Field & Feedlot

Field & Feedlot is a monthly newsletter of current educational topics written by Agriculture and Natural Resources Extension and Outreach specialists in Northwest Iowa.

November 2020

Beef: Celebrating and Moving Forward by Beth Doran, Beef Program Specialist

The 2020 Growing Season by Paul Kassel, Field Agronomist

Pandemics, Drought and Derecho by Gary Wright, Farm Management Specialist

Finally, Some Good News in the Swine Industry by Dave Stender, Swine Program Specialist


Beef: Celebrating and Moving Forward

Beth Doran, Beef Specialist

Bright Future for Agriculture

This fall, Northwest Iowa 4-H’ers captured championship honors in three state contests. Our congratulations to each team and best wishes as they represent Iowa at their respective national contests! Winning teams are as follows:

  • State 4-H Livestock Judging Contest (3rd Place Senior Team) – Sac County, represented by Justin Rupnow, Cale Niehaus, Josh Wernimont, Aden Vondrak and coach Larissa Rupnow.
  • State 4-H Livestock Quiz Bowl and Skillathon Contest – Plymouth County, represented by Mia Haage, Regan Peters, Jace Fisher, Wade Fisher, Mason Peters and coach Jodi Fisher
  • State 4-H Meats Judging Contest – O’Brien County, represented by Dain Moermond, Bryce Rasmussen, Dante Johnson, Grant Wagner and coach Eric Kumm

Pre-Conditioned Feeder Cattle Sales Underway – Are you ready?

If you plan to consign calves in a pre-conditioned feeder cattle sale, get started now on your marketing plan. How do you plan to physically market the calves and do you have a risk management strategy? 

If consigning to a pre-conditioned sale, there are specific requirements for the calves. They must have received a prescribed set of vaccinations, been treated for internal and external parasites, be polled or dehorned, castrated if bulls, weaned a minimum of 30 days and started on feed. Work with your local veterinarian to administer and verify that all requirements have been met. Once this is accomplished, your vet will issue the Pre-Conditioned Feeder Cattle Certificate. A “green” or “gold tag” only certifies the vet work. A “pre-conditioned” certificate verifies not only the vet work, but also that the calves have been weaned and are bunk broke.

As for risk management, there are four ways to protect the price of your calves – Feeder Cattle Futures, Options, Livestock Risk Protection, or a Forward Contract. These should all be based on your yearly cost of running a cow-calf pair and using this cost to establish a price floor for your calves. 

For more information on feeder calf marketing, check out the video on Feeder Calf Marketing on the Iowa Beef Center Facebook page at the Iowa Beef Center YouTube page at And at either site, there are other great videos on strategies to control cow costs!

Estimating Ear Drop

The University of Nebraska has a method to estimate the amount of corn remaining in a field after combining. An 8-inch ear of corn contains about 0.50 lb of corn grain; therefore 112 8-inch ears would equal 1 bushel (1 bushel = 56 pounds). If corn is planted in 30-inch rows, count the number of ears in three different 100-foot furrow strips and divide by two to give an approximate number of bushels per acre. For example, if there is a total of 30 8-inch ears in the three strips, the number of bushels remaining would be 30/2 = 15 bushels per acre. Small ears and broken ears should be counted as half ears, while very large ears could be counted as 1.5 ears. Any amount beyond 8-10 bu/acre will require a well-planned grazing strategy to prevent cows from consuming too much grain.

Feedlot Forum 2021 to be January 19

Save January 19 for Feedlot Forum 2021 and plan to attend this in-person conference. Don’t miss these industry experts sharing tips on how to produce and market beef in today’s era: 

  • Designing and Implementing Feedlot Implant Strategies – Wes Gentry, Midwest PMS
  • Iowa Beef Industry Council Working for You – Rex Hoppes, Iowa Beef Industry Council
  • Digital Dermatitis – Old Disease, New Research – Terry Engelken, ISU Veterinary College
  • New Directions for ISU Animal Science – Dan Thomsen, ISU Department of Animal Science
  • Managing Newly Received Calves – Dan Thomsen, ISU Department of Animal Science
  • Hot Issues for the Iowa Cattlemen’s Association – Matt Deppe, Iowa Cattlemen’s Association (ICA)
  • 50/14 Legislation – Brad Kooima, Kooima Kooima Varilek Trading, Inc., Matt Deppe, and Cora Fox, ICA
  • Cattle Market Outlook: National and Iowa Perspectives – Lee Schulz, ISU Department of Economics

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The 2020 Growing Season

Paul Kassel, Field Agronomist

The 2020 growing season will be remembered for derecho storms, dicamba drift and drought. 

The 2020 growing season saw a corn crop that matured early and began the corn grain dry down process in late August/early September. Therefore, many farmers and grain elevator managers experienced corn grain moisture in the low teens at harvest time. 

