September 27, 2012

Cornstalk residue an opportunity to stretch forage supplies

A joint news release yesterday highlighted a website, webinar and hay/forage hotline available to cattle and corn producers dealing with the repercussions of this year's drought, which has taken a significant toll on grazing land and hay supplies, two critical feed sources for Nebraska’s beef producers.

In fact, as of Sept. 23, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said 98 percent of Nebraska’s pasture and rangeland is in poor to very poor condition.

Cornstalk residue left after harvesting the corn crop
can be a good forage option
for cattle producers -- either grazed or in bales.
“Much of a beef cattle’s diet is forage, from calving through finishing, and cow-calf operations rely significantly on range and grazing land,” said Jon Holzfaster, a cattle and corn farmer from Paxton who is a member of the Nebraska Corn Board. “In total, beef cattle achieve 70 percent of their growth on forage, and years like this can dramatically limit hay supplies and raise prices for that forage.”

There are opportunities for corn farmers to work with cattle producers to graze cattle on cornstalk residue left in the field after harvest or take advantage of baled cornstalk residue.

Jim Ramm, a cattle producer from Atkinson and president of Nebraska Cattlemen, said cornstalks give cattle producers some much needed fall grazing or supplemental baled forage to stretch supplies.

“We’re encouraging cattle producers to consider the opportunity of cornstalk grazing because saving existing stored feedstuffs and hay supplies for winter feed is very important for making it through a drought,” Ramm said. “Cornstalk residue can be a good feed when managed properly, and we’re fortunate that the University of Nebraska has some great resources available.”

Rick Rasby, an Extension beef specialist with the University of Nebraska, said beef experts at the University continue to compile a drought resource webpage for beef producers.

“Fact sheets, feeding recommendations, ammoniating opportunities for crop residue like cornstalks and more, are all collected on that page,” Rasby said. “There are also several short videos that discuss using cornstalk bales and links to webinars that provide additional details, ideas, and resources for managing forages during a drought.”

One of those webinars, titled “Cornstalk Grazing – Understanding the Values to Cattle Producers and Corn Farmers,” is scheduled for Oct. 2 from 12:30 to 1:10 p.m. Information about the webinar can be found here. It will be recorded and made available afterwards for cattle producers and corn famers who cannot view it live.

The Nebraska Department of Agriculture (NDA) said it is encouraging farmers with available cornstalks to work cooperatively with livestock producers to ensure access to as much quality forage as possible due to the ongoing drought conditions. Hay production, pastures and grasslands have all been greatly reduced as the fall and winter months approach.

“In light of the ongoing drought conditions, I’d like to encourage our farmers and ranchers to work together to ensure as much quality forage as possible is available to our beef cattle herds this fall and winter,” said NDA Director, Greg Ibach. “The department has created a Hay and Forage Hotline to assist farmers and ranchers in finding hay and forage products, and it is a good starting point for those seeking feedstuffs.”

The Hay and Forage Hotline lists hay and forage, including cornstalks and stover that is available either for sale or by donation. Those looking to list hay, forage, cornstalks and other feed sources such as silage can do so by calling 800-422-6692.

“We collectively appreciate the work by the university, NDA and others to spread the word on the programs, opportunities and partnerships that can happen not only this year but every year,” Holzfaster said. “Working together is what keeps agriculture strong in Nebraska.”

Staff Update: River City Rodeo

In this weeks staff update, director of advocacy and outreach, Kelsey Pope, talks about some of the upcoming promotions at the River City Rodeo and also an ethanol promotion in Omaha. Enjoy!

September 26, 2012

Podcast: Custer County Corn Growers organize donations of grain bin rescue equipment

In this podcast, Guy Mills, a farmer from Ansley and member of the Nebraska Corn Growers Association, provides details on the Custer County Corn Growers summer tour held in late August.

The tour took place at the new Andersons Grain facility in Anselmo. The facility has a storage capacity of 3.8 million bushels and corn growers in attendance got a private tour.

In addition to farmers, local FFA students were invited to get a first hand look at the facility, and also to better understand the hazards and safety measures to take in and around grain bins or wherever there is flowing grain. The chief safety officer from The Andersons provided a lot of good information.

The Custer County Corn Growers, the local affiliate of the Nebraska Corn Growers, organized the tour, but they also organized a drive to acquire funds to purchase three grain rescue tubes – One each for fire departments in Broken Bow, Ord and Loup City.

Checks for the new rescue equipment were presented to the firefighters during the event. Proper training for the equipment will also be provided.

"We appreciate all the generous donors who helped make this happen," Mills said. Donors included The Andersons, Chief Industries, Farm Credit, Cargill, Monsanto, Trotter Incorporated, Green Plains Energy and Valley County Country Partners.

Listen for more.

Nebraska Corn Kernel podcasts are also available on iTunes! Click here to subscribe.

