Air Staff: Bob Bosold
In addition to appearing on "The Valley's Morning News" Bob can be heard throughout the day with the latest farm news. He earned his Bachelor of Sciences degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1976, and his roots here go back to February 14, 1977, when he started on WAYY's sister station WAXX 104.5. Bob has been the recipient of numerous awards. He was named the National Farm Broadcaster of the Year by the National Association of Farm Broadcasters, as well as receiving the 2002 Honorary Recognition from the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at UW-Madison. Bob has also been inducted into the Wisconsin Broadcasters' Hall Of Fame.
Bob lives in Eau Claire and has two children, Mike and Matt. His hobbies include horses and coaching youth sports.
Bob's Articles For "The Country Today"
Bob's Column For "The Country Today"
Bob Bosold's columns for "The Country Today"
Latest statistics show that their efforts are paying off. Milk production in South Dakota topped two billion pounds in 2013 and that put South Dakota on the list last year as one of the 23 top milk producing states in the country, moving Missouri down to the 24th spot. The South Dakota dairy industry is located primarily in the eastern part of the state but as Lentsch said, “it will follow the feed in the future and as they grow more corn in the western part of the state, dairy will follow.” There are no concerns either that dairy production will outgrow their processing capacity anytime soon as Lentsch told us “we could double our dairy production and still not meet the supply needs of the dairy plants currently operating in South Dakota.”
While the current Deseret and Citrus Ranch is the biggest cow-calf operation in the country currently, it may not be in the future. The Mormon Church recently bought a 380,000 acre ranch in the Florida panhandle which is now in timber but eventually will be logged off in parcels and provide more land to graze their constantly growing cattle herd.
Many areas of Wisconsin lost alfalfa stands last year due to the cold, wet weather of late winter and early spring around the state. That has meant many dairy farmers have had to scramble for alternative feeds for their herds since the haylage piles have been so much smaller for the feeding season. Farmers are anxiously watching the winter weather and are hopeful the bitterly cold temperatures in December and much of January won’t lead to another extensive round of winterkill across the state.
According to Dr. Dan Undersander, UW-Madison Forage Specialist there shouldn’t be a problem At the recent Agronomy Update and other forage meetings around the state , Undersander said he’s not worried about the cold taking out alfalfa stands, “because of the good snow cover we have across the state that’s protecting the plants.” As long as the snow stays, he said, the alfalfa should be in good shape. He reminded producers that the years when winterkill has been a problem in Wiscosnin was when there was little or no snow cover.
The key to alfalfa surviving the winter is the temperature of the crown of the plant which is two to four inches below the soil surface. If the temperature at that level gets to about 13 degrees the alfalfa will die if the temperature stays that cold for about three to four hours. That, Undersander says, shouldn’t happen this year because “snow is a tremendous insulator that protects the plants from the outside air temperature.”
Earlier this month the soil temperature at four inches on bare ground fell to seven or eight degrees, Undersander reported. But “that was still about 30 degrees warmer than the actual air temperature”, he added. Under the snow cover the four inch soil temperature during the recent cold snap was 28 to 30 degrees, meaning the snow was insulating the ground to another 25 to 30 degrees higher than the air temperature. Added together, that means the ground, under the snow, was about 50 degrees warmer than the air temperature, providing a safe environment for the alfalfa plants. Undersander said that’s why he’s confident the alfalfa, up to this point of the winter is doing well.
The importance of the continued snow cover is that it prevents frost from penetrating deep into the soil taking soil temperatures down with it. When soil freezes it seldom falls below 26 or 28 degrees, Undersander told his audiences, if there is a snow cover, because, “snow cover always trumps air temperature” he said.
During his presentations, Undersander reminded the farmers that survival depends on keeping temperatures above 15 degrees at the crown not at the regrowth of the plant. As long as there is as little as four inches of loose snow on the ground, it will insulate up to 16 degrees of air temperature and since there is much more than four inches of snow cover across the state, our stands are doing well as we get ready for the next cold round of weather.
Undersander also told farmers not to be concerned about alfalfa stands smothering under heavy snows as the stems will stand up through the snow cover and provide air to the plants as they poke through the cover. The same, he said, can’t always be said for grassy stands or pastures as grasses tend to lay over and can smother under heavy blankets of snow.
The deep snow cover should also provi
At a stopover in Kansas City last week on his way to California, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack spent about an hour discussing farm policy, mainly progress on a new farm bill, with members of the National Association of Farm Broadcasting at the group’s annual convention. He emphasized that a farm bill reaches far and wide and has a major effect on the country as a whole, not just farm country. Vilsack told the broadcasters, “The country, not just the rural parts and farmers, needs a farm bill because of the policy certainty that comes with a farm bill.” He added that during his visits around the country in recent months, he’s heard real concerns from farmers that “They can’t make decisions, they don’t know what to do. Some would like to expand their operations or go into a new operation or buy a new piece of equipment, but they are hesitant to do any of that because they simply don’t know what the programs are going to be or if there is going to be a program.”
