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Farm News & Views - May 24, 2022

Last week’s USDA Crop Progress report rated half of the country's pasture and range conditions as poor, or very poor. According to Oklahoma State University's livestock marketing specialist Derrell Peel, while pasture and range conditions were poor in May of 2021 and May of 2013, they’re much worse this year. As of last week, 49% of the country’s pastures and ranges were rated as poor to very poor condition. Peel predicted that even if precipitation turned around immediately, cattle herd liquidation will likely continue on into 2023. He expects to see cows continue to be culled, and more replacement heifers ending up in feedlots. States in the southwest U.S. with pastures and ranges in very poor condition include Colorado at 33%, New Mexico at 13% and Texas at 48%.

For those who complain about the high cost of filling their car’s gas tank, consider this: filling a tractor tank daily now costs some farmers $1,000, twice what it was a year ago, and the most intensive part of the farming season is still ahead. Fuel costs for production of corn have jumped to $70 an acre from the $35 an acre projected by agricultural economists last December.

The shortages of baby formula is a hot topic on Capitol Hill this week, with senior employees of some of the largest formula producing companies appearing before the House Energy and Commerce subcommittee on Wednesday. U.S Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack will be talking to the Senate Agriculture Committee on Thursday about inflation, the high cost of agricultural inputs, the administration’s handling of agricultural trade, and according to Politico, probably about baby formula, because the federal nutrition program is administered by the USDA, which purchases more than half of all formula in the country. However, Vilscak has given WIC recipients flexibility to buy any available formula, not just the formula associated with their state’s contract.

Speaking about baby formula, I’ve been asked if I knew of any other milk that could replace baby formula, since cows milk is not recommended for young babies. I don’t know the answer to that question, but it set me to thinking about all of the other milk that’s consumed in the world today. Cows, goats and sheep are fairly common dairy animals in the U.S. and around the world. Water buffaloes produce most of the milk consumed in India and Pakistan. Then there are yaks, a domesticated wild ox from the Himalayan region, reindeer are milked in the Arctic, horses in Mongolia, and camels in the desert regions of Africa. There are quite a few camel dairies in the U.S. An Amish friend took me to a neighboring camel dairy in northeast Indiana. The dairy owner shipped the milk to a large Middle Eastern community near Detroit. Milking a camel is not an easy task, because they are great tall beasts that are often mean and hard to handle. First the dairyman tied the animal, assembled his milking equipment, then had an assistant bring in the calf. As soon as the calf was next to the cow, the dairyman began the milking process and was finished in minutes. Then the calf was allowed to nurse. The dairymen said that without the calf being present, the cow wouldn’t let any milk down and would be impossible to handle.

Roman statesmen Marcus Tullius Cicero wrote: "If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need."

Bob has been an agricultural educator and farm and ranch management consultant for over 40 years in southwest Colorado. He writes about agricultural issues from his farm near Cortez, and has helped to produce farm reports on KSJD for more than a dozen years.