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Archive for November, 2014

Giving thanks will be a little costlier this year, but — and here’s something you can be truly thankful for — it probably won’t empty your wallet.

The price for putting Thanksgiving dinner on the table for 10 people is expected to rise slightly this year, clocking in at $49.41. That’s 37 cents higher than in 2013. For that, you can blame dairy products, coffee and that all-important marshmallow-topped sweet potato casserole, according to the annual informal survey of consumer grocery prices performed by the American Farm Bureau Federation.

The group found that the price of dairy — as in milk for the mashed potatoes and whipped cream for the pies — collectively jumped 25 cents over last year. Miscellaneous ingredients, such as coffee, sugar and eggs, account for another 28 cents, while 3 pounds of sweet potatoes jumped 20 cents.

The good news is that a drop in fuel prices won’t just make it cheaper to drive to Grandma’s house for the big meal, it also helped keep down the cost of some ingredients. Flour-based foods, such as stuffing mix, pie shells and dinner rolls, will run about 21 cents less than last year, likely due to energy cost savings by the processors, says John Anderson, the Farm Bureau’s deputy chief economist.

The group estimates the cost of Thanksgiving dinner by averaging non-sale food prices around the country based on feeding 10 people a meal of turkey, bread stuffing, sweet potatoes, rolls with butter, peas, cranberries, carrots and celery, pumpkin pie with whipped cream, and coffee and milk. And yes, their estimates account for needing leftovers.

And here’s something to consider: Though this year’s cost is up, it’s still 7 cents lower than in 2012.

News earlier this week that turkey production is at its lowest level in nearly three decades and wholesale prices are at an all-time high briefly spooked some folks. But most consumers won’t see that reflected on their grocery bills. Retailers aren’t likely to pass on to consumer much if any price hike that they are paying for the big birds, and the Farm Bureau actually expects the cost of a 16-pound turkey to drop by 11 cents this year.

Of course, there are plenty of ways to spend more this Thanksgiving. Upgrade that 16-pound conventional bird to an organic, free-range model and suddenly the Farm Bureau’s $21.65 estimate can jump to $100 or more at specialty online retailers. Not into baking? Instead of spending about $3 on a homemade pie, you can spend $25 or more on high-end mail order versions.

Or maybe you don’t want to cook at all. A complete and fully cooked Thanksgiving dinner for 12 people from Whole Foods Market will cost around $170.

Then again, maybe you want to spend less. Shop smart at a bargain retailer and you could shave more than a third off the Farm Bureau’s total. Using the same menu for 10 people, Wal-Mart estimates that shopping for Thanksgiving dinner at one of its stores will cost just $32.64.

But maybe you got off the hook this year and aren’t hosting Thanksgiving. If instead of cooking you’ll be traveling by car, you’ll see savings at the pump. Gasoline is running about 33 cents less per gallon than it was a year ago, with a national average of $2.88, according to travel tracker AAA. And it doesn’t matter where you’re driving. Gas can be found for less than $3 a gallon in every state in the continental U.S.

Don’t want to drive? If you’re traveling by train, you’ll pay a bit more. Amtrak says its ticket prices have increased an average of 2 percent over last year. Same goes for flying. The average price of an airline ticket for travel this Thanksgiving is $307.52, not including an average $51 in taxes and fees, according to the Airlines Reporting Corp., which processes ticket transactions for airlines and travel agencies. That’s up 1.1 percent from last year.

By: Mike Niederman – Mercer Landmark Agronomist

It seems like winter got here in a hurry this year and I think it’s safe to say that not everyone was able to take care of all of their fall burndown with some growers probably not able to take care of any of it.  It is important to control winter annual weeds because they will compete with crops and many of them are hosts for devastating pests such as black cutworm and soybean cyst nematode.  Now is a great time to get out into the fields (as long as there isn’t any snow) and see what your problem weeds are so we can determine the best management practice for every field.  It is ideal to get burndown applied to every field in the fall but in farming, ideal timing is very hard to come by.  It may be too late to take care of any weeds now but we want to be prepared for what we will be battling when everything starts to come back to life this coming spring.  Be sure to contact your local Mercer Landmark agronomy rep for assistance with weed identification and selecting the right herbicide.

