The Drought—Part 3…

Adversity = Opportunity

I have a sign up in my house that reads “Adversity = Opportunity”.  I truly believe that adversity make us stronger and provides the opportunity for improvement.  When I look back on my life, it is obvious that each personal challenge has made me a stronger and more empathetic person.

Although my girls are growing up on a farm instead of in a city, they really are not that different from other girls all across the country. They laugh, they cry, they bring Matt and I joy—and they need to eat every single day!

There is no doubt that the current drought affects every single one of us—after all, we all need to eat to survive.  However, there are opportunities amongst the challenges that promise to make us a more unified community.  Together we are stronger—Together we prosper and conquer those things that challenge us most.

As a farmer, I worry about:

  •                The Weather…
  •                The Welfare of my animals…
  •                The Welfare of my land…
  •                The Ability to grow or purchase affordable animal feed…
  •                The Quality of the Beef that my animals provide…
  •                The Financial Sustainability of my farm…

As a non-farmer, I am sure that you worry about many of the same things.  Perhaps, most especially, you worry about the quality and affordability of the food that you purchase to provide for your families.  I can imagine that as you read the headlines discussing the drought, you worry that the price of food in the grocery store will increase.  I worry about that too…

  • It is true that 55% of the United States’ land mass is in a drought, and that 70% of cattle grazing land is affected by the drought.
  • It is true that the rising cost of all types of animal feed is providing a great challenge for farmers and ranchers like me.
  • It is true that sometimes today is scary and tomorrow is usually uncertain, but there are things that we can all focus on that will help us to thrive despite the current challenges.

I would like to offer some thoughts relative to the price of beef in the grocery store.

1.  The current drought will not affect the price that you pay for a steak in the short term.  It affects the cost of making that steak, but farmers—ranchers—and packing plants will bear the brunt of that increase in cost.  Although this will test the sustainability of the farming community, many of us will persevere because that is our nature.  Trust me, we are a stubborn group of people!

2.  The single largest driver of the price of beef is supply and demand.  Remember back to Economics 101—as the supply of a product goes down, the price will rise as long as the demand for the product stays constant.  The drought conditions have (over time) reduced the supply of cattle in the United States.  If you remember, Texas and Oklahoma had a terrible drought last year.  Many ranchers were forced to down-size their herds because of a scarcity of feed.  This decreased the supply of cattle and has (over the last 12 months) caused a slight increase in the price of beef.  The current drought will most likely allow this trend to continue.

3.  Fortunately, there are many different choices of beef to purchase in the grocery store which create a wide variety of prices to help with your family’s budget.  I realize that any increase in price is difficult to manage, however, remember that ounce per ounce beef provides an incredibly nutrient rich source of protein.

BeefMadeEasyCutChart

While both Mother Nature and the current economy provide a tremendous amount of adversity, it is important to remember that we will prevail if we work together.  I promise to do my very best to produce high quality and nutritious beef for you—I work hard everyday to create the highest quality and best tasting beef using the fewest number of natural resources.  In turn, I ask that you have faith in me and continue to purchase my beef at the grocery store.  Together we will persevere and have the ability to face all of the new opportunities that appear just over the next horizon…

What challenges you and your family?

8 Comments

Filed under Foodie Work!, General

8 responses to “The Drought—Part 3…

  1. mizvaldes

    Great post. Hang in there.

  2. So… To make you truely sick, call you to action or just to get your input, I offer the following.

    I drove to Illinois and back over the past ten days. Corn crops are about 80-100% brown. Soy seems OK for some reason… Anyway, the U.S. Government is assisting farmers with corn fields by buying their non-exisitant crops. In taking the government money, farmers are required to plow under the field. This means millions of tons of potential cattle feed is not going anywhere but back into the ground.

    True? False? What are your thoughts?

    • Nebraska Farm Wife

      Turning the residue back into the soil does provide some nutrients back for next year. However, in my opinion as the wife of a farmer, no till is much better way to benefit the soil it decreases erosion, increases water holding capacity, and decreases fuel use. Farmers could bale some of the residue and leave the rest for soil profile inhancement. This year with the dry conditions in Central Nebraska our corn planted with no-till practices looks much better than our neighbors who still work the previous years residue into the ground.

      • I forgot that you had corn. I’d love to read a post about your thoughts on corn and how you use it to factor into beef finishing. And, a more detail on your ‘no tilling’ method.

    • Hi Bill,

      I’ll try to tackle your below questions in the next couple of posts in terms of how our farm is set up so that some of our crops are used to feed our cattle and some of them are sold to others. In terms of crop residue being turned back under into the soil, sometimes that is needed and other times there are better ways to make use of it. Much of it depends on the nutrient make up of the soil, the amount of moisture, and the crop rotation.

      Anne

  3. J Cooper

    Bill I’ll take a stab at your question. I farm corn in Nebraska 100 miles or so west of Anne. Much of the dryland corn has failed here.
    We had enough moisture to in most cases get the corn to tassel at which time most of the nutrients have been taken up especially nitrogen to make an ear. From tassel to early milk stage is the highest water use for a corn plant. It is at this time most of the corn failed or shortly after and did not set or try and fill an ear. So what you are left with is a stalk with a very high nitrate content which is quite toxic to animals so in most cases it must be blended with lower quality feed.
    Around here where we have a high density of cattle some of this corn is being chopped as silage and hauled to feedlots that have the capability to blend the silage. Here is the kicker, the cost of harvesting for silage is about the same as the value of the feed because the tonnage yield and feed value is so low. In addition you are taking 50-60 dollars per acre of fertilizer value off the land and valuble residue to catch precipitation and to hold the soil through the winter, in this low quality feed.
    If you have cattle and can utilize the feed it might be worth it, for me I will combine anything with an ear. In some cases where there is very little chance of any grain I will just leave it go.
    In some cases the crop insurance companies not the government per se will make the farmer destroy by light disking or whatever to make any crop unharvestable if the field loss is adjusted to a near total loss. I guess it destroys the temptation for example to go harvest that 4 acres in a 160 acre field in a low spot which would be basically insurance fraud. The farmer can legally harvest that 4 acres and report the production which would be deducted from his insurance settlement. In most cases in a situation like this it would not be economical to fire up a combine to go harvest those 4 acres. Hope this helps.
    Anne if I have overstepped my bounds please by all means delete this comment.

    • Bill

      Overstepped? Holy Tassel. That was awesome. You made it very easy to follow.

      What I didn’t know was the nitrate issue with the corn/cattle; the fact that a corn stalk is not choice silage; and the fact that there is a lot of reason to leave the plants in place. Or, the fact that the government is not playing as large of a role as I was led to believe.

      Agriculture is fascinating. There is a entire world of science to it, and I truly believe the American farmer is the best in the world in its mastery. Thanks again for that input, J Cooper. That was great.

    • Jim,

      This is a wonderful answer and I very much appreciate you taking the time to share with all of us. Great job!

      Anne

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