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November 13, 2015
CapitalPress.com
13
Dairy/Livestock
Idaho shooting sparks More farmers trade dairy for nuts, analysts say
open range debate
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newsletter at CapitalPress.com/newsletters
By CAROL RYAN DUMAS
Capital Press
By JOHN O’CONNELL
Capital Press
POCATELLO, Idaho —
A recent incident in which
a car collided with a bull on
U.S. 95 near Council, Idaho,
and the rancher who owned
the animal was subsequent-
ly killed during a shootout
with deputies has sparked a
renewed debate on Idaho’s
longstanding open range law.
An opinion piece authored
by Hailey-based Western Wa-
tersheds Project concludes
the incident provides further
proof that Idaho’s open range
law is antiquated and that
“private property rights in
Idaho apparently only apply
to ranchers.”
Offi cials with Idaho Farm
Bureau Federation, howev-
er, believe the conservation
group crossed an ethical line
to score political points, cal-
lously building its arguments
on a tragedy.
Two people in the Subaru
that hit the bull were airlifted
to a local hospital following
the crash at 6:45 p.m. on Nov.
1. Details of their conditions
have not been released.
The bull’s owner, Jack
Yantis, 62, of Council, ar-
rived as Adams County Sher-
iff’s deputies were poised to
put down the agitated animal,
according to an Idaho State
Police press release. Gunfi re
ensued. Yantis died at the
scene, and a deputy sustained
a minor injury, according to
police.
“The events that trans-
pired over the course of the
next few minutes are under
investigation, but, at this
time, it is believed that two
deputies and Mr. Yantis all
fired their weapons,” police
said in the press release.
According to media re-
ports, Yantis’ wife suffered
a heart attack after learning
of the incident.
Western open range laws
date back to 1880s, when
the region was being settled
and cows commonly grazed
unfettered. Idaho’s law ap-
plies to “all unenclosed
lands outside of cities, vil-
lages and herd districts,
upon which cattle, by cus-
tom, license, lease or per-
mit, are grazed or permitted
to roam.”
In the opinion piece,
published on Western Wa-
tersheds social media sites
and by Wildlife News, Ken
Cole, Idaho director of
Western Watersheds, argued
Idaho’s open range law is
antiquated and places re-
sponsibility on accident vic-
tims rather than on livestock
owners. Cole also wrote that
he’s seen open-range ranch-
ers place water troughs
along roadways, with little
regard for the safety of mo-
torists.
“There are several ques-
tions that need to be an-
swered here. Did Yantis die
because he felt emboldened
by Idaho’s open range laws
to confront the deputies who
were about to kill his prized
bull for the protection of
themselves and bystanders?
Do Idaho’s open range laws
inflate the sense of entitle-
ment felt by an elite class of
people and put lives at risk
unfairly?” Cole wrote.
Idaho Farm Bureau
spokesman John Thompson
acknowledges there are val-
id points on both sides of
the open range argument,
including by Eastern Ida-
ho farmers who met with
ranchers to address con-
cerns about cattle grazing in
their fields. But he consid-
ers it distasteful for Western
Watersheds to seek to capi-
talize on tragedy.
“People are dead and
fighting for their lives,
and still people are saying,
‘We’re going to get politi-
cal favor out of this deal,’”
Thompson said. “We try to
shine a light on the fact that
they’re trying to make polit-
ical hay out of this situation,
and hopefully people go,
‘Yes, that is screwed up.’”
A growing number of Cali-
fornia dairies are diversifying
their operations to include nut
production — or switching
completely to nut production,
analysts say.
“Nut people, especially al-
mond people, are scrambling
for acreage … and at least a
handful of dairies have closed
down and converted to nuts
or sold out and bought other
property” to grow nuts, said
Vernon Crowder, senior vice
president and senior analyst at
Rabobank.
At the same time, the
state’s milk production will
continue its modest annual in-
crease, he said.
“We wanted to see if the
trend of modest growth in
dairy is going to change. Our
conclusion is it’s unlikely,” he
said.
While smaller or less effi -
cient dairies are likely to be
pressured to sell out and con-
vert to nuts due to the increas-
ing costs of water and land
and environmental regulation,
other dairies are there to buy
their cows right away, he said.
At the same time, many
dairies are adding orchards.
“Most of our customers have
diversifi ed and are growing
some kind of nut,” he said.
It’s increased their prof-
itability and diversifi cation.
The only downside is they
might have to buy more feed
off the farm, he said.
But with the growing glob-
al demand for dairy products,
producing milk will continue
to be competitive with other
California commodities, ac-
cording to Rabobank’s new
report, “Milking Cows or Go-
ing Nuts?”
Nonetheless, milk price
volatility and higher feed
costs have squeezed dairy-
men’s profi t margins, and
profi tability in other crops has
increased the cost of land with
good water — land dairymen
would want for feed produc-
tion.
Those factors have in-
creasingly led dairy farmers
in the Central Valley to plant
Tim Hearden/Capital Press
Cows are milked at VanderWoude Dairy near Merced, Calif. A growing number of California dairies
are diversifying their operations to include nut production — or switching completely to nut production,
analysts say.