September 24, 2012

Crop update: Nebraska's corn crop 36% harvested

The U.S. Department of Agriculture said today that 36 percent of Nebraska's corn crop was in the bin as of yesterday. That's up from 23 percent harvested last week -- and well ahead of the 5 percent harvested last year at this time and the 5 percent harvested for the five-year average.

USDA said 87 percent of the state's crop was mature, up from 74 percent last week and 43 percent last year. The five-year average for this week is 46 percent mature.
It said 98 percent of the crop is dented, up from 93 percent last week, 85 percent last year and 83 percent for the average.

USDA rated 33 percent of Nebraska's corn crop in good to excellent condition, 26 percent was rated fair and 42 percent poor to very poor.

Nationally, 39 percent of the country's corn crop was harvested, up from 26 percent last week. A year ago 12 percent of the crop was harvested by this date, while the five-year average is 13 percent harvested.

USDA said 88 percent of the country's crop was mature, compared to 76 percent last week, 58 percent last year and 57 percent for the average.

Crop conditions changed slightly this week to last with 21 percent of the nation's corn crop rated good to excellent, 25 percent fair (down 1 point) and 51 percent poor to very poor (up 1 pint).

The drought and high temperatures, of course, are behind the significant head start farmers have in harvesting corn this year, as corn just got planted early and progressed rapidly.

Reports from the field indicate a mixed bag of yields. While farmers who could irrigate are seeing generally positive yield numbers, dry land acres are highly variable. Since 89 percent of the country's corn crop receives only rainfall, yields vary significantly based on soil types and if a stray rain shower moved through at the right time.

In fact, yields may go from 200 bushels per acre to 50 to 0 all in one pass along a field. While some variability is expected, the drought has pushed it to the extreme.

This week's photos come from the Nebraska Corn Board's 2012 crop progress photo set at Flickr. The top photo was taken by the Imperial FFA chapter and the one below it by the Norris FFA chapter. While it may look the different combine brands are lining up for a race, they are idling after helping harvest plot tests.

Meet Nebraska Corn Board Director, Jon Holzfaster

Jon Holzfaster’s contributions to agriculture and community are helping to position Western Nebraska as an innovative and progressive area, not only to farm and ranch in, but to build new value added ag related businesses in. Jon is a graduate of the University of Nebraska, majoring in Ag Economics and a LEAD XIII graduate.

Jon operates a third-generation family farm based in Perkins County. He produces corn, popcorn, alfalfa, wheat, soybeans, edible beans and operates a background feed yard.

Jon and the Holzfaster family have always taken economic development seriously in the Perkins, and Keith County areas. Jon has served on the board of directors of the Keith County Community Foundation and the Economic Development Commission. Anyone who travels through Keith or Perkins County can see the impact that Jon and his family have had in the Paxton community and at the intersection of Interstate 80 and the Paxton exit. It is very much a family affair that provides jobs and income for many in the area.

Jon also served for six years on the Nebraska Dry Bean Commission, helping develop markets for a value added crop this is primarily grown in the western part of the state. Jon has put his economic development experience and his education in ag economics and the LEAD program to work as an active member of the Nebraska Corn Board. He currently serves on the Board’s government affair committee. His involvement on the Nebraska Corn Board since 2003 has also provided Jon the opportunity to be involved on the Ethanol Action Team of the National Corn Growers Association, and further to his current role as a board of director on the National Corn Board. He has taken his commitment to building new demand for corn and his knowledge of economic development to help establish a farmer cooperative to build an ethanol plant.

Jon also serves his community by being active in the Paxton Optimist Club, and his local St. Patrick’s Catholic Church as a Council member. Jon has the spirit of an entrepreneur that is framed around optimism and passion for his community and for agriculture. He continues to apply himself and is not afraid of tackling new adventures. He does all of this with a smile and a positive attitude. He helps bring divergent opinions together and builds alliances where friction previous existed. His neighbors, community, family and the state can be most proud of Jon and the commitment he has made to represent agriculture. He has not sat idle and let good ideas go by the wayside, he analyses those ideas, brings different players together and then goes to work to make those ideas successful.

September 19, 2012

Wordless Wednesday | Corn field time lapse

This video was created by South Dakota Corn that includes a series of photos taken of a corn field near Tea, South Dakota during the summer of 2012 to demonstrate the crop's seasonal growth progress and eventual harvest.

September 18, 2012

Harvest safety...a family affair


Agriculture remains one of the more dangerous occupations in North America. But exercising caution, getting rest and being safety-minded can go a long way toward making it safer for everyone involved. This week, Sept. 16-22 is National Farm Safety and Health Week.

“As the long hours of harvest begin, we need to be safety minded to prevent an injury or fatality that could have been prevented by taking appropriate precautions, ” said Tim Scheer, chairman of the Nebraska Corn Board and farmer from St. Paul.

