February 02, 2023

From the Pastures: Record prices on way?

Hello from Graze-N-Grow. I keep looking at the 10-day weather forecast for a return of fall, but so far it looks more like winter to me. Harvest is now over for us and thanks to my neighbor’s drill we have 75 acres of wheat that’s looking good. I think most of us in this neighborhood can be very grateful for the good crops. All we need now is more moisture for next year.

We just moved the ewe flock home to the oat and turnip paddock previously occupied by the remnant of ram lambs. That crop looked awesome, but the last few nights have zapped the tops some. These turnips, Appin, are supposed to stay green down to 20 degrees and the oats will still hold nutrients even after they lose color, so the ewes should stay in good condition until breeding time in early December. Most of the butcher lambs have been butchered and the remaining will be this winter as consumers call.

The cows and calves are now on the corn stalks, but soon we plan on getting rye drilled in. I know it’s kind of late, but rye is pretty tough. It makes a great early spring grazing crop, allowing pastures to get a good start before turn out. Every day the animals can graze rye saves on winter hay costs.

The bean stubble that didn’t get planted to wheat will get planted to oats and peas early next spring prior to corn planting to get more living roots in the soil for more days, as well as suppress weeds and hopefully supply a little nitrogen from the peas. Hopefully, we get some chicken litter on either this fall or winter, whenever the product is available.

With current high nitrogen costs, litter has been in great demand even for conventional farmers. I’m hoping that my 60 acres of clover that was planted with the oats last spring will survive the winter and provide enough N for next year’s corn without the cost of litter. We shall see. At least it was great feed for the animals the last few months.

As I see some reports on lamb prices, they are picking up and I think they will continue to improve this winter. Many of the drought-induced livestock liquidation should be through the pipeline by now. I would expect that when the drought breaks, hopefully soon, the demand for replacement breeding stock will see prices skyrocket, much like 2014 after the last big drought with bred heifers bringing as much as $3,000.

I also expect breeding ewes and lambs to follow suit and bring record prices. If you have the feed and the willingness to care for them, this is probably a good time to get started. Not a sales pitch. I am sold out now. Just my prediction. As it says in Proverbs, “An empty stable stays clean, but no income comes from an empty stable.” As I have said before, it is a great time to be a farmer, and especially a stockman.

Remember who to thank this Thanksgiving for all your blessings. Happy trails.

Jim Draper

Jim Draper

Sheffield, Ill.