November: That Happened

Are there words to sum up November? I want to praise and cuss the Lord in the same sentence.

I keep coming back to the phrase “That happened.” The internet defines the saying as “a sarcastic expression used in online discussions to call out overly exaggerated claims or tall tales that are often passed around as true stories on social media, most notably the ones in which the storyteller allegedly confronts and tells off another individual in the name of social justice.”

I use the phrase a little differently. I use it to sum up stories and happenings that are true and yet hold an element of unbelievability to them. Like one of those epic stories from college that no one believes but the people that were there, because, well, they were there.

So in my category of “That Happened” from the month of November . . .

Cattle Found The Bottom?

For a short breath of time the feeder cattle sales in the area seemed to have enjoyed a short rally the last part of October heading into November. We all watched wide-eyed and then the air got let out.  But prices haven’t free falled significantly since and that leads everyone to speculate on whether or not we have hit the bottom of this cycle. Unfortunately, I don’t believe we have.

Rural America Shows Up To Vote

You know what got me stirred up more than Hillary and Trumps antics this election? The outright bias and idiocracy of my fellow journalists in mainstream media. And the fact that everyone was shocked that rural America showed up to vote and the “Uneducated White Woman” seemed to have been some unforeseen secret weapon.  Yes, that happened.

First of all, do pollsters really need to break us down by education and color? Everyone talks about how America needs to accept everyone and then on election night all you saw highlighted was the divisions we had between us and what wall was holding us in our assumed places – i.e. white, black, man, woman, educated, uneducated, rural, urban.

I went to bed that night not knowing who had won the election because frankly, I was tired of how the media (all networks, because our household believes in the sport of channel flipping) was handling this shocker of an election.

When I awoke, Trump had been declared president and my Facebook and Twitter feeds were blowing up with white, highly educated, opinionated and mad women steaming about being called “uneducated rural white women.”

The press really did themselves no favors this election season and there will have to be a realigning of journalistic values in mainstream media to get themselves pulled together and valued during an election ever again.

Dakota Access Pipeline

Tensions are high in North Dakota. Safety for livestock, grasslands and human life have given many ranchers there new worry lines on their faces. Cattle are dead, a woman is missing her hand, water cannons have been employed and star chefs are cooking in make shift kitchens. You can’t make this stuff up. (For the record, I wish it all was a tall tale.)

The Army Corps of Engineers issued an announcement on Friday, Nov. 25 saying it was giving the protestors of the Dakota Access Pipeline until Dec. 5 to vacate the area or be subject to arrest. Hopefully that will cease the fear these ranchers have.

In the meantime, won’t you all please say a prayer for those who are being impacted.

–C0di Vallery-Mills

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Husker the Mule returns for second children’s book

Book #2 in the Husker the Mule children's series.

Book #2 in the Husker the Mule children’s series.

Husker the Mule returns for second children’s book

Book signing on Nov. 25 in Belle Fourche

A fun and kind red mule is making his second appearance in book no. 2 of the children’s series Husker the Mule by author Codi Vallery-Mills of Sturgis, S.D.

Husker the Mule: Does His Chores is to be released on Nov. 25 and will be available through Amazon, the author herself or at The Olive Branch in downtown Belle Fourche.

The second book picks up with young Carter and his new mule, Husker, now at home and learning what it means to do chores and the importance of them to a family. Based around the lesson, Many Hands Make Light Work, children will read about the chore “adventures” of Husker and Carter and realize maybe their own aren’t so bad after all.

Once again illustrated by the award-winning western artist, Teri McTighe of Faith, S.D., the book is delightfully brought to life for readers.

A book signing with the author will be held on Nov. 25 from 4-6 p.m. at The Olive Branch at 501 State St. in Belle Fourche. The town’s annual Light Up the Night Holiday Parade and Fireworks begin at 6 p.m.

“Come join me in Belle Fourche to kick off the holiday season and get your signed copy of the new book. It will make for an excellent stocking stuffer this Christmas,” invites Mills.

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Ag Headlines

Speaking to the Rapid City Chamber Ag & Natural Resource Committee

Speaking to the Rapid City Chamber Ag & Natural Resource Committee

In early November (before the election) I had the opportunity to speak to the Rapid City Chamber of Commerce’s Ag & Natural Resources Committee.

Here is a recap of my talking points.

 

Ag Headlines

Presented by Codi Vallery-Mills, editor of The Cattle Business Weekly

 

What’s Making Ag News?

