Thursday, October 27, 2011

Supplementing on Stalks and Winter Grass

No matter whether you are in the east or the west, supplementing protein to cows on corn stalks, winter range, or any other type of low-quality forage is getting very expensive. I'll pass on the discussion of when supplements are needed or not for the cow herd as I will assume everyone has a good handle on that.

Let's move on to more important things like cost. The table below shows the approximate crude protein content, bulk cost, cost per pound of CP, the approximate amount that needs to be fed per head per day to maintain a minimum 7% CP diet for dry cows, and the cost per head per day for a variety of common protein supplements. Note of course that all bulk prices and associated price calculations are FOB orgin, freight obviously will play a big role in final destination costs.

I rounded all fed amounts to 1/2 pound increments, figuring that few folks will actually calculate out 1.3748 pounds per head per day. So if you calculate and don't get the same thing, that is why.

One other thing to note is how I priced alfalfa and alfalfa/grass. With the small amount of Supreme, Premium, and Good alfalfa left in the country as a result of demand from dairies and Texans; any alfalfa that is left for beef cows is probably home raised and is priced as such.

I did include a few oddball products that you might not normally see in a list of supplements because this year they happen to be in abundant supply and reasonably priced. Many of these products are available in North Dakota, so proximate distance will determine freight cost and ultimately feasibility.

The last thing to note is that I kept the intake and cost per head per day for licktubs at about 1.0 pounds per head per day. The reason I did that is because on average, a cow will eat 0.75 - 1.0 pounds per day on tubs and that doesn't seem to change much. Of course it depends on the brand of tub and so on, but we are just using averages here.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Cash Report

Hub City Livestock Auction - Aberdeen, S.D.
Feeder Cattle Weighted Average Report for 10/19/2011
Receipts:  5102    Last Week:  3855    Year Ago:  3221

Compared to last week:  Feeder steers and heifers sold mostly 1.00 to 3.00 higher.  Active market with good demand.  Steers 60 percent, heifers 40 percent, 70 percent over 600 lbs.

500-600 - $163.00
600-700 - $144.00
700-800 - $141.00
800-900 - $137.50

500-600 - $147.00
600-700 - $137.00
700-800 - $131.00
800-900 - $130.00

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

To Background or Not to Background?

Another incredible week in the cattle market this week for both the cash and futures. Hard to believe that 500 lb steers calves are going for $850 - $940/head.

In any event, the question I've heard a lot is whether a guy should be backgrounding calves this year? In my mind, that is a pretty easy question answer and it's not very complicated. I'll show a couple of calculations to demonstrate the ultimate point:

Let's assume a set of 5.5 wt. steer calves with an adjusted cost per calf of $550.00/head.

If you figure that unless there is a futures crash prior to the week or to in NOV, these calves will be bringing around $155.00, we would be looking at a gross return of $852.50/head. Which in turn yields an unbelievable net return of $302.50/head.

So, selling those calves right off the cow results in a net return of $302.50/head.

Now, if you elect to hang on to those calves, backgrouding them on a high roughage diet and supposing the market stays pretty stable (i.e., no major movements in basis), you would be looking at something close to the following:

Adjusted calf cost $550.00
ADG 2.0
DOF 90
COG $0.65
Operating costs $20.00
Market position $70.00
Weight out 730#
Total cost (including calf cost) $770.00

Assuming you price protect these calves with a short hedge, option put, or LRP, you will be looking at a cash price in the neighborhood of $140.00

Gross return $1,022.00
Net return $252.00 Less basis and commissions

So, even if backgrounding returned the same as selling calves right off the cow, why assume the risk? Most guys can make a very nice return by selling these calves right off the cow, many should probably leave it at that.

Of course we are a couple weeks out, so a lot of things can change, but on the whole, I don't think it makes a lot of sense for guys to be feeding calves after weaning.

On the other hand, if you need to roll income, at least right now, I don't think feeding calves will hurt you all that much either. You going to assume some risk you don't necessarily have to and you might give up $20-$50/head, but even some savvy marketing on your part should be able to avoid that.

Thank you and have a great day!!

