From the Fields® - November 27, 2019

By Jennifer Beretta, Sonoma County dairy farmer

I have been re-seeding fields, disking silage fields getting ready for the next year and hoping for some rain.

We are enjoying the nice weather as our cows are still out grazing.

I have been attending conferences and lots of meetings and getting ready to attend the California Farm Bureau Annual Meeting.

By Chris Lange, Tulare County diversified grower

Our operation in both Tulare and Fresno counties is called Beresford Ranches. We're a diversified farming company. We farm many of the citrus crops and we have a cow-calf operation. The weather has been very good to us as far as being able to get a lot of cultural work done. This mild weather has allowed us to get into orchards for tree removal and getting the newer irrigation installed. We've drilled a couple of new wells, which fortunately came in better than our expectations, which is kind of rare these days.

Right now, we're harvesting six days a week. We have finished valencia oranges for this season. We also finished our olives and the tonnage per acre was some of the highest we've had. Plus, we had some good size. So we're optimistic that even with the changing of processors and taking a per ton hit on a percentage of that crop, I think we're going to be very pleased with the bottom-line check. As far as citrus harvest, we are harvesting lemons, mandarins, navel oranges and limes. We are harvesting something every day except Sundays.

I think that the pricing on citrus commodities looks substantially better than what we saw last year. But in addition to the pricing, I think we have a better size structure. I think we have a better eating piece of fruit and what we are harvesting has good color. So, it's an awfully good start for us, as it is still in the fall and we have moved a lot of fruit. So that's looking positive. But every winter we're concerned about frost and hailstorms and other natural events that can damage our crop and also our trees. But we're optimistic that this is going to be a good year, and we need a good year, after coming off of a difficult year last season.

The downside to having such nice mild weather where we can get an awful lot of our cultural work done, is a concern that we may not get adequate rainfall to give us the water we need to get through not only the winter, but also to provide runoff water for the spring, summer and fall. The forecast is that there's supposed to be a major storm this week, and hopefully we'll get measurable rain out of that storm.

We raise hay to feed to the beef cattle, and the hay seed is being planted. So, by the end of the day we will plant about 80 acres of hay and that should be completed. And now all we need is to have the rain to help germinate the seed.

By Peter Bradford, Mendocino County forester

It has been a long, dry summer and most ranchers are hoping a good rain will arrive soon to not only start grass growing for livestock, but end further fire danger. The prolonged dry spell has put added stress on livestock due to dusty conditions, and owners are having to supplement more then usual.

Some areas that usually are used for grazing at this time of year are not usable due to lack of water. Every livestock owner is hoping we will receive enough rainfall to start grass growing before cold weather settles in. In our operation, we finished calving in early October and are finishing giving the calves their vaccinations.

The recent power outages were a severe problem for many, creating problems providing water for livestock and houses and placing added burdens on families trying to keep their refrigerators and freezers cold. The Kincade fire, started from a powerline that was supposed to have been de-energized, destroyed many homes in Sonoma County, and several livestock owners lost their homes and employees' houses. Barns and pastures were burned, leaving nothing for livestock to eat. Let's hope it rains soon.

By John Vevoda, Humboldt County organic dairy operator

On a positive note, the weather is working to our advantage right now as we can get field work done and get our manure pits all pumped out so that we're in compliance with water quality. But consequently, we have to feed more hay because the grass isn't growing. The heifers are still going out too, but we have to supplement them where usually this time of year the grass is growing somewhat and we're able to capitalize upon that rather than feed them hay.

Regarding cow health, this kind of weather helps because the cows can go out and they're not all locked up in the freestalls. However, it is expensive, and we depend on the rain out in the hills for the cattle. I'm just afraid that if it doesn't rain here soon that grass might just go away and it's going to be a while before it comes back.

And when it comes to logging, there's still a lot this time of year because we haven't had rain, so I see quite a few trucks on the road, and I know that on our ranch, there is a lot of activity, whereas if it started to rain, they wouldn't be able to get the logs out.

By Ritta Martin, Glenn County livestock producer

We have over 100 baby goats on the ground, all born within the last three weeks. The oldest group has been disbudded and vaccinated, the next group will be done this weekend. The lambs are also popping like crazy. They'll be processed (castrated, vaccinated, tails docked) this coming weekend. Aside from a few windy days and hauling a lot of hay, the warmer weather has been favorable for lambing and kidding around here.

The biggest group of our early-spring calves went to the auction last week. We were happy with prices, considering the market has been soft and variable. The smaller size calves came home and will be fed through the winter. We're optimistic that once we get some rain, the markets will strengthen.

Cows will come home from their summer irrigated ground next week. Freezing temps up north have stopped the grass growth and we want to get them out before too much snow flies up there.

Speaking of rain, we have our fingers and toes crossed that we get some soon. There's quite a bit of dry feed for the cows to come home to, left over from last spring's rains. But the heavy cows could sure use some green grass as they get closer to calving.

The dusty conditions can also cause havoc in a group of feeder calves, as continued inhalation of dust can bring on respiratory issues. Where feasible, we move around the feed areas and water the area down to keep dust at a minimum. In the last week, water has come up in the seasonal creeks on the ranch; that always makes us happy.

We just had our third PG&E power shutoff. Some folks in our area were really in a pinch for stock water. Luckily, most of our place is set up with solar-powered wells to provide livestock water. Power shutoffs also make it hard to warm up milk bottles and run heat lamps for the orphan babies.