By: Kyle Imwalle – Mercer Landmark Agronomist

With fertilizer prices staying steady and supplies tighter, farmers should talk with their local Mercer Landmark agronomist to make sure they are applying the right rate, in the right form, at the right time. Farmers might also consider purchasing a portion of next season’s fertilizer requirements in the fall, rather than in the spring, A Purdue study of the seasonality of fertilizer prices shows large advantages for fall fertilizer purchases compared to spring purchases most years, but there have been a handful of exceptions to that, too, so it is certainly not a risk-free strategy.

P and K considerations

P and K fertilizers can either be applied in the fall or spring, but due to time constraints, most farmers prefer to apply them in the fall, when conditions are appropriate. If broadcasting P and K, make sure you do so before soils are frozen to avoid the potential for increased spring runoff. Soil tests help insure that we are applying the right amount of fertilizer. Farmers should always address the nutrient needs of fields or even parts of fields that are testing before critical levels first, before spending dollars on nutrients that might not be needed at all due to adequate test levels.

Improved N efficiencies

In general, what’s best for the plant and for the environment is to apply fertilizer as close as possible to when the plant needs it. For nitrogen that is even more important. Nitrogen is more mobile than P and K, so if a farmer wants to apply some N in the fall a nitrogen stabilizer is recommended. Most nitrogen stabilizers will protect nitrogen into the spring. The one concern is if there is a wet spring and pushes planting back it will cause the fall nitrogen to become subjected to a greater loss than normal.

Talk with your local Mercer Landmark Agronomist today about creating a fertilizer program to help maximize your yield potential.

By Gabriel Bombardelli, Henrique Soares, and Ricardo Chebel Department of Veterinary Population Medicine, University of Minnesota November 12, 2014 | 3:00 pm EST

Automated systems for estrous detection (e.g. pedometers, activity monitors) are becoming more popular in the U.S. dairy industry, particularly in the Midwest. The use of such systems presents opportunities to increase the percentage of the herd inseminated in estrus (heat) and reduce the use of reproductive hormones. In large herds, the use of such systems may also reduce labor necessary for heat detection (e.g. visual or tail paint). These automated systems, however, present a few challenges when they are first implemented and require fine tuning to achieve optimum heat detection accuracy and efficiency and optimum pregnancy per AI (P/AI).

Conventional semen and ideal time of AI

Using a mounting detecting device, researchers determined that P/AI was greatest when the interval from first mount (onset of estrus) to AI was 4 to 12 hours1. More recently, it has been suggested that the ideal interval from increased activity (above a minimum threshold) to AI for maximum P/AI was 4 to 12 hours in mature cows and approximately 16 hours for heifers2. These findings have a physiological explanation. Ovulation occurs approximately 28 to 30 hours after a cow starts to demonstrate signs of estrus (e.g. first mount, increased activity)2,3.

After ovulation, a viable egg is present in the uterus of the cow for approximately 10 hours. Following AI, the sperm cells are viable in the uterus for approximately 24 hours and within this period (first 10 hours) the sperm cells undergo chemical reactions to allow fertilization. Therefore, insemination of cows 4 to 16 hours after onset of estrus would represent insemination approximately 12 to 26 hours before ovulation. Inseminating cows too early (< 4 hours after the onset of estrus) may reduce P/AI because of limited number of viable sperm cells to fertilize the egg and inseminating cows too late (> 16 hours after onset of estrus) may reduce P/AI because by the time sperm cells are ready for fertilization there would be no viable egg to be fertilized.

Sex-sorted semen and ideal time of AI

Sex-sorted semen is produced from ejaculates that are processed (stained and separated) to result in semen with sperm cells predominantly containing X (female) or Y (male) chromosomes. Although the sex-sorting process results in high ‘purity’ (90 to 95% of all sperm cells in a straw of semen are of the desired sex), the production of sex-sorted semen is ‘costly’ because a large portion of the ejaculate is ‘lost’ in the process.

Therefore, straws of sex-sorted semen often have 10 times fewer sperm cells (2 x 106 cells/straw) than conventional semen (20 x 106 cells/straw). The processing of the ejaculate to obtain sex-sorted semen and the reduced number of sperm cells in straws of sex-sorted semen often are blamed for the reduced P/AI observed with the use of sex-sorted semen.

Considering the reduced number of sperm cells in a straw of sex-sorted semen and the apparent reduced viability of sperm cells from sex-sorted semen, strategies have been evaluated to improve P/AI following insemination with sex-sorted semen. Of particular interest is the timing of AI in relation to the onset of estrus. Insemination with sex-sorted semen 4 to 16 hours after onset of estrus (recommended for conventional semen) may limit the number of sperm cells available for fertilization when an egg is ready to be fertilized.