Friday, September 30, 2011

Flooded Pasture: Species and Seeding Options

Eric Mousel, Forage and Alfalfa Specialist, Millborn Seeds Inc.

My last article discussed the impact that flood waters have on pasture soils and some thoughts on what a person should do to revitalize those soils. I listed several species that can tolerate soils that have been impacted dramatically by flood waters.

But what about pastures that flooded out, but the soil tests come back indicating that the soil is in fairly good shape? Let’s look at some options for when it comes time to renovate or reestablish those pastures.

Wet vs. Dry

The first thing to think about when evaluating what type of grass to seed into a grass stand that has been damaged or if you are starting completely over is whether the pasture is normally a fairly wet area or if it just flooded out because of the high standing water from this spring.

If the site is normally a wet area, consider using a Garrison creeping foxtail which can withstand being underwater for 60 days or so without affecting it too much. Reed canarygrass is another species that really likes a lot of water. Although it is pretty decent quality forage early in the year, it tends to get pretty coarse later in the summer and doesn’t have a lot of feed value. You may have to hedge your bets a little and seed a mix of both if the pasture is pretty wet in some areas and just occasionally wet in others.

You may have gotten a big flush of Reed canarygrass once the flood water receded, but be aware that it won’t grow very well in areas that aren’t wet all of the time. So as the soils start to dry out, it will start to disappear and be confined to wet areas. The options are to over-seed the reed canarygrass regrowth to get some other grass species started or just wait until the canarygrass starts to disappear and then seed a mix that is more conducive to the normal soil conditions.

If you are seeding an area that is not normally very wet, I would recommend a mix with some orchardgrass ,pubescent wheatgrass, tall fescue, and meadow brome. This is a very nice mix for haying or grazing because none of these species get very coarse, especially if they are harvested at appropriate times. If you live a little further west (west of Hwy 281) I would substitute the orchardgrass for intermediate wheatgrass and/or Canada wildrye to improve the drought tolerance of the stand.

Seeding method

The next big thing to consider is the best seeding method to use. If you are completely reestablishing the pasture, the need to do a full tillage treatment is going to depend on how bad the weeds got after the water receded. If you didn’t get a lot of weeds, you can either no-till or broadcast seed direct with little or no tillage. Drilling is the best but that isn’t always feasible for everyone. Blowing seed on with a floater and roller packing has resulted in successful stands for a lot of guys so that certainly is an option.

If the weeds did get bad, you may have to consider tillage to reduce the amount of residue that may plug up the drill and to help with weed control next spring. Again, drilling seed in is best, but broadcast with a roller pack will work.

Seeding depth

If you do use a conventional or no-till drill, seeding depth is critical. Grass seed is not like wheat. Grass seed should only be seeded at a depth of ¼ to ½ inch. Any deeper and the seed will likely germinate, but won’t be able to reach the soil surface, thus you get a really spotty stand or none at all.

When to seed

Right now is not a very good time to seed grass. The risk is that the seed may germinate in the warm temps during the day but will freeze off at night and winter-kill. It would be a good idea to wait until the end of October or the first half of November to plant. Late fall plantings are generally very successful and will remove the risk of seed germinating and winter killing.

There is still time this fall to seed pastures damaged by flooding. Having the right grass species, seeding methods and timing will result in a successfully rejuvenated pasture for you. Give me a call and we will talk about your specific situation.
Thank you and have a great day!!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Flooded Pasture Soils

Eric Mousel, Forage and Alfalfa Specialist, Millborn Seeds Inc.
The first thing that has to be considered when figuring out what to do with a pasture that has been flooded out; is to consider what shape the soil is in. Flood waters that stand for long periods of time can really cause a lot of problems for your soil. These waters will bring in a lot of debris and salt and leave a lot of silt, sand and other trash.

There are three major things we need to look at when evaluating the soil in a pasture that has been flooded.

When soil first becomes saturated, the pH will drop and the soil becomes acidic as a result of the production of organic acids produced through fermentation. However, after being saturated for an extended period of time, the soil will become alkaline as the pH rises. The rise in pH is partly attributed to the denitrification of nitrate (NO3) to N2 nitrogen.

