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Northwest Iowa Dairy Outlooks

A local discussion of current science and issues concerning dairying in northwest iowa

Monthly Archives: January 2011

Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) is the lead sponsor of a Senate bill aimed at expanding markets for biofuels, according to a news release from Harkin’s office.

The bill intends to increase the number of flex-fuel vehicles on the road, increase the number of blender pumps dispensing biofuels and authorize loan guarantees for the construction of renewable fuel pipelines, the release said.

“Because we import 60 percent of the petroleum we consume, our country is vulnerable to disruptions in the supply of petroleum and our economy faces a constant threat from volatile oil prices,” said Sen. Harkin, the former chairman and now senior member of the Senate Agriculture Committee. “With more than two-thirds of our petroleum supply consumed by our transportation sector, there is a tremendous opportunity to expand the production and use of biofuels. Biofuels displace close to 10 percent of our gasoline supplies, and they have the potential to make significantly larger contributions.”

The bill’s co-sponsors are Senators Tim Johnson (D-SD), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), and Al Franken (D-MN) and is supported by the corn growers associations.

While some livestock producers benefit from ethanol by-products, most of us just pay more for corn. Let’s hope Senators from non-corn producing states rally against this hand-out for corn farmers. After a decade of eating at the governmental trough, its time the biofuel industry stands on its own without the tax-payers proping it up.

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In todays Southwest Farm Press David Bennett comments that ultimately and hopefully, advocates of GM crops may prove correct and biotechnology will be the world’s savior. But before that can happen some sticky issues – which have been around from biotech’s inception, begging for solutions – must be dealt with.

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“We’ve had some timely rains in north central Texas, but it’s still falling well below what we should get this time of this year,” said Mark Fox, climatologist with the National Weather Service, Dallas/Ft. Worth region.

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Winter weeds are certainly far easier to dispose of if steps are taken to review all areas of the garden on a schedule, eliminating small beginnings before they grow to smother their neighbors. Here is informtion on my top two weeds.

Henbit (Lamium aplexicaule) is a member of the Lamiaceae or Mint family, and one of the most common Central Texas weeds, originally an escape from Europe-Eurasia-North Africa. There are five closely related species. A good clue for recognizing Henbit is the fact that the upper leaves encircle the stem. It is relished by chickens and has been consumed by people as a pot-herb in the past. Another common name is ‘Dead-nettle’ (“dead” meaning not a stinging nettle). A close relative is L. purpurea, or Purple Dead Nettle.

Henbit has multiple stems from a single taproot, masses of many soft, slightly hairy leaves, and small flowers that are purple in color. It has been a well known weed in Europe and England for centuries – the early herbalist John Gerard wrote of baking henbit flowers with sugar for desserts or serving it in a distilled form.

For gardeners henbit is undesirable because the many stems can grow to be 6-8 inches long and sprawl over more desirable plants nearby. Although they may be controlled by pre-emergent herbicides, getting rid of young plants with a hoe is probably the fastest method.

Common Chickweed (Stellaria media), also known as ‘starweed’, is a plant that has both good and bad qualities. It is a member of the Caryophyllaceae, or Pink, family. As soon as the soil cools, it appears in the late fall and persists until the hotter days of late spring finally burn it off. It is just as at home in the winter lawn as it is in the flower bed. The plant has weak stems with masses of bright green, shiny leaves and small starry off-white or yellow flowers. Chickweed is extremely tender, and has a tendency to break off as it is pulled up. The tiny, stringy stump is solidly rooted into the ground and will grow back into a vigorous plant while the gardener is not looking. It can be killed with boiling water from a teakettle if growing in the cracks between flagstones or bricks in a patio area. If it is not feasible to use pre-emergent herbicide on chickweed, this or hoeing out very small plants are good methods of control.

Although chickweed is annoying to gardeners, it does have good qualities if growing in the proper place in the garden. Chickweed is edible, and the seed is sometimes sold commercially to market gardeners for the high-dollar restaurant trade. It is considered one of the best foods for baby birds, and this is where chickweed got its name. Canary raisers used to say that if there was no commercial source of birdseed due to some disaster, broods of young canaries could be raised on the greens and seeds of chickweed alone. Gardeners who are interested in supporting local bird life should leave a little chickweed under the edge of a hedge or some similar spot.

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USDA reported on Friday the number of cattle placed on feed during December and total cattle on feed Jan. 1 at slightly higher rates than the average market analyst estimate.  

In its monthly Cattle on Feed report, USDA put cattle placements in feedlots during December at1.80 million, 16 percent above December 2009. On average, analysts were expecting a 13.7 percent increase, according to a Dow Jones survey.  

USDA reported cattle and calves on feed for slaughter in the United States on feedlots with capacity of 1,000 or more head at 11.5 million head on Jan. 1, up 5 percent from a year ago. The average market analyst forecast was for a 4.2 percent increase.

During December, placements of cattle and calves weighing less than 600 pounds totaled 480,000, while 600-699 pounds totaled 495,000. Placements at 700-799 pounds totaled  440,000, and 800 pounds and greater totaled 380,000.

Marketings of fed cattle during December totaled 1.83 million, 5 percent above 2009 and in line with market expectations. USDA noted this was the second highest fed cattle marketings for the month of December since the series began in 1996.

The complete report is linked below:

http://usda.mannlib.cornell.edu/usda/current/CattOnFe/CattOnFe-01-21-2011.pdf

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For several years the Risk Management Agency (RMA) of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the various private insurance companies that deliver crop insurance protection to millions of producers across the country have been negotiating a major overhaul of the basic policy that is used for most insurable crops. The new Common Crop Insurance Policy, sometimes known as COMBO, will go into effect for crops insured in 2011. Covered crops include corn, soybeans, grain sorghum, wheat, barley, cotton, rice, canola and sunflowers.

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Cold and dry conditions continued in Wichita County, and wildfire danger was high. Most fields were in severe need of moisture. The farmers nearly had the cotton harvest finished with only a few modules of cotton needing to get picked up. All things considered, 2010 was a very good year for cotton farmers. Many were shredding and plowing the last remaining of their fields. Eventually, they plan to prepare beds for spring planting, but currently, soils were rock hard due to the lack of moisture. Livestock were in fair condition with supplemental feeding. Feral hog movement and destruction increased.

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