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Published July 21, 2014, 10:16 AM

NASS reports good conditions

While federal officials have yet to report prevented-planting acres in the region, crops that have been planted are doing pretty well, according to the latest National Agricultural Statistics Service weekly report, for the week ending July 14.

By: Mikkel Pates, Agweek

While federal officials have yet to report prevented-planting acres in the region, crops that have been planted are doing pretty well, according to the latest National Agricultural Statistics Service weekly report, for the week ending July 14.

North Dakota had cooler-than-normal temperatures, minimal precipitation and improved conditions for small grains, canola and flaxseed. Row crops such as corn and soybeans would have benefitted from more heat. Topsoil is 85 percent adequate to surplus and subsoil moisture is 97 percent adequate to surplus. Winter wheat is 95 percent headed and rated 55 percent good to excellent. Other grains are equal to or slightly behind schedule in development, but still looking good. Crops in the good to excellent categories include: spring wheat, 82 percent; barley, 80 percent; oats, 87 percent. Canola is 86 percent blooming and 85 percent in good to excellent condition; flaxseed, 77 percent good to excellent; dry edible peas, 76 percent; dry beans, 70 percent; potatoes, 60 percent; corn, 79 percent; soybeans, 78 percent. Sugar beets were rated 64 percent good to excellent. Alfalfa hay is 56 percent complete for the first cutting, well behind the 80 percent average for the date, but 89 percent good to excellent.

South Dakota had below-normal temperatures and scattered rain showers, with 89 percent of the state’s topsoil and 91 percent of the subsoil rated adequate or better. About 10 percent of the winter wheat was described as mature, ahead of last year, but behind the 36 percent five-year average. Crop ratings in the good to excellent categories include: spring wheat, 81 percent; oats, 86 percent; barley, 80 percent; corn, 82 percent; soybeans, 74 percent; sorghum, 92 percent. About 85 percent of the sunflowers had emerged and 4 percent had bloomed. About 85 percent of the first-cutting alfalfa was complete, behind the 93 percent average. About 28 percent of the second-cutting alfalfa had been taken, behind the 33 percent average.

Minnesota farmers had 5.4 suitable field work days and used it to apply herbicides and pick up a second cutting of alfalfa. Only potato and hay crops declined in condition slightly during the week. Topsoil moisture conditions were rated 75 percent adequate and 23 percent surplus. Five percent of the corn is silking — 15 percent behind the five-year average, but 64 percent of the crop is in good to excellent condition. Twenty-seven percent of the soybeans are blooming — up 14 percent from the previous week. Some 63 percent of the spring wheat was heading, with 8 percent turning color. Potatoes were 77 percent good to excellent. Dry beans are 15 percent blooming, 4 percent ahead of last year. Minnesota sugar beets rated 9 percent very poor, 26 percent poor, 44 percent fair, 14 percent good and only 7 percent excellent.

Willmar, Minn., for example, has had almost 7 inches more rainfall than average since April 1.

Montana pasture conditions are above last year but behind the five-year average with 52 percent rated good to excellent, compared with an average of 56 percent. First-cutting alfalfa was 83 percent complete, compared with 73 percent for the five-year average. About 73 percent of Montana’s non-alfalfa hay was harvested, compared with a 66 percent five-year average for the date. Topsoil and subsoil moisture adequate or better were slightly above the five-year averages at 64 and 68 percent, respectively. Blooming percentages were slightly behind the five-year average for some crops, including: canola, 82 percent; dry peas, 84 percent; flaxseed, 68 percent; and lentils, 59 percent. Some small grains were ahead of schedule for heading: barley, 88 percent; spring wheat, 68 percent. Others were slightly behind schedule, including oats, 84 percent; winter wheat, 96 percent. Crops in the good to excellent conditions were barley, 51 percent; corn, 74 percent; dry peas, 67 percent; oats, 68 percent; durum, 70 percent; spring wheat, 60 percent; winter wheat, 66 percent.

Abundance of hay

BROADUS, Mont. — Dave Nisley, an Agweek subscriber who lives 14 miles east of Broadus, Mont., says he probably has the biggest crop of hay since he started in the business. Some of it has run 1.5 tons per acre.

Nisley and his wife, Pam, run a cow-calf operation. Nisley this year had harvested about 800 bales and was about a third done as of June 28.

By July 15, it was three-quarters done. The hay barley is put up and the millet is next to go. The Nisleys had largely avoided the hail and violent storms that have hit some neighbors.

“We’re going to have at least twice and maybe three times the hay we had last year, Nisley says. The hay looked to be of good quality.

With strong cattle prices, Nisley is looking forward to the marketing year. He sells mostly through the region’s sale rings in the fall.

Excited, careful

Dave Gardner is a cow-calf producer, 35 miles west of Broadus, and is also an accountant in Broadus.

Gardner says he and his son, Tyler, a cabinet maker, operate a 150-head cow-calf operation, small by community standards. They try to put up enough hay to winter the cows.

“That doesn’t always happen, so you end up buying hay,” he says.

The Gardners had sprayed for alfalfa weevil and were letting the hay crop grow in late June, but were nearly done haying on July 15. Grass alfalfa hay yielded less than expected, but the hay barley had done well. Weevils are always a problem with alfalfa in this area. Honeybees placed on the farmstead by a California-based producer seemed to be happy with the lush prairie growth, including sweet clover.

Gardner says rainfall has been above-average.

“I would say we’ve had more smaller rains than what is normal for us,” he says. “Usually we’re very hot by this time of year.”

Generally, the Gardners use a video auction option for a July calf sale.

“Two years ago when we droughted out, we sold calves off of the cows in August, which we normally don’t do. Generally, we want to get to the mid or end of October before we take the calves off.”

Gardner says ranchers are a substantial part of his accounting clientele. Most people lately have strong bottom lines.

“I think people are generally excited about the financial situation,” he says. “They’re very cautious, not knowing how far out the good times will go. To have cash left at the end of the operation year is an unusual situation for a lot of folks.”