Unlike soil acidity (low pH), where plant species will actually die from exposure, soil alkalinity decreases respiration and nutrient uptake in plants and therefore can cause depressed yields for forage species that are not adapted to a high pH environment.

Soil salinity can be a big problem caused by flood waters. The inflow and subsequent settling of salt from upstream will at best leave a salt crust on the soil surface as flood waters recede. In the worst case scenario the soil profile will be completely saturated with salt.

The problem with salt in the soil is that it suspends when it is mixed with water, rather than dissolving. Therefore, the soil profile will contain a salt solution that plants have difficulty absorbing. In saline soils, plants will experience severe water stress even when adequate moisture is available because they cannot absorb the salt solution.

Soil Biology
Probably the biggest problem flood waters cause is upsetting the soil biology. Microorganisms that live in the soil are an essential part of plant growth. These organisms are largely responsible for making soil nutrients available for plant absorption. Many of these microorganisms that make nutrients in the soil available to plant life require oxygen respired by the soil to survive. Obviously, when a soil becomes saturated with water, these organisms will die off and only organisms that can tolerate the lack of oxygen will remain.

The change in soil pH as described above also will negatively impact many important soil organisms as will increases in salinity.

Soil testing
So, what do we do about soils in these situations? The first thing that needs to be done is to do a soil test to see what condition the soil is in. An analysis of N, P, K, pH, and salinity is probably all that is needed to start. Most of the available N has probably leached out and P and K availability will vary depending on site. As stated before, pH probably will be high, but you need to know how high so you can select species that will tolerate it.

Most any local CO-OP will conduct as soil test for you or you can contact me and I can arrange a soil analysis for you.

Correcting these soil problems is difficult at best and depending on severity, not very economical. But there are some short-term (inexpensive) things a person can do to get the healing process started for your soil:

Alkalinity – if pH is above 8.0, action will need to be taken.
Add organic matter by growing an alkaline tolerant cover crop:
                              Turnips, radishes, lentils              
    Alfalfa (moderate)
                                Russian wildrye
                                Altai wildrye
                                Tall or slender wheatgrass
                                Smooth bromegrass
     Tall fescue
Add sulfur to the soil solution by adding gypsum or fertilize with ammonium sulfate and retest periodically (worst case scenario).

                Grow salt tolerant plants to remove salt from the soil solution over time:
     Turnips, radishes, lentils              
     Sugar beets
                                Winter wheat
                                Alfalfa (moderate)
                                Russian wildrye
                                Altai wildrye
                                Tall or slender wheatgrass
                                Smooth bromegrass
                                Tall fescue

Soil Biology
The most important thing is to get something growing; anything that will stimulate the soil solution.

If your soil test comes back relatively normal…we’ll talk about that and what to do about flooded out alfalfa next time.

Thank you and have a great day!!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Flooded Pasture Renovations

Eric Mousel, Forage and Alfalfa Specialist, Millborn Seeds Inc.

For those of you that had pastures flood for extended periods of time this summer, you are not alone. It has been a very aggravating summer for a lot of people in South Dakota, but you can thank your lucky stars you don’t have land along the Missouri further south, it can only be described as disaster.
Even if you don’t live along the Mighty MO, the Big Sioux, James, and every creek, stream and tributary in between was out of its banks for a good portion of the summer. Prolonged exposure to the floodwaters caused a lot of acres of grass, alfalfa, and row-crops to be completely wiped-out or at least severely damaged.
I’ve looked at quite a bit of flooded pasture and hay ground this summer and fall and a lot of questions remain about what exactly to do with the acres that flooded out this year. The amazing thing is the response of different types of ground and vegetation to flooding. I’ve seen everything from complete vegetation kill to 7 foot tall weeds. The next few installments of SDR are going to deal with this topic specifically.
There are 5 major questions concerning flooded out pastures and hay ground:
1.       Did the flood water ruin the soil?
2.       What should I do with all of the sand and silt that washed in?
3.       Will the grass grow back or will it just grow weeds?
4.       Should I interseed new grass or alfalfa or do I need to start completely over?
5.       Should I drill new seed or blow it on?
I’ll get into specifics in the next few articles on SDR but suffice it to say that there is no cookbook recipe for managing the after effects of flooding. Each individual is going to have a unique situation based on soil type, vegetation, and severity of the flooding.
The solutions to regain full productivity of these acres also are going to be very individualized. Some will need to thicken the grass that remains, some will need to grow a cover crop to recondition the soil, some will need to start over.
Alfalfa acres also will need special attention in order to regain full productivity. Flood stress, disease, silting level, and age of the stand will all determine the appropriate management needed to restore full productivity.
So if you have damage to your grass pastures or alfalfa, you aren’t alone. Millborn Seeds Inc. will provide services to the entire 5-state region and beyond. Give me a call or email and let’s talk about what is needed to get your pastures and hay ground back to top productivity.
Thank you and have a great day!!

