From the Fields® - 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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.