Election 2016

Volatile Markets

Trade

Land Prices

 

Election 2016

If Trump is elected he has Charles Herbster of Nebraska chairing his Ag Committee. Herbster is a Nebraska businessman and cattle producer.

If Clinton wins she has current Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack as a good friend. If she wins it is likely she will move him up to a cabinet position.

 

Volatile Markets

SD cattle producers have seen a $500/per calf price drop from fall 2015 to fall 2016 sale season. Yet, hamburger in the retail stores is still at $5/pound. Where is the money?

Currently there are lots of different things adding together to create a volatile market.

Possibles are: CME electronic trading, packer owned cattle, greedy retail stores and the large protein supply on hand. Fact: 2016 beef production is forecast at 25.031 billion pounds. 1.271 billion pounds larger than last year and in 2017 that number is expect to go up another 913 million.

With down calf sale prices, what is Cattle Business Weekly expecting for prices in 2017’s bull sale season? Bulls will average $3000-$5000 and top end bred heifers will be $2000, with the rest lower.

 

Trade

China is now open to beef after 13 years. While this is good news it won’t impact the cattle market positively in the short term. Until China sets conditions and U.S. beef meets those conditions no positive impact will be seen. Likely to be 2018 before market is affected.

The first shipment of fresh Brazilian beef arrived in Philadelphia on Oct. 14. If we have such a large beef supply on hand why are we importing beef? USDA says we are able to export our meat at a high value while importing cheaper beef. Concern regarding Brazil is their history of Foot and Mouth disease and also of the countries surrounding them. While Foot and Mouth has an extremely low chance of being transmitted by fresh or frozen beef, is that a risk the U.S. wants? Interstate commerce could spread a disease rapidly and that concerns some cattle producers.

 

Land Prices

With the lower cattle and crop prices seen, there will have to be a reduction in land rental and purchase prices. As we all know there is also an aging group of farmers out there that are looking to slow down or do something with their land in the next 5-10 years. Now is the time for younger producers to get their financial houses in order and prepare to jump into the land market as opportunities will be presenting themselves.

 

What do we do with this information?

Banks – Be proactive. Don’t wait until your clients come to you. Get your ag banking philosophies aligned.

Retailers – Hold ag appreciation days

Restaurants – Serve more beef!

Dealerships – Offer incentive programs, new/used deals, etc.

Ag Producers – Be smart. Watch your bottom line and look for opportunities

Everyone Be A Mentor – Now is the time to build relationships with clients and take young producers under your wings.

“Do business with people who do business with you.”  (It’s an old quote that we hear time and time again, but it’s a good one.)

– Codi Vallery-Mills

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Who’s Feeding the World? Not us.

world-earth-hunger-feeding-plate-425

An interesting article came out from the Environmental Working Group came out in October. Please refrain from throwing this column in the garbage right now just because I mentioned EWG, and hear me out.

While EWG has ruffled my feathers more than a few times on ag issues, I found this article to be insightful. The premise of the article was on the topic of feeding the world by that doom day deadline of 2050 when the world population is set to explode and how exactly are we going to feed all those hungry mouths?

While this topic has been the platform for promoting technology in agriculture – think GMOs and precision ag – the EWG article points out American agriculture might be missing the target. How so?

According to the article, only half of 1 percent of U.S. agricultural exports last year went to 19 nations, including Haiti, Yemen and Ethiopia, that the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization determined had very high or high undernourishment. The value of U.S. food exports to the top 20 wealthy destinations was 158 times the exports to the 19 most seriously undernourished countries.

So… we aren’t feeding those in need really. We are feeding those most like us.

If we want to say we are feeding the world it is likely going to take more than just our food products to do so. It is going to take our knowledge, science and agribusinesses to bring the resources to the people of these underdeveloped countries so they can become better agricultural producers themselves.

Groan. It’s okay, I just did upon typing that sentence, but I still believe in its truth.

Extension services have done this for years, taking overseas trips to help local farmers expand their knowledge. So why not add a coalition of North Dakota cattle ranchers, feedlot operators, and meat lockers who make it their mission to help an African village learn beef production from pasture to plate?

While opening easier trade to these countries would be great – increasing education for small farmers in developing nations – is also a thought to consider as well.

Not your gig? There are other options, too.

Organizations like Samaritan’s Purse and Heifer Internation offer the opportunity to purchase a heifer, pig, goat, ducks, or chickens to help a family that needs to create a source of income through livestock.

