into the forward prices. This past week showed the average basis for forward contracts as positive through June of 2015. The range of basis levels for most months still shows a typical wide pattern - anywhere from -$10.00 to +$6.50 versus the futures price.

Knowing the recent basis levels and knowing that contract volumes have been high and are likely to continue may help feedlots as they evaluate new offers from packers. The futures price pattern and recent forward basis pattern both support the idea of a continued inverted market until June of 2015.

Ukraine Grain Exports Higher This Year

Ukraine's grain exports are up 7% from a year earlier, despite predictions that the country's harvest would fall because of the current political instability, the agriculture ministry said Tuesday.

Ukraine exported 17.087 million metric tons of grain from the start of the marketing year on July 1 and Dec. 15. The ministry said the total amount of export to date included 7.737 million tons of wheat, 3.492 million tons of barley and 5.668 million tons of corn.

The largest importers of Ukrainian grain during the period were: Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Spain, Iran and Turkey.

Prime Minister Arseny Yatsenyuk said in August that Ukraine's grain harvest this year was likely to fall to 55 million tons from 63 million tons in 2013, because of the loss of Crimea Peninsula and the military conflict in the south-east of the country.

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