Weather thoughts

Lots of random thoughts this week. My next blog will include my thoughts on the Hogs and Pigs report that was released last Friday.

This past weekend we returned to northeast Nebraska to a wedding. A chance to meet with old friends and to look at crop progress. In general, corn and beans looked tremendous from Mankato to Sioux City. Northeast Nebraska (and much of Nebraska in general) is suffering from too much rain (or at least too much rain too fast). While the crops on the hillsides looked ok, the bottoms were either washed out, covered with cornstalks or not planted or etc. I think you can see the trend. Around the Wayne, NE area, almost 20% of the corn stood in the field all winter so planting was delayed until harvest was completed. When you add to that all of the rain, the crops are in desperate need of some heat units and dry weather.

In the Mankato, MN area, weekend storms did considerable crop damage. When combined with the storms from the previous week, parts of Minnesota look rough. However, overall, reports from most producers across the state suggest a tremendous crop in the making.

In Iowa, especially southern Iowa, too much rain is again the story. In central to northern Iowa, a very good crop in the making, except for where storm damage may be in isolated belts. In South Dakota, a lot of soybean acres going unplanted due to too much water.

All of these stories about too much water suggest that when pollination begins in a few weeks, moisture won’t be a concern, meaning chances are good that we will once again have a very good corn crop. The futures market is reflecting this as prices creep lower. I can’t help but begin thinking about strategies for pricing of corn for next year – when do you lock in your price to keep your cost of production reasonable?

What will quality be like in the 2010 crop? Reports from across the corn belt indicate that we are seeing continued reductions in pig performance due to the 2009 crop problems. In the western corn belt, it appears that energy in the grain is a limit to performance. Normally, producers would add fat to summer diets to maintain energy intake. However, with fat costing $0.30 per pound or more and corn costing $0.055-0.06 per pound ($3.10-3.40/bu), almost all producers have removed fat from grow-finish diets.

I’ve heard of country elevator bids under $3 per bushel. I haven’t heard of anyone selling at that price though. Several people have commented on the amount of grain moving from on-farm storage to ethanol and country elevator points. On the drive to Nebraska there were more grain trucks on the road than usual. I think this reflects grower’s belief that they will have a good crop in 2010 and they are moving corn to make storage space on-farm for this fall.

The heat index in eastern Nebraska reached 100F+ last Saturday. I was in our research barns this morning and the workers said the pigs didn’t move around much on Saturday. I receive a daily email from our data logging system at one of the barns, and drinking water usage dropped to almost zero midday on both Friday and Saturday. This means feed intake was also near zero during this time frame, even though we have tunnel ventilated facilities with misters for added cooling. There have been several evenings in the past week when the ventilation system didn’t begin slowing down until 4 or 5 am. It is logical to expect sale weights to drop off sharply in the coming weeks. If weights don’t drop fairly rapidly (the typical summer slump), it’s because producers have more space available for pigs due to reduced inventories and can keep pigs longer to maintain sale weights. If this happens, we should have some smaller kills in the coming weeks as this inventory builds due to heat effects.

Finally, all of the storms in Iowa and Minnesota has meant several hog facilities have been severely damaged. I know I’ve written about emergency planning in the past, but this is a good reminder. Have you given any thought to where you would put your pigs if their facility was damage/destroyed in a storm? In my experience, while some pig deaths occur in storms, the bigger problem is sunburned pigs in the days following the storm. If you can’t get the pigs under a roof by noon on the next day, you begin having severe sunburns on the pigs. These sunburns end up as infections in quite a few of the pigs, meaning your loss may be bigger after the storm than from the storm directly.

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