Livestock Economist Says 2013 Hinges on Drought

Back home, we know a few things about drought. Living in Texas, we experienced an epic drought in 2011 and continue to feel the effects today. I’ve seen painfully dry pastures and cattle ranches that go back generations sell off the last of their herds. It’s just too expensive to feed their cattle.

Unfortunately, our neighbors to the north experienced the same last year. Feed prices reached $8 per bushel, and grass just didn’t grow. Feeding cattle, pigs, chickens and turkeys was just too expensive. The drought took a toll on all of agriculture – especially livestock.

So, what can American farmers and ranchers expect in 2013? Will conditions improve? According to Dr. David Anderson, a professor and economist in Livestock and Food Products Marketing from the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service, the answer is, “It depends.”

Dr Anderson

The fate of cattle, pork and poultry producers really depends on drought conditions across the country and resulting feed costs. If the drought subsides and feed costs come down, producers’ costs could decrease, making operations a little easier.

Demand also plays an important role. High retail prices for all meat have driven domestic demand down in the past few years. But Americans still want their steaks, chops and chicken – and they’re willing to continue buying at the grocery store.

Export markets are a promising outlet, as well. Demand for U.S. meat is strong as the global economy is improving and consumers around the world seek to improve their diets by including beef, pork and poultry.

In short, Dr. Anderson was cautiously optimistic about the outlook of meat production and sales this year. While we still are feeling the devastating effects of drought, U.S. meat and dairy products continue to be in demand and will persevere through this difficult time.

I know that in Texas, we’ll keep watching the skies and praying for rain.

amandalewishill is Amanda Hill, associate editor at Texas Farm Bureau. Amanda writes for Texas Table Top, a blog engaging in conversations about food, nutrition and farming in the Lone Star State. She also helps manage Texas Farm Bureau’s social media efforts, including FacebookTwitter, Pinterest and more. Find her on Twitter (@amandalhill).

Drought Tolerance Discussion Draws Farmer Interest at AFBF13

AFBF Seminar on Drought ToleranceOn Sunday, one of the exhibitor seminars drew a big crowd and kept them in their seats the full hour. What topic could lure people away from picking up swag? Easy. Drought tolerance. The topic is especially poignant following a historic drought in many states during 2012.

Mark Edge, the DroughtGard marketing lead for Monsanto, came to the AFBF meeting to talk with farmers about the company’s approach on drought tolerance and the new products that are becoming available.

Edge said water is the biggest topic facing agriculture and it has been for a long time. He remembers growing up on a Midwestern farm where water was frequently the topic of conversation. It is not just a topic of interest due to the drought of 2012.

Edge said managing water is critical on farms and in cities pointing out that the tiny bit of fresh water we have needs to provide for people, crops, animals, etc. and all of those areas need to be more sustainable  He said farmers have long looked for various ways to conserve water and the continued improvements are sought on-farm.

Monsanto is using a systems approach to addressing water use and drought tolerance. The system includes native traits, biotech traits and agronomics to deliver solutions to farmers. He says the company has introduced new DroughtGard hybrids that have been screened closely for performance of native traits and biotech traits. Molecular tools identify native control of drought tolerance in a more precise way than in the past allowing breeders to screen for drought tolerance while maintaining yield, etc Several years of testing has already been conducted in the western corn belt ie Kansas, Colorado & Nebraska.

Edge’s comments that plant is able to perform with less water, sensors test available water in the soil profile. The testing done includes monitoring of water in the soil profile by using soil capacity probes. With DroughtGard, plant survival rates are greater due to water banking.

Earlier technologies have already made a difference in water use on the farm. Two of the technologies to make a difference already are conservation tillage & corn rootworm control.

The crowd got a laugh out of Edge’s comment that “the DroughtGard name does not mean we have turned corn into a cactus.” He pointed out that plants still need water.

For 2013, the introduction of DroughtGard will be limited to selected states with farmers signing stewardship agreements about the grain produced. These agreements require the corn produced be consumed in the US, where the product is fully approved.

Janice AKA JPLovesCotton is Janice Person, a city girl who loves cotton and biotechnology. Her work for Monsanto includes blogging and social media outreach. A colorful adventure is her personal blog. Follow her on Twitter (@JPLovesCotton) and find her on Facebook.