Figure 1. Expected probability of P/AI of lactating Jersey cows inseminated with sex-sorted semen according to interval from onset of estrus (activity monitors) to AI. *Represents expected timing of ovulation.

Actually, researchers demonstrated that P/AI of Jersey heifers inseminated with sex-sorted semen was greatest when AI occurred approximately 16 to 24 hours after the onset of estrus (12 to 16 hours = 37.7%, 16.1 to 20 hours = 51.8%, 20.1 to 24 hours = 55.6%, 24.1 to 30 hours = 45.5%)4. Our research group is currently conducting a large experiment with lactating Jersey cows (n = 600) to determine the ideal time of AI with sex-sorted semen in relation to the onset of estrus, based on increased activity. Preliminary data are promising and suggest that lactating cows receiving sex-sorted semen should be inseminated between 20 and 28 hours after onset of estrus to achieve optimum P/AI (Figure 1).

Figure 1. Expected probability of P/AI of lactating Jersey cows inseminated with sex-sorted semen according to interval from onset of estrus (activity monitors) to AI. *Represents expected timing of ovulation.

Experiments that explore the best alternatives to increase P/AI of heifer and particularly lactating cows following insemination with sex-sorted semen are crucial to allow dairy producers to make the best possible use of such technology without compromising reproductive parameters.


1. Dransfield MB, Nebel RL, Pearson RE, Warnick LD. 1998. Timing of insemination for dairy cows identified in estrus by a radiotelemetric estrus detection system. J Dairy Sci. 81:1874-82.

2. Stevenson JS, Hill SL, Nebel RL, DeJarnette JM. 2014. Ovulation timing and conception risk after automated activity monitoring in lactating dairy cows. J Dairy Sci. 97:4296-308.

3. Valenza A, Giordano JO, Lopes G Jr, Vincenti L, Amundson MC, Fricke PM. 2012. Assessment of an accelerometer system for detection of estrus and treatment with gonadotropin-releasing hormone at the time of insemination in lactating dairy cows. J Dairy Sci. 95:7115-27.

4. Sá Filho MF, Ayres H, Ferreira RM, Nichi M, Fosado M, Campos Filho EP, Baruselli PS. 2010. Strategies to improve pregnancy per insemination using sex-sorted semen in dairy heifers detected in estrus. Theriogenology 74:1636-42.

Thanks Allen Douglas for sharing.

December Corn Chart: The wedge has broken toward the top side, and December has seemingly pressed away from the 100 day MA. A move over $3.81 puts corn on track to look at the gap up at $4.15.

January Soybeans Chart: There is resistance at $1.097 ¼, $11.22 ¼, and a gap to fill at $11.41. Wednesday’s failure is trying to bounce this morning. Which way will we go?

A little Fall humor as harvest begins to wind down

Small Grains Update: Survey respondents who reported barley, oats, Durum wheat, or other spring wheat acreage as not yet harvested in Colorado, Idaho, Minnesota, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah, and Wyoming during the surveys conducted in preparation for the Small Grains 2014 Summary, released September 30, 2014, were re-contacted in late October to determine how many of those acres were actually harvested and record the actual production from those acres. Based on this updated information, several changes were made to the estimates published in the Small Grains 2014 Summary. Because un harvested production is a component of on-farm stocks, changes were made to the September 1 on-farm stocks levels comparable with the production adjustments.

Corn production is forecast at 14.4 billion bushels, down slightly from the previous forecast, but up 3 percent from 2013. Based on conditions as of November 1, yields are expected to average 173.4 bushels per acre, down 0.8 bushel from the previous forecast but 14.6 bushels above the 2013 average. If realized, this will be the highest yield and production on record for the United States. Area harvested for grain is forecast at 83.1 million acres, unchanged from the previous forecast but down 5 percent from 2013.

Soybean production is forecast at a record 3.96 billion bushels, up less than 1 percent from October and up 18 percent from last year. Based on November 1 conditions, yields are expected to average a record high 47.5 bushels per acre, up 0.4 bushel from last month and up 3.5 bushels from last year. Area for harvest in the United States is forecast at a record 83.4 million acres, unchanged from last month.

