From the Fields® - July 10, 2013

By John Miller, Placer County beekeeper

Of course there’s not nearly enough moisture, period. But bees are doing a little better than we originally expected. They did great during the almond bloom. Those reserves they put in—the pollen and the nectar—carried the hives well into March and resulted in great bees in April.

We’re being vigilant on hive-health issues. I know bee guys are paying more attention than before and I think the reward is that we have better bees.

We await the harvest on the High Plains, because over half of the bees in California on March 1 are now out-of-state. We’re really pumped because the bees look pretty good. There’s too much corn and soybeans, but no dairies are left in North Dakota, so the forage issue is still pretty important and it’s a struggle to find good forage out here in the Dakotas.

We expect to harvest the honey crop in early September. It would be such a good thing for the national honey crop to be a good one, because the pipeline is empty. There is no carryover and there’s no extra honey anywhere. Prices have never been higher, but nobody’s got any honey to sell. There’s a little bit of orange honey in Visalia, but zero sage and zero thistle; there wasn’t a lot of honey production in California this spring, and normally California is in the top five.

By Luke Reimers, Glenn County diversified farmer

Nothing does well in this weather that we are having. During extreme heat, the cattle don’t gain well and the trees easily get stressed quickly if they don’t have enough moisture. On top of the extreme heat, we had a storm move through the area that threw a wrinkle in everything, requiring some additional sprays in the walnuts.

Our calves are weaned and ready to be sold over the next couple of months. The calves are on irrigated pasture and supplemented with some hay, hopefully gaining well. We have to watch for sickness, but with a good vaccination program and a closed herd we haven’t had many issues. Typically by this time, the cows are vaccinated and turned out on stubble to keep their weight manageable prior to the calving season. Our heifers will start calving around the beginning of September, followed by the cows about 30 days later.

I am doing the same thing everyone else is with crops, trying to keep the moisture at the right levels without overwatering them. There is a consistent amount of work mowing in the orchards, repairing the irrigation system from animal damage and pruning the young trees. With very little rain this spring, the growing season is longer, which has translated to strong growth on the young walnuts.

Our mild spring has sped up most of the crops, with the expectation that harvest for all of the tree crops could come one to two weeks early.

By Len Lindstrand, Shasta County forest manager

We had temperature swings all spring and the high temperatures make conditions unusual. In terms of fire danger, we’re going to be in high-burning conditions. Throughout the county, people have a heightened sense of awareness of the fire danger. Any time I have a conversation and the topic turns to weather, people express concern about fire.

In the woods, high temperatures are on the minds of crews, whether it’s a marking or logging crew. Smoking is not allowed in the woods, vehicles are parked on developed roads, certain kinds of equipment in the rough aren’t used during hot-fire conditions and after the day’s work is done, there are walking patrols on the logging area to look for any sign of fire.

We also restrict use of "hot saws," a mechanical falling device used on smaller trees. When fuel moisture and humidity reach critical levels, we cease operating them. We do these things as good forest practices and by regulation.

Generally, harvest levels will be up in response to market conditions for timber owners that can get a harvest plan approved. It’s increasingly difficult for small timberland owners to get approved timber harvest plans because they are expensive and time-consuming to prepare.

As a result, they don’t have the flexibility to respond to up-ticks in the market. But, having said that, there is some increased activity among small timberland owners. Larger landowners and managers are in a better position to be responsive to the market. The same is true for industrial forestland owners who have mills to support.

Regardless of the weather, it’s going to be a busy season in the woods.

By John Vevoda, Humboldt County dairy farmer

Right now, the fog came in after a hot spell of about three days. We didn’t get as much rain as we wanted in the beginning, but the grass is still green here in the valley and is drying up out in the hills. We just keep pumping water and pumping water. Some of our wells are starting to get pretty tight, but overall, the water situation still looks good here in Ferndale. We had to put in one new well already this year and we had to work on a well last week. I think it just started to collapse on us; a domestic well for the cattle-watering trough.

Everything is about three weeks ahead of any other year that I’ve ever experienced. We just didn’t get the rain that we needed earlier this year. Out in the hills, production is going to be down in the rangeland. Down here in the valley in the flats, everything was early. We pasture our cows early, so the feed situation up here has been a little tight. We’ll get it here in the end. The warm weather has helped because it was so cold earlier in the springtime.

We got up to 80 this past weekend. On the average, 320 days out of the year here it is 58 degrees. So when we hit 80 it is pretty warm, plus being this close to the ocean there’s a lot of humidity.

By Tony Toso, Mariposa County beef producer

All of the calves and yearlings got sold back in May and early June, so they are in grow yards in Nebraska and Texas.

It is hot and dry, so we’re making sure that the livestock has water and that they have plenty of shade under the oak trees. We’re basically getting ready to start calving in the first part of September. It is actually pretty quiet, but we’re watching for fires in the hills.

This time of year, for us, is the most down time that we have. We’re getting pre-calving taken care of and making sure that everybody’s happy out in the pastures. We’re anticipating cows calving in about 60 days.

The Midwest is still looking for some calves. They’ve had some recent rains in Nebraska and I buy some cattle for them, just trying to fill a few holes for the feed yards for some late calves.

Looking around, there are not that many calves and feeder cattle right now.

In the foothills, we are fortunate to have enough old feed that we’re able to carry the cows through. We’ll probably start putting out some liquid supplement in another couple of weeks to get the cows ready to calve, but other than that, there’s enough old grass and we’ve got a little bit of stock water, so the cows are content and happy right now. It is just typical hot summer dog days in the foothills.

By Karen Whaley, Tulare County beef producer

A dry winter and poor feed conditions have caused some ranchers to cull heavier than anticipated this year. Supplemental feeding of hay has begun, in order to maintain a healthy weight on the cattle to help ensure a viable pregnancy.

With summer heating up here in the Central Valley, both humans and animals alike are trying to find ways to stay cool. With temperatures reaching above 100 degrees, ensuring that all livestock have adequate water is one of our top priorities.

In the coming months, we are sure to be very busy with supplemental feeding and checking water tanks on a regular basis as we anticipate the calving season, which will start in the fall.