California alfalfa vs. almond acres
1,200
1,040
890: Up 50.8%
from 2005
800
590
(Thousands of acres)
Alfalfa
Almonds (bearing)
Almonds (non-bearing)
400
110
820*: Down
21.2% from
2005
150: Up 36.4%
from 2005
*Forecast
0
2005
’07
’09
Source: USDA NASS
nut orchards to both diversify
and generate more income per
acre, the analysts reported.
During the last 10 years,
the prices of almonds, wal-
nuts and pistachios have in-
creased due to growing export
demand. A good yield on nut
crops requires about the same
amount of water as alfalfa in
the Central Valley, and input
costs for nut production are
less volatile compared to milk
production, Crowder said.
Those factors make or-
chard production an attractive
alternative. But many dairy
producers will continue to
do what they know best, and
their annual cash fl ow is usu-
’11
’13
2015
Capital Press graphic
ally more balanced than crop
production, the report notes.
Still some smaller dairies
— those that don’t have the
economy of scale enjoyed
by larger dairies — might be
tempted to take the plunge,
sell the dairy and plant al-
monds, which are profi table
even in a small-scale opera-
tion.
To assess the case for
switching to nuts, Rabobank
considered the profi tability
of a hypothetical Califor-
nia dairy and the impacts of
switching part or all of its op-
eration to almonds.
Taking into account the
future relative profi tability of
dairying and almond produc-
tion, that assessment found
the hypothetical 2,500 mature
cow dairy with 95 percent of
its 620-acre cropland planted
to alfalfa would make a net
profi t of $19.67 million in the
fi rst 10 years.
Converting the alfalfa
acres to almond production
would improve the dairy’s 10-
year net return by $850,000.
Switching the entire op-
eration to almonds, with 620
acres suffi cient for 597 acres
of almond production and
allow for roads and other re-
quired land use, would net
$11.1 million in the fi rst 10
years. The sale of the cows,
equipment and infrastructure
would fund the development
costs of the almond orchard,
the analysts stated.
If all price and cost as-
sumptions were to contin-
ue for the life of the orchard
— about 20 years — dairy-
ing would still remain more
profi table, with a net revenue
stream of nearly $40 million.
The orchard would have a net
revenue stream of roughly
$35 million over that 20 years.
A key part of the dairies’
success is the positive reve-
nue streams from year one,
whereas the orchard has a
negative revenue stream in
the fi rst two years and doesn’t
break even until year fi ve, the
analysts noted.
Dairy markets start November strong; cheese still 50 cents below last year
C
ME, cash dairy prices
started November on
an up note. The block
Cheddar cheese closed the
first Friday of the month at
$1.70 per pound, up 8 cents
on the week and the highest
price since Oct. 12, but still
50 cents below a year ago.
The barrels closed at $1.65,
up 5 1/2-cents on the week
but 47 cents below a year
ago. Only one car of block
traded hands last week and
23 of barrel.
The blocks inched a pen-
ny higher Monday but gave
it back Tuesday. The barrels
Dairy
Markets
Lee Mielke
dropped 2 3/4-cents Monday
and lost 3 1/4-cents Tuesday,
dipping to $1.59, an unsus-
tainable 11 cents below the
blocks.
Steady milk intakes have
translated into steady cheese
production, according to
Dairy Market News (DMN).
Processors say on occasion
they are short a load or two
of milk, but are hesitant to
buy unless the milk can be
purchased at a discount.
Manufacturers report do-
mestic orders for natural
cheese has been strong, with
some customers willing to
take extra loads. Food ser-
vice demand has been solid.
Interest in barrels has grown.
Some Western contacts
reported strong milk sup-
plies have allowed them to
maintain full cheese pro-
duction schedules. Although
milk production has de-
creased following seasonal
trends, most processors are
not having any trouble get-
ting milk. Cheese demand
from food service and retail
is still good.
Spot butter closed Fri-
day at a lofty $2.8850 per
pound, up 11 1/2-cents on
the week on unfilled bids, 87
3/4-cents above a year ago,
and the highest spot price
since Sept. 28, 2015. No
butter was traded last week
at the CME.
The cash price was un-
changed Monday and Tues-
day.
DMN says “butter pro-
duction in the Central re-
gion is active, with churn
operators pulling spot cream
loads as they can to beef up
production runs. Spot cream
availability varies, with
some buyers reporting they
are once again competing
with Class II manufacturers
to obtain cream.”
“Western butter pro-
duction remains active. A
few manufacturers report
they are near or at capaci-
ty. Cream supplies are tight
as some butter makers seek
extra loads to make print
butter for remaining sea-
sonal orders. A number of
manufacturers report butter
inventories are tight. Do-
mestic pull has been strong,
but as the peak butter season
passes, some industry con-
tacts are asking when the
demand will be satisfied and
an adjustment in price will
follow.”
Cash Grade A nonfat
dry milk finished Friday
at 81 cents per pound, up a
half-cent on the week but
37 cents below a year ago.
Eleven cars were sold last
week at the CME.
The powder was also un-
changed Monday and Tues-
day.
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