LISBON, N.D. — It's not always intuitive, but relatively cold weather in January is healthier for cattle than warmer weather in a cattle feedlot.
"This is the weather we were waiting for," Bill Lyons says, on a day when it's more than 10 below zero. "It slows the bugs up."
He lists pneumonia as the top nemesis. November was nice for people but actually was a bit too cold and damp.
"Cold is good," he says, emphasizing the fact with a smile.
Bill, 51, and brother Mike Lyons, 50, are partners in a grain and feedlot cattle farm.
They rent land from their father, Bud. Mike's son, Derek, has joined the operation.
Nearly half of the Lyons' acres are soybeans.The rest is split between wheat and corn, under irrigation. Every third year the R.D. Offutt Co. of Fargo, N.D., rents the irrigated land for potatoes.
The 2017 year was somewhat dry, but they appreciated "exceptional" yields. Non-irrigated corn went 170 to 193 bushels per acre. Irrigated corn ran 190 to 240 bushels an acre. Dryland soybeans were 43 to 50 bushels an acre and the irrigated were about 68 bushels.
The Lyons feedlot holds up to a 700 head capacity, but was sitting at about 500 head as the calendar turned to 2018. The Lyonses acquire cows primarily in November and calve-out the bred ones.
"Everything else is fattened out and sent to slaughter," Bill says.
Looking ahead to the 2018 planting season, the soil moisture picture is relatively dry, but that can change quickly in the spring, the Lyons brothers say.
"I'm not worried," Bill says. Their land is largely clay loam — "pretty heavy stuff," he says.
The duo started going to no-till methods about 15 years ago. Now, instead of putting down fertilizer in the fall and looking at more than 10 percent flooded acres in the spring, they now only fertilize at planting time.
"If we get it seeded, it's fertilized; if it's under-water, we aren't throwing the fertilizer out there," Mike says.
The coming crop is on their minds as they maintain equipment in a heated shop they built recently. They also ponder marketing options.
In 2017, they managed to buy and sell cattle at profitable levels — mostly through Sisseton (S.D) Livestock Inc. in Sisseton, S.D. The Lyons crew sold some fat cows the last week of December. The 1,650-pound cows went for about $66.50 per hundredweight. The Lyons farm markets much of what it grows through the cattle.
"We don't buy too much," Mike says, although they get corn syrup from ethanol plants, either at Casselton, N.D., or Hankinson, N.D.
Their wheat and bean sale prices in 2017 turned out favorably. They held out too long on the corn, figuring on a summer rally.
"We missed it," Mike says. "We took what we got and made room for the new crop."
In 2018, Mike expects to be "a little more aggressive" on selling when the price hits price targets.
The farm might reduce their corn acres in 2018 — or not.
"You don't want to go down too much and wind up with beans-on-beans."