From the Fields®

Issue Date: August 8, 2018
By Ana Cox , Mendocino County goat dairy farmer

We are super busy with the creamery. The animals are doing great.  

We've had smoke, but it has not been detrimental. We personally are more affected by the back and forth of hot and cold temperatures. The animals are more prone to colds and that type of thing, but this is pretty normal for this time of year. I've spoken to other livestock owners, such as of sheep, and that is prevalent during weather that fluctuates so much.

Cheese prices are good. I know that in the state there is a shortage of goat milk, but it doesn't really affect us because we are considered farmstead, which means we produce our own milk and don't bring any milk from the outside.

We are working with our local food hub, which serves as a distributor, to sell our product, in addition to other stores, and it is doing pretty awesome. Our local food hub has done a great job of supporting our other local small farmers. We are the first non-produce producer that they've taken on, and they will be adding meat. It is a blessing for small producers; we needed an outlet to get our product out. They deal a lot with health food stores, farmers markets, co-ops and restaurants. It has been a godsend for us.

Issue Date: August 8, 2018
By Joe Turkovich, Yolo County orchardist

As we enter the dog days of summer, the crops seem to be growing and maturing well. A silver lining to all the terrible mountain fires around us is the diffusion of sunlight filtering down to the valley floor. It's a softer light that plants enjoy more than the usual harsh summer sun of the Sacramento Valley.

In years like this, I notice less sunburned fruit and nuts and generally better looking trees this late into summer. Sun-related plant stress comes from several factors, among them high ambient temperatures, but also ultraviolet light. The smoke acts like a sunscreen on a sunbather.

The effects of the tariff war will be in full effect for the marketing of the 2018 crops. My walnuts and prunes will feel it immediately in lost sales. Prune tariffs to China have spiked to 60 percent, essentially ceasing all sales. Walnut tariffs into China and India will undoubtedly depress prices dramatically. With less return than we would normally expect, we all need to re-forecast our budgets and tighten up on capital expenditures until we know more.

The sad part is that both the walnut and prune boards and handlers have been devoting years of effort to develop these markets. Now, countries like Chile can walk in and reap the benefits of all our work. Let's hope it all works out and the United States is able to negotiate new terms that improve the overall situation over the long term.

Issue Date: August 8, 2018
By Tom Coleman, Fresno County pistachio grower

We are lining up harvesting equipment and looking to start harvest by Sept. 1, which is about normal. The season started out looking like it would be late and now it is moving to normal, which has more to do with the bloom than anything. This year, even with a slightly later bloom, we are moving to a more traditional harvest time. We have a few fields that have experienced low winter chill hours, and those fields will be later with harvesting.

Right now, the pistachio crop looks pretty good. Most of the industry is talking about a 900 million-pound crop. I think it is a little less than that this year, in what is an "off" year for pistachios. We're doing counts in the pistachio orchards to determine the percentage of blanks we think we will be having. We have always done these counts, but we are doing a more quantitative count.

In the last couple of years, we've had increasing navel orangeworm pressure. We're monitoring for navel orangeworm and seeing a few early splits that causes us to do that spray.

Regarding the retaliatory tariffs, I've spoken to grower representatives from the two largest processors, and there is great concern from one and very little concern from the other. The whole plus is that Iran is going to have one of their smallest crops in quite a number of years, so that will help us. If Iran were having a full-size crop, we would be panicked.

Issue Date: August 8, 2018
By Brandon Fawaz, Siskiyou County hay farmer

Hay season is going along pretty well. It was a hotter July than what we've had in recent years. It's been compounded by a lot of smoke from the fires. We've had some days of visibility of less than a mile or a mile and a half. It (the smoke) slows down the drying of the hay and the growing of the crop as well.

Regarding the demand for hay as a result of the fires, I think that is the case with the fire near Hornbrook, which burned up a lot of the drier range ground. That is the only fire that has been close to us. I think the effects of the fires (related to hay) that are elsewhere remain to be seen. I am selling a couple of loads of hay to a guy down south who had some range ground burn.

Hay prices seem to be up just a little from last year, 10 percent or so on good hay and it is about the same for lower quality, stock cow quality hay. There seems to be more of a difference this year between good hay and off-quality hay. There seems to be more of a spread than what we had last year.

Up here, we had a dry winter with a wet spring, and so that did make a fair amount of feed in the springtime, but it has been dry since. We're on a normal schedule for our area for most fields to get three cuts, so that will be more quantity and less quality hay to market because we had a late rain in the spring. That kept us from cutting any of our hay early, and that set the stage for the majority of the year being a three-cut system instead of a four-cut system. That is fine. We have a retail market that is good, which is primarily the retail horse-hay and export markets. Those are still looking decent.

Issue Date: August 8, 2018
By Luke Wenger, Stanislaus County orchardist

Currently, we are starting to get prepared for almond harvest because it will be here before we know it. We have started the hull split sprays on the early almond varieties. We should be ready to start harvesting in few weeks.

In the walnuts, we are spraying for codling moth and husk fly. So far this year, we have not had much of an issue with spider mites, probably because we have had a milder summer this year compared to the last few.

This year, we were able to get our corn in early so that we can get it harvested early enough to get some new orchards planted this fall. We have just finished spraying the corn for weeds and mites. Other than the spraying, we are just making sure all our equipment is serviced and ready for harvest.

Issue Date: August 8, 2018
By Ken Mitchell, Sacramento County diversified farmer

We marked turkeys about three weeks ago and got ahead of most of the heat. This was our typical rotation. You can't market the birds ahead of the heat. The hens do well, and I haven't heard of any heat losses. We can combat heat loss with dietary changes in feed formulations to help with heat sensitivity, especially on the heavy toms. We just finished moving our babies to the grow-out facility. They handle the heat fairly well, being a lot smaller birds in size.

