BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) - Four major storms in a month's span with record snow are causing hardships for ranchers in the Dakotas, but their livestock appear to have made it through the rough start to winter in decent shape. Rancher groups say livestock deaths appear to be minimal and the Agriculture Department estimates animal losses to be mostly "average" to "light."
Western South Dakota rancher Jon Millar says he has 2 feet of snow on his ranch compared to nearly none at this time last year. He says he's lost fewer than half a dozen animals, though. But more snow means more work for ranchers to care for livestock, more stress on equipment and less time for other things. Julie Ellingson with the North Dakota Stockmen's Association says, "there are no 'snow days' for ranchers."
FARGO, ND (NDSU) - Each region in North Dakota has at least a few crops that project a profit in 2017, says Andy Swenson, North Dakota State University Extension Service farm management specialist. However, because of agronomic and risk factors, enough profitable crop options may not be available to provide a sustainable crop rotation in many regions of the state.
The most favorable crop budgets were in the western half of the state, led by the southwest region, in which 13 crops projected a positive return. Conversely, the south Red River Valley only projected a profit for soybeans and dry edible beans. Crop yields have shown substantial improvement in western North Dakota, and land costs there are less than in eastern North Dakota.
A positive was slightly lower total costs per acre because of lower fertilizer prices and a reduction in some seed prices. Also, the land charge used in the budgets was slightly lower than last year for most regions.
The situation on the revenue side was mixed. Yields have increased noticeably in many instances, but prices for most crops are low, relative to recent history. The two largest crop acreages in the state are spring wheat and soybeans. For 2017, spring wheat projects a negative return in all regions. The best projections are for the southwest and northeast regions at about minus $5 per acre, and the worst was for the south Red River Valley at a minus $46 return to labor and management per acre. Returns per acre in other regions ranged from minus $10 to minus $26 per acre.
Soybeans projected a profit in eight of nine regions. The positive returns ranged from about $10 per acre in the northwest, south-central and north Red River Valley regions to $52 in the north-central region.
Nearly all regions projected negative returns for corn, durum and oil sunflowers. Exceptions were the higher-risk regions for corn production - the northwest and southwest regions - with projected returns of about $13 per acre return. Durum projected a per acre return to labor and management of $14 in the southwest region and $5 in the south-central region, and oil sunflowers are expected to return $9 per acre in the southwest region.
Canola projects a profit of about $10 per acre in the four regions of the state where it is most commonly grown.
Projected returns to labor and management for malting barley were negative in the north and south Red River Valley and near breakeven in the southeast region but positive in the other six regions of the state, ranging from $17 to $35 per acre. However, malting barley and durum have higher risk of poor quality and associated price discounts than other crops.
Dry edible beans projected a positive return in all regions for which it was budgeted, with an overall average return to labor and management of $34 per acre. Confection sunflowers projected a per-acre profit in four regions: the southwest at $30, south-central at $21, southeast at $16, and north-central at $8.
Flax and field peas projected negative returns in half the state. Flax projected positive returns to labor and management, ranging from $1 to $17 per acre, in the north-central, northeast, northwest and southwest regions. Field peas projected a return of $17 per acre in the southwest region and $5 per acre in the northwest and were near breakeven in the north-central and south-central
Similar to last year's projections, lentils, mustard and chickpeas were the most positive, generally ranging from a $50 to $100 return to labor and management per acre in the regions with budgets. Because of disease issues, lentils and chickpeas are only grown in the western part of the state.
The small acreage crops of oats, millet, winter wheat and rye did not project a profit in any region.
Swenson cautions that the budgets estimate returns to labor and management with no consideration of price and yield variability, or risk. A perfect apple-to-apples comparison of crops is not achieved because different levels of labor, management and risk exist.
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