In wrapping up, it’s apparent that we are feeding a significant portion of the world, but there is more to be done in the less developed countries. Education, equipment and resources need to be provided to those communities wanting to be sustainable.

And I would venture that there is a lot of political backwater on how to get these countries food and resources that I can’t even fathom to try and understand. Regardless, it’s a topic I wanted to share with you.

– Codi Vallery-Mills

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Who will the farm go to?

stelprdb1237261There was a fair bit of windshield time for me this June as I looped through the state. I attended Faulkton’s Women’s Ag Day, the SD Governor’s Ag Summit and planning sessions with the South Dakota Women in Ag group in which I am a part of. Intermingled with those events, there has been windshield time checking cattle and hauling hay too. While driving I have been pondering a few of the topics of concern that came up this June – millennials and transitioning the farm to the next generation. Millennials. Groan. Haven’t we heard enough on this age group? My age is right on the cusp of being tagged into this generation, but escaped by a few months to place me into the GenX category. This month I have heard people of the older generations say millennials “don’t care, don’t want to work, just want to play and have no values”. Ouch. My mother has always believed in the saying, There is nothing new under the sun. I tend to agree and I think the above negative statements were probably said about the Baby Boomers and GenXers too. I do know a few under 35 individuals who are working darn hard to make their place in agriculture. They are driven and are knowledge-seeking people. They certainly don’t come off as people that don’t care, and have no work ethic or values. So can we lay off the millennials for a bit? Let’s let them define who they are before we stick a label on them. This brings me to the second topic, which is transitioning land to the next generation. Holy smokes people. If there is a topic that scares me it’s this one. Forget the tangled, messy business of successfully handing land down to a family heir. Instead, let’s focus on what happens to the land of those who are retiring and don’t have a family member interested in taking over. Now that’s scary. There is a lot of land in the next 10 years that will open up to different ownership. How do we get the Millennial and the GenX generations fiscally prepared so they become an option for these retiring farmers? How do we keep viable agricultural lands from being bought up for hunting rights or from interest groups? Some states have a FarmLink program that helps them connect aging farmers with beginning farmers. That is great and more states need to have something of the like. If you don’t have a program, you might have to volunteer to mentor and hand pick your farm’s heir. There is also the concern of capital and having enough equipment or cattle to succeed. Partnering for a time together might ease that burden on the younger generation and make a brighter retirement for the older generation. I guess my point of this column is that there are hard working, enthusiastic generations of agriculturalists that are willing to be America’s farmers and ranchers. We need to remember that and figure out how to give them a chance.

©Codi Vallery-Mills

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It’s bull sale season!

Bulls at bear butteIt’s bull sale season in the region. Like you, we at The Cattle Business Weekly enter into this time of year with excitement and a little trepidation. A bull sale season on the farm means tasks like selecting bulls, booking advertisements, clipping bulls, lining up sale day help, setting up pens, and much more. Those duties are usually met with extra hours, extra phone calls, extra manpower and extra coffee. The same can be said for staff of CBW. We spend a little “extra” this time of year as well. Our ringmen are gearing up to take in a few extra hours of windshield time as they travel to sales the next four months. I know they love this time of year for the cattle and people they get to see, but they are also thankful to pull into their homeplaces and give the wheels a rest for awhile come May. CBW office staff has been using up extra creative juices in the designing of sale catalogs and flyers and churning out newspaper sections right and left. I have been busy burning up any extra battery my computer has as I coordinate the weekly newspaper content and sale reports that the ringmen submit. This is my ninth bull sale season with CBW. Continue reading

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Cattle Cycle: Plan ahead

What goes up must come down . . . A lot of experts are talking that the cattle cycle has hit its price peak and the dollar value we see for calves this fall will lower. Now before everyone hits the alarm bell let’s keep in mind that this decline is naturaBUDGETl and should be expected – it’s called a cattle cycle for a reason. And it isn’t going to bring forth bottom of the barrel prices but rather prices lower than what we have been dealt the last two years. We all can agree the last two years have been downright outstanding in our part of the world. Prices going forward should continue to be good, just not as great as they have been. Some people point to our rapid herd expansion as the culprit of lower prices. Herd rebuilding has been significant but it’s certainly not complete. The U.S. cattle herd is at a 63-year low to due the West Coast, Idaho and parts of Montana being devastated by drought and fires the past two summers. Cattle producers have had to sell off cattle and that is leaving room for growth in other parts of the country – especially those regions that have received adequate moisture to produce feedstuffs. Domestic and international demand for beef as always, is needed yet. The economy is the United States is recovering and with it so are pocketbooks. Hopefully beef will be the protein of choice for those with a few extra dollars to spend. Your own personal promotion of beef or support of your State Beef Industry Council can help make the difference. Back to talk of cattle numbers . . . It will not surprise me to see producers in the Great Plains continue to hold back significant numbers of replacement heifers this fall. Some may or may not shed their older cows depending on how their own herd rebuilding has progressed the last few years. Continue reading