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Prussic Acid and Nitrate Problems Could be Substantial this Fall on Forage Sorghum and Millet

Eric Mousel, Forage and Alfalfa Specialist
Millborn Seeds, Inc.

Any time growers plant any type of forage sorghum for hay and/or livestock grazing, prussic acid is a concern. However, in the minds of most growers, prussic acid toxicity is a concern early in the growing season when forage sorghum plants are less than 18-24 inches tall. Normally, when sorghum plants grow taller than 18-24 inches, growers tend to forget about prussic acid because the concentrations tend to drop off dramatically and are no longer a danger to livestock.

Prussic acid is a form of hydrogen cyanide that is produced by the partial oxidation of methane and ammonia. Prussic acid often shows up in lethal concentrations in sorghums due to accelerated uptake of ammonia during the rapid growth phase that occurs prior to the plant reaching 18-24 inches in height. Once the sorghum plant reaches 18-24 inches in height, uptake decreases and concentrations dilute to the point where they are no longer toxic to livestock.

Unfortunately, prussic acid problems in forage sorghums aren’t limited to early summer as it tends to rear its ugly head again in the fall on fields that have been hayed or grazed and substantial regrowth has occurred. Once again, these plants are growing quickly and when they are under 18-24 inches tall or so, prussic acid toxicity to livestock should be a concern for producers.

This year could really be a red-flag for grazing sorghum regrowth. In most years, August rains will allow forage sorghum regrowth to quickly get above the 18-24 inch threshold reducing prussic acid problems dramatically. This year though, August has been really dry in a lot of the state and regrowth has been slow.  In most fields in the state, unless you test your forage sorghum regrowth for prussic acid levels, I would not recommend grazing it. The risk for poisoning livestock is simply too great to take a chance grazing it.

An alternative option would be to hay the regrowth. Although prussic acid in forage sorghum hay can still poison livestock, producers can grind and blend this hay in with other roughages when feeding this winter. When blended at 4:1, the risk of prussic acid poisoning becomes very small. Grinding, blending, and feeding is a real pain, but that is the only safe way to use forage sorghum hay that likely contains high concentrations of prussic acid.

Millet regrowth on the other hand, may have problems this fall as well. Although millets do not produce prussic acid, they do tend to accumulate nitrates in the regrowth when the soil is dry.  Nitrate accumulation in millet regrowth is not as predictable as prussic acid accumulation in forage sorghums therefore; the best thing to do is have a nitrate test done before turning livestock out to graze any millet regrowth. Millet regrowth that tests less than 2ppm nitrates is ok to graze however, if the millet regrowth tests higher than 2ppm, grazing will result in dead livestock.

Like prussic acid, nitrates will remain in the forage and can be toxic to livestock even if the regrowth is cut for hay. Therefore, haying, grinding and blending at 4:1 for feeding this winter is the alternative strategy to manage millet with high nitrates.

Paying for a chemical test for prussic acid concentrations in forage sorghum regrowth is probably unnecessary as concentrations are very predictable based on plant height. Predicting nitrate concentrations in millet regrowth however, is a real crap shoot so it is definitely worth the money to have millet regrowth tested before turning livestock out.

