The Days and Weeks to Come

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Since I have been at Ozarks Farm & Neighbor, I try very hard to be a cheerleader for agriculture. I want farmers and ranchers to look on the bright side of bad news. These days, however, it is becoming more and more challenging to try and be the “sunshine girl.”

Input prices are soaring with no end in sight, and the prices paid to producers aren’t getting any higher.

Some folks are considering selling their livestock because of fuel, fertilizer and feed prices. 

The profit margin is small to begin with for many, so when it costs double to produce the same product as it did the year before and your returns are dwindling, it makes sense to sell before the bleeding really starts. However, it’s still not an easy decision to make. Farming and ranching is more than a job; it’s a way of life and a family tradition for many. 

If there is a bright side to today’s world, American farmers and ranchers will always be needed. We might have to change the way we do business, but the industry will continue to provide food, clothing and shelter, just as it has for thousands of years. 

Change, however, is difficult for some producers because the way they’ve done it for 50 years is the way they will always do it. If you’re one of those producers, it’s time to think of other ways to produce your product and ways to market it.

Want more per pound for your livestock? Add a little value to them, or try selling directly to other producers. Have some heavier-weight calves? Try selling halves and wholes of beef. Planning your garden? Consider farm sales of your excess produce. 

There are a few ways to reduce fuel costs. Did you know if your bulk fuel tank sits in the sun, you could lose up to 120 gallons of fuel a year due to evaporation? Try making fewer trips across the same piece of ground. In some cases, producers can mix their pre-plant or pre-emergence herbicides with their fertilizer and apply with one trip. Take advantage of free loyalty programs to reduce fuel costs offered at some convenience stores. I’ve done that for a few years with one chain and those points can add up, points that can be used toward fuel discounts. 

Have you checked with your local grocery store about picking up produce, baked items or other food that will be tossed? Those are items livestock can consume. 

According to a report published in the Angus Beef Bulletin in 2016, retired University of Georgia professor Mark Froetschel studied the use of recovered retail food as feed for Holstein steers. He fed the product at zero, 20, 40 and 60 percent of a total mixed ration. His findings showed food intended initially for humans was nutritious with 80 percent total digestible nutrients on a dry-matter basis and was a cost-effective way to put gain on cattle. Plus, it reduces food waste.

As we trudge into the days and weeks ahead, I encourage everyone to try to be an optimist and to think of one or two ways to save your operation money. Trying to get a handle on the situation now may save your operation in the future.

Julie Turner-Crawford is a native of Dallas County, Mo., where she grew up on her family’s farm. She is a graduate of Missouri State University. To contact Julie, call 1-866-532-1960 or by email at [email protected]

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