The drought and early maturity also reduced corn grain yields. Farmers were disappointed at the yield levels but were surprised at the productivity under the dry conditions. 

Corn that is harvested at grain moisture below 15 or 15.5 percent also reduces the amount of production from a field. Corn that is sold at 15 percent moisture is 85 percent dry matter and 15 percent water. Corn that is sold at a moisture content below 15 percent substitutes dry matter for moisture and represents an economic loss.

Corn grain yield is reduced by the following amounts when grain moisture is below 15 percent.




Obviously, little can be done to manage this problem. However, it does explain some yield loss that can be attributed to over drying in the field. Also, harvest losses increase with dry grain and that also likely contributed to reduced corn yields in 2020.

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Pandemics, Drought and Derecho

Gary Wright, Farm Management Specialist

Many are heard saying “Let’s just find an end to CY 2020,” as it goes down into the history books as having a little something for all. Let me offer some thoughts.

Markets: October reported (mid-harvest) some unexpected changes, resulting in mostly higher prices:

  • Corn: October WASDE:  drought and derecho impacts to lower yields, stronger exports from a weakening dollar, and lower ethanol/feed use contributed to a 10 cent higher 2020-21 season-average price ($3.60); and
  • Soybeans: October WASDE:  lower production/yields, increased new-crop use and higher exports contributed to a 90-cent increase to the 2020-21 season-ending average price estimate ($9.80).

Global corn and soybean supplies continue to go higher, following lower 2019 US production of corn and soybean; however, production was higher outside the U.S. The 2020 marketing year started very strong on a favorable dollar exchange. China is by far the driving factor but somewhat surprising, not only just soybeans. Above-noted price outlooks were partly related to the higher demand for feed consumption from the increase to meat production. This follows a downward adjustment to meat production already from COVID-19. The longer-term meat prices will depend upon the domestic and international movement of meat from the farm to end-users. Slightly higher beef exports are dominated by small market increases, while China is the major destination for the 45 percent increase to the pork exports. Ethanol exports have now stabilized, after record levels prior to the trade fight; however, global economic uncertainties remain from covid-19 and lower oil prices. Additionally, Fall’s normal travel slowdown will likely result in a dip to the ethanol grind needs. One positive is the 3.5 year low in ethanol stocks.

Farm Economy: The above market price summaries are shared in light of commodity supply/demand outlooks. It is important to consider the present financial condition following the past several years of trying production and market conditions for U.S. farmers. Commodity production outpaced demand in most years, and market prices have been falling, while costs of production for these same commodities were only slightly lower during the 5 years: Corn: 2014-19 market price declined 44 percent; and Soybeans: 2014-19 market price lower by 35 percent. The above 5-year operating margin squeeze was during significant world economic and weather-related challenges. In the last approximately 9 months COVID-19 adversely impacted biofuels demand. Similarly, food demand was hurt by the decline from big-buying restaurants and hotels for meat, dairy and specialty crops. The impacts of COVID-19 are generally expected to continue into CY 2021, when farm income is projected lower than earlier forecasts.                                   

Now an overall in-harvest price appreciation from a tightening balance sheet is a worthy consideration when compared to operating breakeven. If you read my regular blogs, you may recall seeing links to Ag Decision Maker ( If you need help applying any one of the over 300 decision-making templates, please call or contact me (712-223-1574; In light of tighter overall margins, it is very important for the producer to proactively understand their own by-enterprise operating break-evens and then TAKE ACTION, if this market offers the opportunity. Finally, please consider this grain marketing education and other offerings: Grain Storage and Corn Quality Issues( Recording; Crop Marketing Strategies: Basis, Carry & Cost of Ownership(, Nov. 19, 2020 at 7:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.; Upcoming and Recorded Farm Management Webinarsare available online at

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Finally, Some Good News in the Swine Industry

Dave Stender, Swine Program Specialist

The swine industry has certainly been through a lot this year, but finally some good news is more than welcome.

Changes in exports to China because of African swine fever positive wild boars in Germany and continued strong demand domestically have pushed the price of pigs higher. Normally the hog market declines during the Fall as more pigs typically are available during this season. However, this year might be an exception.

With tight shackle space this Spring and Summer due to COVID-19-related plant slowdown, producers have been losing money in pork production, but this unexpected jump in prices is encouraging. Right now, feed costs range in the low $70s per head and the rest of the cost is about $50 per head putting the breakeven price in the low $60s per hundredweight for most producers. Market prices have risen above that breakeven.

The other good news for pork producers is the new pork marketing contract based on cutout value starting Nov. 9th.The cutout value and the lean hog index have spread apart in recent months making the cutout value worth looking at as a new risk management tool. 

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