I preg-checked the sheep over the last couple weeks and they are bred up very well for fall lambs. It has been warm to on the borderline of hot, but for the most part we haven't had all those 110-degree days like last year, when it really hurt the breeding of sheep and other livestock.

As far as the trees, we didn't have much growth the last couple years on our three-leaf walnuts. But this year the trees have really stored the energy and we got some huge growth. The walnuts are really growing and showing some new leaf, so they are doing extremely well. We will probably knock a few off next year, and by 2020 we will shake a good crop.

I don't believe we ship much California turkey to the Pacific Rim, but I know that this trade thing is going to tighten. China will come to the table in the end, because they must. They can't do without us, but they also are willing to take it to the end as far as not negotiating. We'll see how this is going to play out, but it is going to hurt ag, that's for sure. The biggest thing is getting markets back. It is going to take a long time.

Issue Date: July 18, 2018
By Dino Giacomazzi, Kings County diversified grower

It's been hot, but the heat hasn't had a major impact on the cows. Nights have been cool enough for the cows to recover. This has been a bad year for flies and squirrels.

Milk prices are still low due to global supply issues. California has voted to move to a federal milk marketing order. Hay prices are high and there is a lot of uncertainty in the feed market due to soybean meal tariffs.

The almonds are going into hull split, and the crop seems average. Pest pressure has been low this year. Almond prices are fairly stable; no real swings in the market. Nonpareil prices have seen about a 40-cent swing over the past year. I'm not sure how the tariffs will impact prices going forward.

Corn and alfalfa are doing what corn and alfalfa normally do at this time of year. There is a lot of early corn in my area due to early wheat harvests brought on by frost damage. Fifty percent of our winter wheat crop was damaged.

Issue Date: July 18, 2018
By Peter Bauer, Mendocino County beef producer

The cattle business is doing all right at the present time. We are primarily spring calvers and we have always been spring calvers. Over the last five years, we have tightened up our calving window quite a bit. What that does is that by the time June and July roll around the cattle are spread out all over creation. By having a controlled calving window of 60 to 90 days, we get bigger calves in the fall.

We had a lighter calf crop this year. Most of our cows are Angus or Angus cross. Part of them are an Angus-Charolais cross. The bulls are primarily Angus.

The lack of calves had to do with some of the cows that I bought. This has something to say for indigenous cows. In the spring, when I looked at the cows that didn't have calves, a lot of them were purchased from outside. But the older cows that were indigenous, all had calves. Not all of the cows that I bought had problems. Some of them turned out pretty well. So right now, we are on cruise control until the fall gather.

Fields are turning brown, but in the high country the grass is still green and the cows are loving that.

We had a powerline that came down and set the field on fire. Locally, the cows had done an exemplary job of keeping the grass down, so there wasn't a lot to burn, and we were able to extinguish it fairly quickly. This shows that grazing is a benefit on these permit areas. Last year at this time, if that line had arced, it would have been a catastrophe, because for the first time in 30 years there was excessive feed left on that pasture.

Issue Date: July 18, 2018
By Gino Pedretti III, Merced County diversified grower

My family has a diversified farming operation called Pedretti Ranches. We have a 500-cow Holstein dairy, 200 head of registered Hereford beef cattle and field crops. We grow cotton, alfalfa and corn, which we double-crop with wheat during the winter. I am the fourth generation to work on the farm and am proud to be the next generation involved.

We are starting to hit our slow part of the summer involving the farming operation. The cotton and corn have been planted. The major goal for us now is to keep everything wet during the heat. Bug pressure has been minimal in our cotton. So far, the crop looks really good during the early fruiting stage, but we still have a long way to go until harvest in October.

We are growing more pima this year, trying to take advantage of its higher price. Pima yields less than acala in our area because pima usually has a 10-14 day longer growing season. But there's a newer variety that we liked last year that matured much closer to the acala varieties.

On the dairy, the cows have been milking really good for this time of the year. Your butter fat and solids non-fat always drop a bit during the heat, which hurts your bottom line. We will see how the cows hold up after a month of 100-degree weather. September is usually our lowest production month.

The biggest issue facing our operation is water. We are in the Merced water basin, which gets the majority of our surface water from the Merced River. The State Water Resources Control Board recently released their final draft of the Bay-Delta plan (see story). The plan calls for taking 40 percent unimpaired flows from the river straight to the delta. The board will vote on Aug 21- 22. If it passes, the results will be devastating to the Merced economy.

Issue Date: July 18, 2018
By Jennifer Beretta, Sonoma County dairy farmer

Currently, we have been very busy. We have been irrigating twice a day trying to get our pasture rolling. We have a minimum of 120 days that we have to meet with the cows getting 30 percent of their feed from the pasture. So, we have been using treated water from the city of Santa Rosa.

We are just getting our third crop of hay going, so we will be able to cut that in about 80 days. I work at two dairies and I have been preparing for the annual organic inspection on my mom's dairy. I do all the paperwork and certificates. The inspections are once a year, plus spot inspections so verifiers can come in unannounced whenever they want. We have been working with USDA to make sure their inspectors are trained properly so they can know what to look for.

Right now, the market is all right. We have hit a plateau on milk prices; we went from $42 milk to $28-29, depending on the components. And there are some companies that aren't renewing contracts.

For the last five years, there aren't the people coming to the dairy looking for jobs. What they want is a house, but it is very difficult in our county to build a house because the permitting process takes forever. Right now, we have three employees who are milkers, plus me, my brother and my dad. So, we are really short-staffed compared to normal years.

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