To test regrowth for nitrates, simply clip a handful of regrowth in 4 or 5 spots around the field. Don’t just clip around the edges, get into the middle of the field as well. Place your samples in a Ziploc freezer bag and put in the freezer for 24 hours. It can take several days from the time the sample is taken, shipped, processed, and tested by the lab, so if the wet sample isn’t frozen solid, you will not get an accurate test. Be sure to overnight the sample in an insulated container and don’t send it at the end of the week so it sits over the weekend.

Contact: AgSource Laboratories, Ellsworth, IA, 515-836-4444,, for details on where to send your forage samples for a nitrate test.

A nitrate test plus shipping will cost about $50.00. On 100 pairs that’s about $0.25/head.

One final caveat is how nitrate concentrations respond to freezing. Nitrate concentrations in forages tend to spike significantly following frost. Producers have to be a little careful because if you test for nitrates in mid- to late-September and the test comes back a little below 200 ppm nitrates but then the field gets a fairly heavy frost a few days later; nitrate concentrations can spike well above 200 ppm for a couple days. If that happens, pull livestock off of the field or confine them to a corner and feed them for a few days then turn them back out to graze. The high nitrate concentrations will diminish rapidly and after a few days will no longer be an issue for livestock.

Regrowth from forage sorghum and millet makes excellent fall forage, just be aware of prussic acid or nitrates before turning livestock out.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Millborn Seeds Inc.

Dear friends,

I am excited to let you know that I am now working with Millborn Seeds, Inc. in Brookings, SD as a Forage and Alfalfa Specialist. As a result, I will be working with cool- and warm-season grass pastures and alfalfa. We also service forage sorghums, sudangrass, millets, and cover crops.

Additionally, I will be maintaining this blog as well as contributing to the Millborn Seeds blog at

Be sure to check out the Millborn Seeds website at

Thank You and Have a Great Day!!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Excessive Heat Taking it Toll in South Dakota Feedyards

Read article here...

More to come...

Feedyard losses mounting....

This Week In Cattle

I had a guy ask me yesterday about whether he should background his calves this fall and try to hedge a profit in now while prices are still really high. First, I congratulated this guy for having the foresight to think about how he was going to market calves before October 15.

Not that he isn’t a good thinker, because he is, but I have never known him to give too much thought to the most critical management function he can perform for himself and his business before fall.

The second thing I responded with was: “Never, never, never short an inflationary market…ever”

By “inflationary” I mean a commodity market that is going up in value because the value of the currency that supports said value is going down. Which is what we are seeing right now in the US and around the world.

By “short” I mean use a short hedge that requires you to pay margin calls when the market moves up. Not that I expect this market to go a lot higher and not that I expect it to go lower, I don’t know what to expect and frankly, it doesn’t matter what I think.

What matters and I can tell you this from some very hard-earned experience, is that there is nothing to be gained from trying to short inflationary patterns with a short-hedge. You will run up potentially massive margin calls and could potentially bankrupt yourself in the process.


Friday, July 15, 2011

Heat Stress in South Dakota Feedyards Will be a Major Issue Next Week

Although temperatures will only be in the low to mid-90's, high relative humidity and low winds speeds are the major threats to penned cattle.

The real issue will be high nighttime temps and high humidity will not allow stressed cattle to cool off overnight, therefore cattle cannot handle the heat of the next day.

Heat stress can't be completely avoided but a little management can go a long ways towards keeping cattle cooler and maintaining feed intake.

The biggest thing cattlemen can do is help cattle cool off at night by sprinkling the mounds in dirt pens with water in the evening to give cattle a cool place to lie down and dissipate body heat. Nothing you can do is more important than that.

Cattlemen will also have to regularly monitor cattle disposition during the day and make judgement calls on whether cattle need cool water sprayed directly on them to dissipate body heat.

Dr. Ben Holland, South Dakota State University (SDSU) Feedlot Specialist said, “Cattlemen need to start planning to keep cattle cool before the heat arrives, once cattle get hot, it’s too late to prevent problems.”

Dr. Holland also recommended acclimating cattle to being sprayed with water now, while is cool, so they don’t panic when you try to spray them when it is hot and unnecessarily generate more body heat.