“Precautions such as staying focused and resting regularly can keep things safe around the farm for everyone, including family members helping to bring the crop in.” This year’s focus for Farm Safety Week is the farm family with the theme of Agriculture Safety & Health…A Family Affair. The National Education Center for Agricultural Safety, which promotes National Farm Safety and Health Week, said there were 596 deaths and 70,000 disabling injuries attributed to agriculture in 2010.

“Grain production and handling continues to be one of the most dangerous aspects of crop production,” Scheer said. “There are more than 1 billion bushels of on-farm storage capacity across Nebraska and grain bins and associated equipment are common on farms and deserve extra attention.”

Norris 9/10
Photo from Norris HS FFA as part of the
Crop Progress Report.
Scheer also cautioned motorists driving on rural roads during harvest. Such roads see additional traffic during harvest, which increases the chances for accidents to occur between slower moving farm equipment and vehicles moving at highway speeds. In addition, rural intersections will have heavier-than-normal travel and the dry conditions increase dust which limit visibility, as can sun glare in the morning and evening. Standing crops in the field may also block a clear view of oncoming traffic.

It's also important to remind your families and employees to pay special attention to the safety features of their equipment, and encourage everyone to keep an eye toward safety on the highways and byways this harvest and year round.

Some things to consider for farmers and farm workers while on the farm this fall:
  • Ensure that trained family members and employees are operating powerful equipment. 
  • Develop a set of safety rules that everyone should follow – and enforce them. Also consider developing an emergency plan so everyone is on the same page. 
  • Check that PTOs are well protected to avoid contact with clothing or people during operation. 
  • Check to make sure safety shields are in place on all equipment everyday – they are there for a reason. 
  • Always be aware of power lines that can come in contact with moving equipment and augers around grain bins. 
  • Grain bins deserve special attention and caution when grain is being loaded and removed. Safety measures should be put in place to avoid any risk of entrapment and suffocation. 
  • Take periodic breaks to help avoid fatigue. Take a rest break for a few minutes, go for a short walk or check in with family members. 
  • Use extra caution when backing equipment. It is easy to overlook something or more importantly, someone, especially a child. 
  • Protective eye and ear wear is important in many situations. 
  • Remind family members and workers that safe practices come before expedience.
“Additionally, with the extreme drought the risk of fire has been greatly elevated,” Scheer said. “So please be extra careful, conduct routine maintenance, don’t allow leaves and stover to build up and have a fire extinguisher inside the cab.”

September 12, 2012

It's renewable fuels awareness month in Nebraska

Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman declares
September Renewable Fuels Awareness month
at Husker Harvest Days today.
"Renewable fuels are a contributor to the Nebraska economy. The production of these fuels provides marketing options for our crop farmers, creates key feedstuffs for our livestock producers and helps create a more sustainable rural economy by providing jobs and contributing to local and state revenue," said Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman at Husker Harvest Days today.

Heinemen spoke in front of the ag commodities building as part of a Renewable Fuels Awareness month proclamation.

The proclamation was coordinated by the Nebraska Corn Board and Nebraska Soybean Board. It recognizes the contributions of Nebraska farmers and agribusinesses to the nation’s renewable fuel supply.
"Renewable fuels like ethanol and biodiesel help diversify our nation’s energy portfolio. We are fortunate to have such a strong biofuels industry right here in Nebraska, with thousands of Nebraskans helping fuel America," Heineman said.

Greg Greving, Gov. Heineman and Tim Scheer
at the Renewable Fuels Awareness month proclamation.
One of the co-products from ethanol production is distillers grains, which is an important feed ingredient for Nebraska's beef, swine, poultry and dairy sectors. "Only the starch portion of the kernel is used to make ethanol. The protein, fiber, and fat portions still remain for the livestock," said Tim Scheer, chairman of the Nebraska Corn Board

Greg Greving, chairman of the Nebraska Soybean Board, said as Nebraska farmers head out to harvest this year’s crops, more than half will be fueling their equipment with a soy biodiesel blend because of the many benefits it has for engines and because soy biodiesel is a renewable fuel produced in America.

September 10, 2012

Crop update: Nebraska's corn crop 12% harvested

In its weekly crop progress report today, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said 12 percent of Nebraska's corn crop was in the bin as of yesterday. That's up from 7 percent last week -- and well ahead of the 1 percent harvested last year at this time and the 1 percent harvested for the five-year average.

USDA said 55 percent of the state's crop was mature, up from 36 percent last week and only 7 percent last year. The five-year average for this week is 13 percent mature.

It said 98 percent of the crop is dented, up from 93 percent last week, 85 percent last year and 83 percent for the average.