The secretary said a strong farm safety net needs to be the basis of a new farm bill based on today’s farming environment. That’s where he believes the discussion gets off track. Negotiators talk about the importance of farm programs to farmers, but the discussion, he feels, “needs to be expanded because it’s important to all Americans.” He emphasized to the farm broadcasters that as a farmer, “You can do everything right and still end up with no crop through no fault of your own.” Without an adequate safety net, to reduce risk to a manageable level, he argued, a lot of people could get out of the business. If that happens Vilsack said, “We could eventually see our country going from a food secure nation that produces enough to feed our people and more around the world to a food insecure nation.” That, he added, could very well threaten our nation’s strength and safety if we have to depend on others.
Another reason a new, long term farm bill is good for everyone across the country, he added, is because this is a reform bill. He noted that reform now seems to be in the form of budget cuts almost across the board and that makes a farm bill fiscally responsible because we would know where we are going. Among other things he said, a new farm bill would help hold down interest rates and encourage consumer spending, something that would help all Americans.
He also cited conservation programs as another area that benefits everyone across the country. He pointed out that,” Nearly half of the U.S. land mass is tied up in farming and ranching and forestry and those industries have a huge impact on air and water quality as well as soil health and fertility, all things that sustain life.”
Expansion of market opportunities is another area of the farm bill that has benefits for more than just farmers. Farm bill programs and initiatives, Vilsack said, have promoted local and regional food systems, export markets and new bio-based manufacturing operations that produce new products. Those activities all create jobs Vilsack pointed out, “And the more jobs we have in the economy, the stronger our economy is, the less the deficit is and the stronger the nation is.”
A new farm bill also has to be considered an innovation bill, according to the secretary. Part of the funding in the bill will go to research at our land grant universities. That research Vilsack said, “ provides jobs in those university towns and new ways to do business to market our increasing agricultural production around the world.” Our innovative agricultural research has helped make
Every day more and more state farmers have to make the decision on what to do with their corn crop and when to do it. The situation is different from last year when early planting in March saw the plants suffer from drought early on only to be somewhat rescued by some timely July rains for pollination. Even that was a challenge though because the early planted corn meant the pollination dates were off so some of the rains came late.
This year the early planted corn looks the best while much of the later planted corn (June and July) is under real stress. That, according to UW-Extension Corn Specialist, Joe Lauer, is stressing farmers too, because they’re looking at severely reduced yields, “if that corn is lucky enough to make grain,” he told farmers at a recent field day in Western Wisconsin. For every day planting is delayed from the ideal May 15 to the 20th planting window, yield losses amount to about 2 to 3% a day for each day of delay, so “farmers are getting hit with lost gain yields right off the bat with late planting dates and even if conditions were ideal during the rest of the season, you can never, ever recover all that yield with these late planting dates.”
Lauer told the farmers that the early planted fields should be ok for grain if we have normal killing frost dates. He told the group that, ”if it’s dented, there is still 25 to 40% of the yield to be made in September so any fields at that stage should be in good shape.” It’s the later planted corn that Lauer said they need to focus on right now Fields that are still in the milk or dough stage are “the ones to target for corn silage”, Lauer said.
The best thing farmers can do is decide what to do if we do get an early frost. He said they should line up their fields for harvest going from the most mature to the least mature. That way they are ready for the custom harvesters who are going to be in a time crunch this year with the cropping situation across the state as they go from corn silage to high moisture corn and snaplage.
Most likely the best fields to come off as corn silage will be the approximately 30% of the fields that were planted in June because Lauer said, “they will be the lowest yielding, the wettest and very expensive to try to get to a grain harvest.”
At this stage the most important factor in the equation, Lauer said is not grain yield but whole plant moisture. “It has to go up at the right moisture for the structure used so we get proper fermentation and good quality feed,” Lauer told the group. For that he said the late planted fields are the best candidates.
He also told the farmers not to panic about now and put the crop up too wet. He urged them to read the plants. Just because the plants are brown and some of the lower leaves are brown and dying doesn’t mean the plant is ready to chop. In many cases, he pointed out, that plant is still putting on yield. Lauer told the farmers to check the ear leaf. “If that leaf is still green or partially green, that plant is still producing grain yield,” Lauer explained. In fact, he told the farmers that leaf alone accounts for between 50 and 60% of the grain yield of that plant. He also told them to check the leaves directly above and below the ear leaf. “Those leaves, he said, account for about another 30% of grain yield,