Dr. Kelly Bruns, SDSU Professor of Animal Science said, “Cattlemen need to start preparing for the heat today by figuring out what auxillary water sources are available if cattle need extra water to drink and how is water going to be delivered to sprinkle pen mounds and cattle. He added, “whether you need to work with the local fire department or borrow a water truck to carry water, this needs to be figured out before Saturday evening when it is likely that cattle will start showing signs of stress in some areas.

Although some cloud cover and isolated thunderstorms are forecasted for Sunday, many areas will be hot and sunny most of the day and cattle could really start to suffer on Monday and Tuesday.

Thank you, have a great day, and good luck!!

Friday, June 3, 2011

Y the Infertility in Heifers?

Here's an update from BIF in Billings.

This goes along with the work we have been doing at SDSU with identifying factors that affect fertility and longevity in females.

Why the Y?

Thank You and Have a Great Day!!

Thursday, May 12, 2011

2010 Cow Calf Business Report

The SDSU Cow Calf Business Report is a guide to current year's production costs and production cost trends. The data that comprises these reports is collected directly from outfits across South Dakota as part of the SD Integrated Resource Management Program at SDSU (SD IRM). The SD IRM program provides individual and small group business management training, record keeping, and accoutning for farmers and ranchers in South Dakota.

The SD IRM program assists farmers and ranchers in developing financial statements based on managerial accounting, business financial analysis, enterprise cost profiling, record keeping, and cow herd efficiency analysis using the Standardized Performance Analysis (SPA); CHAPS also is used in some instances.

The 2010 SDSU Cow Calf Business Report is now available for viewing.

You can check it out at:

If you would like to become part of the SD IRM program, call me at 605-688-5455 or email me at

Thank you and have a great day!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

This is a Test

This is a test to see if SDR Newsletter, SDR Twitter, and SDR on Facebook are all connected. I doubt it.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Odds and Ends

As a result of my considerable time away, which is typical of JAN - APR due to the trip to Argentina and a lot of other stuff going on, I have developed quite a backlog of really good questions, comments and points of discussion that I would like to try to address over the next few weeks.

Last fall and early winter, we had quite a few discussions on cattle markets and the like and since that time, the markets have gone crazy with no real end in sight. This market run probably has a good side and a bad side, depending on which side of the fence you sit on; but we can visit more about that later.

Right now, I would like to respond to some of the great stuff readers of SDR have passed along. I probably won't get to everything, either because I don't really have a good comment or answer, or because it is so specific to your individual situation that it doesn't have much application to the broader audience of SDR. But I do read each and every email and I do appreciate the questions, feedback and comments.

I'll start with question #175 ( I keep them numbered in a spreadsheet so I don't lose track of them)

Q #175 - Do you have any yield and quality info for millets for the central area?

A: Yes and no, I'm not sure what you mean by "central area" but I will assume you mean central SD. By "yes and no" I mean I have some yield and quality info for certain varieties, but certainly not for all of them.

I have done a couple of yield trials at Miller, SD and have some data for a couple hybrids of Pearl millet. Of course there are many types of millet and they are not all the same. The type you want to plant depends on what you want it to do for you. Pearl millet is a good millet hybrid especially for haying and maybe some grazing if conditions are right.

The two Pearl millet hybrids I used in this trial was a non-BMR hybrid Pearl millet and the other was a BMR hybrid Pearl Millet. I planted four 20 ft. x 40 ft. plots of each variety on JUN 1. I harvested the plots on SEP 20. The harvest date was a little later than I would have liked, but we got some rain around the time I wanted to harvest and had to wait for things to dry out.

At harvest time, the forage from each plot was cut and weighed in tons per acre. Then sample moisture was determined to correct weights to a dry-matter basis in tons per acre. Then I took samples to the lab to have them tested for crude protein (%CP) and total digestible nutrients (TDN).

Using the %CP and TDN results I then calculated CP yield in tons per acre and TDN yield in tons per acre to give an idea of which variety yielded the most nutrients as well as the most forage.

You can see in the table that you give up some yield with the BMR variety. About a ton and a half on average (27%). However, what you give up in yield you gain with quality. The BMR runs about 14% higher %CP and 4% higher TDN than the non-BMR hybrid. So what does all this mean?