USDA rated 31 percent of Nebraska's corn crop in good to excellent condition, 26 percent was rated fair and 42 percent poor to very poor.

Nationally,15 percent of the country's corn crop is harvested, up from 10 percent last week. A year ago 5 percent of the crop was harvested by this date, which also matches the five-year average.

Harvested acres by state are shown in the chart, which was provided by Kelly Brunkhorst at the Nebraska Corn Board. Just click the image for a larger file.

USDA said 58 percent of the country's crop was mature, compared to 25 percent last year and 27 percent for the average. Corn dented stood at 93 percent, compared to 80 percent last year and 77 percent for the average.

As is typical for this time of year, crop conditions remained unchanged, with 21 percent of the nation's corn crop rated good to excellent, 26 percent fair and 52 percent poor to very poor.

If you were wondering, last year's crop at this point was rated 53 percent good to excellent, 27 percent fair and 20 percent poor to very poor.

As we continue with harvest, farmers would like to get the crop out of field and in the bin  -- but at the same time they'd like to see the drought break. The concern with getting a lot of rain and wind at this point is that the crop will be difficult to harvest because corn stalks may start leaning or giving way.

Breaking the drought and recharging soil moisture will be key heading into planting next spring. Perhaps some much needed moisture will come...but at this point, farmers may prefer to see it after harvest.

Nebraska ag groups push for a Farm Bill Now

Farm Bill Now banner with signatures of support.

Nebraska agriculture organizations, initiated by the Nebraska Corn Board and Nebraska Corn Growers Association, have come together to put pressure on the U.S. House of Representatives and Congress to pass a Farm Bill – and now.

At the Nebraska State Fair, the corn checkoff board and growers organization came together to educate and advocate for showing support for a 2012 Farm Bill. Fair goers had the opportunity to sign their name on a large banner, as well as take handout cards with contact information for Nebraska’s federal representatives and the House Ag Committee.

“This year has given us plenty of uncertainty due to a drought that has plagued the nation and the implications can be seen across many facets of agriculture,” said Tim Scheer, farmer from St. Paul and Nebraska Corn Board chairman. “But as a farmer, one certainty that I am asking for is a Farm Bill. Whether you are a food producer or food consumer, you should be asking for the same.”

Scheer said that efforts at State Fair and the upcoming Husker Harvest Days are to educate those about the Farm Bill and ask them to take action by signing the Farm Bill Now banner, calling their congressional representatives and signing the petition on They can also easily Tweet their representatives with the #farmbillnow hashtag and write a message on their Facebook page.

The current Farm Bill is set to expire this year. Collectively Congress has yet to pass a Farm Bill, although a version has been passed by the Senate. A version has yet to be passed by the House.

“Time is running out for action on the Farm Bill,” said Carl Sousek, president of the Nebraska Corn Growers Association. “Congress will only be in session a few days in September and then the “lame duck session” following the November elections. I ask that you visit with your Senator or Congressman, thank them for their past work and ask them to press for passage of a Farm Bill.”

In addition to efforts at State Fair and Husker Harvest Days, a joint letter of support from over a dozen agricultural organizations in the state has been signed that encourages legislators to pass a Farm Bill that reauthorizes disaster assistance, streamlines conservation programs, provides sound risk management programs, and continues the priorities in foreign market development.

For you to take action, please join these ag organizations at the Ag Commodities Building (booth #8) during Husker Harvest Days, September 11-13 to sign the banner and go to

September 7, 2012

Podcast: Leadership on farm bill needed in Washington

In this podcast, Don Hutchens, executive director of the Nebraska Corn Board, says thanks to Nebraska farm organizations, commodity boards and their associations for showing the leadership and art of negotiation and respect for the industry that they showed while working together on the farm bill.

"Our Congress could take a few lessons from these groups," he said.

He gives credit to the Senate, which got the message and got a farm bill done, but when it came to the House, it seemed there was one excuse after another.

"During Corn Congress in July, corn grower members from all the states donned large lapel buttons with the same message…Farm Bill Now," Hutchens said. "They were prepared to what the excuses would be from the House…not enough time…we don’t have the votes…it is someone’s else’s fault. Fortunately, corn growers did their homework, and responded that with 33 votes on health care that wasted over 80 hours of time, they could have instead exercised the art of negotiation and leadership with common sense. Assigning blame is easy, but taking responsibility takes work and more leadership."

Hutchens said everyone should take the time to call their House and Senate leadership and insist on building a bipartisanship platform of food security – Farm Bill Now with drought disaster for our livestock industry is their responsibility.

Listen for details.

Nebraska Corn Kernel podcasts are also available on iTunes! Click here to subscribe.

September 4, 2012

NCB Staff Update with Kelly Brunkhorst

In this week's staff update Kelly Brunkhorst talks about why we need a farm bill now! For more information visit the Nebraska Corn Board website or .