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Isn’t that odd?

imagesDo you read the “Best Days To…” in the Farmers Almanac? It is the part of the Almanac where they tell you what day is best to do certain things. It is based on the moon’s phases. Like Feb. 10-11 were good days for livestock breeding. Feb. 17-18 were the best days to castrate animals. Feb. 27-28 will be the best days to graft or pollinate plants and trees. For people related items, Feb. 6-7 were the days to quit smoking; Feb. 16-17 were the best days to wrap up projects and Feb. 6 and Feb. 11 were the days to start successful diets (oops, missed that one!)

I like numbers. Well, no, let me clarify. I like numbers that have meaning. Numbers that need to be subtracted, multiplied, divided or raised to some power I have no appreciation for. In the bible the number seven plays a significant role. It is referenced 860 times, with the main, “And on the seventh day God rested” stealing the stage for all other sevens.

The digit 1 followed by 100 zeroes, was the inspiration for the search engine Google. It also resulted in the word Googolplex or 10^Googol, which became the namesake of Google’s offices.

The number 13 has an air of mystery and danger to it. Think Friday the 13th or 1313 Mockingbird Lane where the black cloaked Munster Family lived. American Airlines and Delta have banned flight number 191 because of the numerous airline accidents associated with that number.

Is that significant meaning or superstition, you ask? Well, if someone is superstitious about a number doesn’t that justify the number’s meaning? It does to me. I have known several cowboys who won’t think of castrating a colt until the right day in the moon phase to assure proper healing. I also know people who will add an extra thing to their to-do list so there are an even amount of things to cross off.

Odd numbers are my comfort zone though. It could be because those years have habitually been good to me. I graduated high school, college, and got married all in odd numbered years. My husband was born on the 5th day of the month. I was born on the 3rd day of the month. When our daughter was also born on an odd day I literally breathed a sigh of relief. Don’t ask me why. It just felt better knowing she was born on an odd numbered day.

Isn’t it funny what makes us tick as humans? Continue reading

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The year ahead for ag

year aheadA run-down of nationwide topics that impact the ag industry

Compiled by Codi Vallery-Mills

There is a lot to talk about when you are involved in agriculture. What are some of the topics to keep an eye on going forward in 2015? Here we give you a break down:

Food Demand

Prices for cattle were driven by several factors in 2014 – weather, low herd numbers, consumer demand. Demand is the factor that is talked about the least. Consumers still ate beef in 2014 despite seeing higher prices at retail. How the demands hold going forward will be critical to the American cattle producer.

The Daily Livestock Report says consumers are expressing more confidence and comfort with the economic situation. Thompson-Reuters/University of Michigan Index of Consumer Sentiment has grown steadily since July. Falling gas prices and job wage improvements have been noted as key factors. Due to this, going forward into 2015, consumer meat demand looks to continue the positive trend it is on.

Regarding other foods, expect to see egg prices go up for the short term as new egg laws in California regarding hen crate size go into effect. In addition a disease outbreak in Mexico last year had U.S. producers shipping more eggs than normal south of the border limiting domestic supply.

Energy

With the 114th Congress now in session expect the Republican Party to quickly advance energy legislation – mainly the Keystone XL Pipeline that would carry oil produced from Canada, Montana and North Dakota south to refineries in Texas.

Democrat, Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota has reported that Congress will likely also take on blocking of environmental regulations on coal mining and other energy-related industries in the New Year. Continue reading

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Blessed Christmas

A winter storm is blowing in and we are just a few days away from Christmas. The thought of a snowy white Christmas pleases me.

f4311-silentnight8x10The goodies have all been baked, the shopping is all done, the tree has been decorated for weeks. Christmas has been stress free this year and for that I am thankful.

That is just the way our Lord and Savior would want it. No fuss, no muss. A birthday party that isn’t fancy or hectic in anyway.

May we all remember that indeed the Christmas holiday is a time for celebrating with family and friends, but it is also a time to celebrate the birth of Jesus and his great gift of life to us.

Wishing you a blessed Christmas,

Codi Vallery-Mills

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