A lot of it is going to have to do with what you want this forage to do. If you are just looking for gut-fill for cows or to mix in with higher quality feeds for calves, the higher yielding, lower quality non-BMR hybrid is probably what you need. However, if you are looking to graze, I would go with the BMR variety. It is a lot more palatable than the non-BMR hybrids and since there isn't quite so much yield, cattle tend to waste a lot less (read: about zero) of it in grazing situations. If grazing ends up not working out, you can still hay it and have some real nice feed. You can graze the non-BMR too, but expect cattle to trample, foul, refuse, and waste 30% or so, so you are right back to about where you would be with the BMR hybrid.

Thank you and Have a Great Day!

Sunday, January 9, 2011


Martin and Raul Fosatti have hosted our group at their ranch, Don Poncho, near Santa Rosa for the last several years and visiting them is a great experience as it is always interesting to see what the Fosatti Brothers have been doing over the last year to improve their operation.

On our first visit to Santa Rosa in 2007, the Fosatti´s had just broke ground on a cooperative packing plant they had organized with some CREA members and other investors to capitalize on the ability to export beef directly to Europe. It has been incredible to watch over the last 5 years the plant open and begin running cattle through it.

This year however, brought a new twist to the saga of the Fosatti Brothers. After 5+ years of drought in La Pampa, they decided to rent 3 tracts of ground in BsAs province a couple hours south of the city. Most of this region is difficult to farm for row crops because it had very clayey soils, no slope, and high salinity. Therefore, they can run cattle on it pretty reasonably. So, all of the cows at Don Pancho are now in BsAs and all of the calves are trucked back to Don Poncho to be backgrounded and finished before they go to slaughter.

I have quizzed Martin and Raul relentlessly over the last several years about where they see Argentina´s beef industry going. Although they can´t say for sure because it is so heavily controlled by government intervention, the one thing they are certain about is that cattle can no longer be finished on grass, frame size and meat yield will have to increase, and cow numbers will continue to decline as the soybean revolution continues to march its way across the Pampas.

Seems that the the US and Argentina have more in common than we thought.

Thank you and have a great day!!

This Week In Argentina

Greetings from Argentina, this first week has really gone fast and has kind of gotten away from me with all of the great tours we have had.

We got into Buenos Aires last Monday with no problems and the students had a good time exploring the downtown area of the city. We went on a city tour in the afternoon and learned a little history of the town and what it is like to live in BsAs today. For a city of 14 million people, we sure were made to feel welcome and I think the kids really enjoyed being immersed in a culture very different from their own. It is always fun to watch them try to communicate with someone in spanish for the first few times, but now most of them can easily have a conversation with anyone. A lot of it is just getting over that initial fear of trying to piece a few spanish words together and using a lot of hand signals to get the point across.

On Tuesday we visited Mercado de Liniers, the largest livestock auction in the world. The numbers were down quite a bit this year from the last several years. When I was there in 2008 they were selling 12,000 head per day and this year was averaging just over 8,000 head per day. They have 4 auctions a week so that is quite a bit of cattle. The quality of cattle this year was quite a bit better than the quality I´ve seen there in the last couple of years. mostly because they have come out of a 5 year drought in BsAs and La Pampa provinces.

In the afternoon we visited the headquarters of CREA, the organization that visited South Dakota in August. They are a pretty amazing group that is really expanding in popularity amongst Argentine farmers and ranchers, as well as in other countries. Just in the last year, CREA has expanded into Paraguay and Bolivia. CREA gave us a good explanation of how the group works and talked at length of how the soybean revolution is quickly changing Argentine agriculture. I have seen this with my own eyes as the amount of grass and cattle in the country has all but disappeared and have been replaced with soy. This is the reason CREA came to SD in August, to learn more about feeding cattle in feedlots rather than grazing them on pastures. They have recognized that there isn´t much future for grass fed beef in Argentina.

In the next post, I´ll recount our visit with Martin and Raul Fosatti at the ranch near Olivarria, BsAs.

Thank you and have a great day!!