Area calving season underway, planting start nears

Shawn Adrian enjoys and appreciates his work as an ag banker. But the Binford, N.D., man is a farmer, too, so the next few months hold particular appeal. "I really like work sitting in the office and working with farmers (bank clients) in the win...

Paul Motter
Paul Motter, a Cooperstown, N.D., veterinarian, says this calving season is going extremely well.

Shawn Adrian enjoys and appreciates his work as an ag banker.

But the Binford, N.D., man is a farmer, too, so the next few months hold particular appeal.

"I really like work sitting in the office and working with farmers (bank clients) in the winter," he says. "But getting out in the fields (myself) in planting is special."

Adrian's attitude can be found throughout the Upper Midwest, where another planting season is beginning. Though crop prices have plunged in the past two years, the start of planting always rekindles excitement and enthusiasm.

Spring also brings another calving and lambing season, a fresh round of challenge and satisfaction to ranchers.


Agweek visited North Dakota's Griggs, Foster and Steele counties on a windy mid-March day. Many crops are grown there, with wheat, corn and soybeans the most popular, and cattle are common, as well.

The mood in the three counties is upbeat, particularly for livestock producers. Beef prices have soared to record highs, and spring calving is going well -- the best a long-term veterinarian in the area can remember.

Farmers, for their part, are pleased the new planting season promises to be earlier, drier and easier than the late, soggy and difficult 2014 planting season.

'An opportunity'

BINFORD, N.D. -- Shawn Adrian knows agriculture, both as a banker and a farmer himself. And he knows Binford, the farm and ranch town of about 190 where he grew up.

So Adrian has a strong and varied perspective on the mood of farmers and ranchers in his community.

"There's a lot of optimism," especially among cattle producers. "They were due, and now their time has come," he says.

He has friends, relatives and clients who ranch, so he understands both professionally and personally how much cattle producers welcome strong beef prices and good calving conditions.


Poor crop prices dim the outlook for farmers, says Adrian, an ag loan officer with Farmers & Merchants National Bank of North Dakota. The Tolna, N.D.-based bank also has locations in Binford, McVille and Northwood.

The cost of health insurance and other family living expenses keeps rising, further pressuring farm families financially, he notes.

But farmers generally strengthened their balance sheets when crop prices were high, and they're in relatively good position to ride out tough times, Adrian says.

For now, though, the focus is on planting, which, if the weather cooperates, could begin by the middle of April in the Binford area.

"There's always stress," he says of planting. "But there's anticipation, too. It's an opportunity for another good year."

Decisions, decisions

FINLEY, N.D. -- One of the good things about farming in the Finley, N.D., area is that producers can choose among many different crops.

But the ability also makes farming more challenging for producers -- and their agronomists.


"Farmers can switch between crops at the drop of a hat," says Jeff Pewitt, an agronomist with Finley Farmers Grain & Elevator Co.

Plunging grain prices are causing farmers in the Finley area, and elsewhere, to examine their options more closely than usual this spring. Because corn, wheat and soybeans won't be as profitable, producers are looking into other crops, such as dry beans, that could offer better odds of making money.

Even as planting nears, many farmers in the Finley area continue to fine-tune their 2015 planting decisions, Pewitt says.

Seed availability and weather in the next few weeks will influence what they end up planting, he says.

"There's going be some switching around between crops, right up to the last minute," he says.

A spring to remember

COOPERSTOWN, N.D. -- Paul Motter has spent a quarter-century as a veterinarian with the Cooperstown Veterinary Clinic.

He's seen good cattle prices and, more often, poor cattle prices. He's seen good calving seasons and, too often, difficult calving seasons.


But he's never seen anything quite like this spring. The combination of record-high beef prices and an unusually-smooth-so-far calving season makes this spring a spring to remember.

"It's all going well right now," he says.

Calving season in general has become easier through the years, as ranchers learn more about feeding and breeding their animals, Motter says.

"The genetics are better. The nutrition is, too," he says.

And the season usually is easier because more ranchers have pushed back the start of calving to take advantage of warmer spring temperatures.

The past few calving seasons, however, have been extremely difficult -- two of the worst ever -- in Cooperstown Veterinary Clinic's trade area. Even with the pushed-back calving start, ranchers struggled through cold, wet and miserable calving conditions in both 2013 and 2014.

That makes this year's smooth calving season -- "The best I remember" -- even more welcome, he says.

Motter, sitting in his office, smiles and taps his knuckles on a piece of wood.


"Let's hope it keeps on," he says.

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