All cotton production is forecast at 16.4 million 480-pound bales, up less than 1 percent from last month and up 27 percent from last year. Yield is expected to average 797 pounds per harvested acre, down 24 pounds from last year. Upland cotton production is forecast at 15.8 million 480-pound bales, up 29 percent from 2013. Pima cotton production, forecast at 578,000 bales, was carried forward from last month.

OILSEEDS:  U.S. oilseed production for 2014/15 is projected at 117.2 million tons, up 0.9 million from last month on increased soybean, peanut, and cottonseed production.  Soybean production is forecast at 3,958 million bushels, up 31 million on higher yields.  The soybean yield is projected at a record 47.5 bushels per acre, up 0.4 bushels mainly on gains for Iowa and South Dakota.  Soybean supplies for 2014/15 are projected 1 percent above the October forecast.

U.S. soybean exports for 2014/15 are raised 20 million bushels to 1,720 million reflecting the record pace of export sales through late October.  Soybean crush is raised 10 million bushels to 1,780 million mostly due to increased soybean meal exports.  Domestic soybean meal consumption is reduced slightly in line with changes in the 2013/14 balance sheet.  Soybean ending stocks are projected at 450 million bushels, unchanged from the previous forecast.

Soybean and soybean product prices for 2014/15 are unchanged from last month.  The U.S. season-average soybean price range is projected at $9.00 to $11.00 per bushel.  Soybean meal and soybean oil prices are projected at $330 to $370 per short ton and 34 to 38 cents per pound, respectively.

Global oilseed production for 2014/15 is projected at a record 528.9 million tons, up 0.5 million from last month.  Higher soybean and rapeseed production are only partly offset by a lower sunflowerseed forecast.  Global soybean production is projected at a record 312.1 million tons reflecting the increase for the United States.   Global rapeseed production is raised to 70.7 million tons on a record EU harvest.  Gains for EU are partly offset by a reduction for Australia where dry conditions in the southeast have reduced yield prospects.  Global sunflowerseed production is reduced 0.4 million tons to 39.8 million on lower forecasts for Russia and Kazakhstan which are partly offset by gains for EU and Serbia.  Other changes include reduced cottonseed production for China and Australia.

Global oilseed trade for 2014/15 is projected at 134.6 million tons, up 0.6 million from last month.  Increased soybean exports from the United States and Ukraine and increased rapeseed exports from Canada account for most of the change.  Global oilseed crush is projected higher mainly on gains for soybeans in the United States, China, Ukraine, and South Korea.  Partly offsetting is a reduction in soybean crush for Argentina.  Rapeseed crush is raised for EU and China.  Global oilseed ending stocks are projected lower at 103.0 million tons on reduced rapeseed stocks in Canada and Australia.

By: Ben Stoller – Mercer Landmark Agronomy Specialist

The low market prices of corn, high land rent and high costs of inputs have growers searching for ways to grow a profitable 2015 corn crop.

One way of helping is by answering the following questions:

  1. How much N do I need to apply to adequately feed the crop?
  2. How much is too much Nitrogen (at what level does it no longer pay)?
  3. What is the most economical and productive amount of N to apply?

An simple program developed by Iowa State University allows Midwest corn growers to input the following factors to determine suggested rates based on Nitrogen efficacy trials in their states (nearly 80 such trials have been conducted in Ohio).  Growers need to select or enter only four variables: state; rotation pattern (corn to corn, soybeans to corn); price/ton of Nitrogen fertilizer; corn price.  A grower can also easily determine the cost of Nitrogen per pound by various N fertilizers.

Below is an example of a corn following soybean rotation with an anhydrous ammonia cost of $771/ton and corn price of $3.50/bushel

By using anhydrous ammonia, the calculator indicates:

  1. A grower could expect the best or maximum return on investment at 160 pounds of actual N per acre.
  2. A grower could expect to remain profitable applying anywhere between 146 and 175 pounds of actual N per acre.
  3. A grower could expect to earn $156.82/acre at 160 pounds of actual N per acre.

In comparison, using UAN 28% would result in:

  1. Best or maximum return on investment at 150 pounds of actual N/acre.
  2. Being profitable applying 137-164 pounds of actual N/acre.
  3. Approximate earnings of $141.29/acre with 150 pounds of actual N/acre.

Please contact your Mercer Landmark Agronomy specialist for maximizing your corn profitability.

My next issue will focus on another way of saving on your Nitrogen investment.