Tuesday, January 24, 2012


The third island we visited this year was Kauai, the oldest and furthest west of the main Hawaiian Islands. It is fairly small at 33 miles by 25 miles at the widest points. It contains some of the roughest terrain in the Islands.

Waimea Canyon is a majestic 3000 foot deep canyon that is drained by the Waimea River.

At the end of the drive to view Waimea Canyon is the overlook of the NaPali coast. Again, wow. The only way around this side of the island is on foot, about an eleven-mile hike, we passed.

Na Pali Coast
North shore of Kauai is also very interesting.
Wailua Lighthouse, the northernmost point of the Hawaiian Islands.

A Nene, the endangered Hawaiian goose!!

Taro farms.

And then there were the Kauai chickens. Everywhere we went there were chickens running around. If you threw some food to them, more and more came out of the trees.

No, I wasn't sharing my food, she just wanted to steal it.

Sadly, our trip had to end and back to Nebraska we came.



This is a major tourist destination. We had been on Oahu and taken in most os the normal tourist trips like Pearl Harbor and the Polynesian Cultural Center. This time we opted to go on a farm trip to a chocolate and coffee plantation.

Sugar cane and pineapples have all but disappeared on the Hawaiian Island due to rising labor costs. Several years ago Dole placed 2000 acres of their ground into experimental crops to see what could replace those big two. A couple of those were chocolate and coffee. Coffee is grown on most of the islands and is quite good, if you like rich, full bodied coffee. On the Dole plantation they are trying to harvest the coffee mechanically and eliminate the hand labor. The coffee varieties that were planted weren't the best for mechanical harvest, but they are doing the best they can with trimming.

The coffee trees above are only two years after being stumped at a 2 foot height.

The coffee beans at left show the different stages of beans that are harvested at once. The dark dried up fruit are called raisins and make the darker coffee. The red beans are called cherries and make the more normal coffee. When hand picking they don't let the beans go to raisins since the yield goes down.

Next we went to the cacao farm. Dole has 20 acres of cacao trees. They are growing way out of the normal zone. Most cacao trees grow within 10 degrees of the equator, Hawaii is at 21 degrees. As a result the yield is down, but the cocoa butter content and flavor is up.

The cacao pod above is almost ripe. it is about 10 inches long.

The cacao trees are to the right.

Of course the busiest place in Oahu is Waikiki, the priciest beach around. What most don't realize is that the beach is man-made. They have to haul the sand in to cover the lava rock.

Diamond Head

Our partial ocean view.

Waikiki Beach and Hotels
Next up Kauai!!



Yes, we went to Hawai'i for a beautiful relaxing vacation. We timed our trip with the annual convention of the American Farm Bureau Convention, so we did mix in some work related activity in.

Our trip started by flying to Hilo, HI. Hilo is on the east coast of the Big Island of Hawaii. It is the wettest city in the United States averaging rain over 240 days a year. We were lucky right off the bat. The trade winds moved in the night we landed and we had three gorgeous sunny days in Hilo. The locals said it had been raining since Halloween.

With that much rain Hilo is very green and beautiful. Flowers and waterfalls everywhere. Just some examples.

We also traveled to the ranching country around Waimea and then west. The rainfall kept going down until we were in a drought area. Amazing changes in only a few miles.

The major attraction for me on the Big Island was Volcanoes National Park. All I can say is WOW!

Next blog will be on Oahu.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Recap of 2011

At the start of 2012, it is time to look back on 2011. What went right, and what needs changing. All in all 2011 was a good year for us at Batie Cattle. Co. The bottom line showed a profit so count that as a win.

First the good...
The corn and soybean planting went well, once we started. It was too wet at first and we had to waaaait. And I an not good at waiting. The herbicides we applied as a burndown earlier in the spring to kill any winter annuals worked very well, the fields were clean. Crop emergence was great and the stands were very regular.

We were able to cultivate in a timely fashion, although we did have a few bearings go out on the cultivators. Post emergent herbicides went on when they were supposed to and also did a great job. We had very few weed skips this year. This was the second year to use our GPS system with our sprayer to turn the sprayer on and off and regulate the amount of spray being applied. Much better than doing it manually.

Ridging the corn was a little exciting this year, as it always seems to be. Some wet weather and warm temperatures got the corn shooting up. We had to hurry across the fields, but we got them all done this year. The last two years we had to leave some fields because the corn was too tall.

Then the bad...
We had a couple of hailstorms this summer. Both came fairly early and didn't cause much yield loss across the board, but a couple of fields were hammered. The crop insurance adjuster rated our fields at 5-20% hail loss, but told us it would be worse at harvest on a couple. He was right. The stalks were bruised by the hailstones and fell over before the combine could get there.

And then the ugly!!!
July 6 we had a very strong wind storm come through and break a lot of corn off. We call this greensnap and the broken corn plants are now dead. It can happen if we get a high wind when corn is rapidly elongating, or growing taller. This was a bad year. It is also hybrid dependent. Some are tougher than others, although all will break some. This year we had one hybrid have 50-70% greensnap. Even out best hybrids had 10-15% greensnap. This really showed up at harvest.

Given these issues it is not surprising that our yields were about 40 bushels per acre below our long term average. I didn't even have enough corn to fill all the contracts with the elevator. Luckily the prices were high this year and we still made a profit on the corn.

Soybeans, on the other hand were excellent this year. They were not bothered by the high wind and the hail did not hurt them at all. Yields were great, around 70 bushels per acre. Alfalfa was also great. We had very little rain issues getting the alfalfa baled and the tonnage was high. Prices for both of these crops were very high and profits were large.

What was new this year? We installed subsurface drip irrigation (SDI) on 80 acres this spring. This is a very new and fairly expensive type of irrigation in Nebraska. We installed it because this field is not conducive to a pivot and is fairly steep on the upper side. Gravity irrigation was not very efficient. After one year I am satisfied, but we had some bugs to be worked out. I think 2012 will go better.

We installed row clutches on our planter tied to our GPS system. This turns the rows on and off. The advantage comes on fields that have a slanted end and we used to double plant a lot of the ground, wasting seed. This worked great.

At harvest the soybean flex head tore itself up and we got to demo a draper head. It didn't get to leave. We bought it. What a wonderfully designed piece of equipment.

So what is on the horizon for 2012. After harvest we purchased and installed two center pivot irrigation systems. These will be my first two "circles." I have always been a gravity irrigator. We have also agreed to purchase a tile plow. We will use this tool to bury drain tile on some of our wet ground. The ground water table has been rising and hurting yields on several fields. We hope this will give us better growing conditions. There is very little tiled ground in central Nebraska, but a lot of interest. We hope to install several miles of tile this spring and a lot more this fall.

Crop prices look good for 2012, but not yet great. Cash rents went up this year. I had to renew several term leases this year. Fertilizer and chemicals also went up. I think everyone wants a piece of the higher grain prices. The cash flow for the bank looks pretty good.

I am starting to get very nervous for the future. I have seen booms and busts before. It wouldn't take much to knock corn back to $3.00 or lower and soybeans back to $7.00. I have protected all of 2012's crop with puts or contracts. Who knows about 2013.