Sunday, December 21, 2014

January is a Busy Month on the Farm
January 16, 2014 by John Parker | No Comments

Since weve experienced some of the coldest temperatures in about 20 years, local farmers have had to take precautions to deal with the cold. Weather…

Since weve experienced some of the coldest temperatures in about 20 years, local farmers have had to take precautions to deal with the cold. Weather like we had last week causes all kinds of problems on the farm.

Cold equipment tends to be brittle and break easier than normal. Tractors or skid loaders may not start. Chains may freeze and break. Water lines, as the ground freezes deeper, can freeze if they are not deep enough.

With livestock, special attention is needed. They need adequate protection from the wind and snow. More energy is needed to keep them warm and that can mean they should have more feed. Watering troughs or cups need to be kept from freezing. Bedding should be clean and dry, and on and on.

So, the extremely cold weather causes problems for everyone. What is interesting is that last year was one of the hottest winters on record. Now we are experiencing one of the coldest winters in a long time. Weather records indicate that, over time, the highs and lows in temperature tend to balance out.

Over the short term, we tend to think that we have global warming or cooling. Longtime records suggest, however, that they do balance over time.

Once the weather emergencies are over, local farmers have time to deal with other concerns, which may be getting the tractors in the shop, oil and filters changed and tuned up for the hustle and bustle of spring work.

Or, maybe the combine needs to be cleaned up and engine serviced ready for harvest next summer. All kinds of planting equipment needs to be checked and made ready for next spring. Maintenance work now can speed up planting time next spring.

Prices for their crops and milk continue to be of concern. Corn took a 39 percent drop this fall from a year ago. The sharp drop, along with many local harvest problems caused by too much rain, has been a serious situation for many farmers.

Now farmers are studying the grain price predictions for next year and deciding what to do. Some have already made that decision because they have ordered their seed supply for the spring planting.

Looking at the other side of the coin, milk prices for the first half of 2014 are expected to be strong. This, along with lower feed prices because of lower grain prices, can mean more profit in the milk checks. Dairy farmers can use a good year to offset some of the low milk price years.

With a farm bill still in the works, farmers dont know what to expect in the way of support if there is a crop disaster or farm prices so low they are forced out of business. Hopefully, Congress will pass a farm bill soon.

Since 75 to 80 percent of farm bill money goes to the food and nutrition part of the program, just how much those programs will get is a sticking point in Congress. As important as the program is in helping feed low income families, many in Congress want ways to prevent abuse included in the bill. Lets hope they get together and get something done in January.

The food supply is important to everyone. What happens out on the farm from day to day is also important. One of the new chores added to the farmers lists is the need to be more active in telling their true story to consumers. They can do it better than anyone else.

Parker is retired from The Ohio State University and an independent agricultural writer.

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