Tuesday, April 08, 2014
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Today's feature from the LDN Spring FARM OUTLOOK

Walking your crop out of the field

By Jim Youngquist

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[April 08, 2014]  When the price of corn plummeted from its high of just short of $8/bushel in 2012 to just over $4/bushel in 2013, many producers were looking for ways to keep a roof over their heads. Low or no profit means these are lean times for the farming community.

Farmers come from a creative heritage, and they spend their time trying to figure out how to squeeze a profit from their labors and their crops. In the old days, farmers extended their profits by feeding a portion of the corn they grew to their livestock and then selling the livestock off at a profit. They literally "walked their crop out of the field."

Wayne Conrady has been walking the crop out of his field all his life. Wayne said that with the low prices for corn right now and the current prices for both cattle and hogs, a producer can make a good profit on the corn that they grow by feeding it. Even with the high cost of processing, there is currently a living to be made in cows and pigs.

In Conrady's operation they are feeding heifers, selling off the steers and are currently looking forward to the start of calving season, any moment now. At the time of the interview Conrady said, "It's disastrous trying to calve in this cold weather."

In fact, Conrady describes raising livestock as an adventure of sorts. "You don't see us in town getting breakfast in the morning," he said. "Instead, we get up early every day and go out hoping there is no calamity or catastrophe looking you in the face."

During the 17-below-zero weather, Conrady spent all day trying to thaw water so the cattle could drink. And during the summer of 2012, he spent every afternoon hauling water to their pasture over near Middletown, just so the cattle could drink.

Conrady told the story that good management is what makes a livestock operation successful. You have to have good practices and carry them through.

He said it's just like he tells the help: "If you open the gate, you should shut it right away. But they open the gate and say they are just gonna take a minute to put down some feed, and all the while the cows are watching, and just as soon as that gate is open they are moving. It only takes 30 seconds to close the gate, but it takes three hours to round up the cattle when you decide to leave it open."

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There is money to be made feeding your corn to your own livestock, Conrady says, and if you currently have livestock, stay with it. He adds, however, if you don't have livestock, don't start now.

"It's a huge investment and a lot of work to get into the livestock business. It's not something to get into when the market is high and get out of when the market is low," Conrady explained.

There is a cycle to it, a time when you can make money on livestock, and a time when the bottom drops out of it. Staying in it as a lifetime investment is what makes it worthwhile.

Most of the farmers interviewed for this magazine said they weren't even "gonna" consider getting into livestock to boost their profits.

For Wayne Conrady, raising livestock is a way of life, not just a short-term scheme to make a bigger profit. Raising livestock is in his blood.


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