Some people dread the snow. Todd Graves of Lone Grove embraces it — for farming purposes.

Some people dread the snow. Todd Graves of Lone Grove embraces it — for farming purposes.

“As bad as I hate stomping around in it, I think it’ll do some good for us,” the beef producer said.
If you think the recent snow is doing local agriculture business harm, think again.

“It’s just an inconvenience to get around, but it has posed no threat to harvesting crops,” said Leland McDaniel, Carter County Extension Service director for agriculture.

The sleet and snow of the past two months are adding to the moisture hay and wheat farmers need for a good growing season. McDaniel and Graves are forecasting a much better year for farmers than 2009.

“I used to cut hay and sell it,” Graves said. “I stopped about two or three years ago. I’ve had to buy it.”

Vitality of local cattle

How vital is the beef production business in Carter County?

According to most recent agricultural statistics for the county, there were 55,000 head of cattle and cash receipts from cattle sales totaled $2.7 million. That was for 2006. McDaniel estimated the annual total economic impact for beef production in the county is $40 million.

“When I think about two big cash crops in Oklahoma, I think about beef production and oil,” Graves said.

There are two types of beef producers, according to Graves: The cow-calf producer that sells calves like he does, and the stocker operator that buys the calves and “runs them” on wheat or summer grass.

“In the past, I could sell a 550-pound calf for $650,” Graves said. “Last year, for a 550-pound calf, I did good to average $500.”

Graves said the biggest costs for a cow-calf producer are those for feed, fuel and fertilizer. Those costs coupled with the lowered cattle prices have made his bottom line a little tougher.

Snow? Rain? No problem

McDaniel estimated that hay production in 2009 was down 40 percent from an average-production year. More hay was fed to cattle between November 2008 and March 2009 because of a dry summer, and only the estimated 40 percent was produced between the growing season of last April to October.

Farmers like Graves felt the effects of that dry summer of 2008.

“We had a lot of moisture, but it came at the wrong time,” said Graves, a beef producer who grows hay for his Angus cows.

Graves said rye grass is fertilized in February and harvested in May, but last year the moisture came too late for rye.

“Any moisture in the winter time, before May, is beneficial,” Graves  said.

Graves’ ranch didn’t have the sub-soil moisture needed to grow his cattle’s feed. He recalled how hot the weather got after the late rain, drying up any moisture that hadn’t run off.

“Come summer time, it doesn’t take long for six to eight inches to be dried out.”

McDaniel and Graves say the hay production should look good if more rain comes before the spring. Graves just hopes showers don’t come when it’s time to harvest.

“If I can’t grow grass, I can’t produce beef,” Graves said.