Reflections on 2006

By: Bob French
By: Bob French

John Malazzo lost 200 acres of pasture and 280 round hay bales in a fire caused by sparks from a trailer on a highway.

“When a fire goes through your place, not only do you lose your grass, but you lose your fence posts, and I know fencing right now runs about $9,000 per mile.”

30 days away from the beginning of the planting window for corn, dry land farmers were in desperate need of moisture.

“We’ve got enough to get everything up and get it going. It will depend a lot on if we do get any rain in the next month or so.”

Crop irrigation began early.

“We have had to pre-irrigate some of this cotton, or pre-bloom cotton if you will, and so we’re looking at greater costs in terms of irrigation because of fuel costs.”

There was no carry-over of hay because of the 2005 drought, and with a shortage of moisture, hay producers didn’t have much of an early spring cutting.

“We started looking for outsource supplies of hay. We located a few round bales that carried us for a while. After we ran out of that we had to start bringing in large square bales, as many as 12 different states.”

The first week in July brought some needed rains, and in august corn, milo, and soybeans began to be harvested.

“It’s gonna be a good crop, not an exceptional one, I don’t think, because it’s just so hot and dry, even though you are watering it, I don’t think you can quite get the yields that you would have gotten with it been a little cooler, and maybe getting a rain, a timely rain or two.”

Many ranchers didn’t receive any of those timely rains, and cattle numbers at sale barns began to rise above normal levels in may. Calves were also being sold at lighter weights.

“July was up just a little but when we got into August, we really saw an increase. We ran about 50% more cattle than usual in August, and by the end of august, we were about 17% to 18% above annual numbers.”

The outlook for hay production in august continued to be pretty bleak, and then many people got a good rain.

“For the cattle end of it, the rain was great. We needed it. It’s gonna make us make another cutting of hay that we probably wouldn’t have made. You know, from the cotton end, it’s gonna hurt us, but that’s one thing about agriculture, you give and take. You gain on one side and lose on the other side and hope that it all averages out.”

Late in the year, demand from ethanol plants drove the price of corn to a ten year high, promising to create a ripple effect that will be felt throughout agriculture in 2007. I’m Bob French, reflecting on Brazos Valley agriculture in 2006, From the Ground Up.

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