About Me

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As an Agriculture Extension Agent for Texas AgriLife Extension Service I have had an opportunity to be involved in just about every aspect of agriculture. From the 5,000 cow dairy to the types of trees to use in a home landscape I have had a chance to learn how the different parts of an agriculture systems work together. Seedless watermelons, drip irrigation, pecan orchard management, fruit crop development, dairy nutrient management, environmental issues confronting agriculture, producer tours, field days, research projects and more have been a part of my life for over 30 years as I lived and breathed agriculture. Since 2004 I have been actively involved in consulting internationally working in Honduras, Guatemala, Egypt, Jordan, Iraq, India, and China. I have worked with missionaries and other groups dedicated to alleviating poverty among third world farmers. I lived in the Middle East in 2007-2008 working on a project for the Borlaug Institute of International Agriculture at Texas A&M University. In this project I was the Chief of Party and Team Leader for a $5.7 Million dollar effort to train Iraqi Extension agents and specialists in all aspects of agriculture.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Ammoniating Hay Could Pay

Everyone knows that hay is at a premium but the hay you get is certainly not premium and this why I have had a few questions about ammoniating hay. Treating low quality hay with anhydrous ammonia improves hay quality and value by several means.
1. Ammoniating low quality hay increases digestibility by breaking down hay’s fibrous parts,
2. Ammoniated hay has increased animal intake 15% to 25% which means they do like it,
3. Anhydrous ammonia adds non-protein nitrogen which can be converted by rumen bacteria to protein as ammoniating hay increases crude protein,
4. There is an increase in hay protein and energy which along with increased intake means 35% to 45% increase in energy and protein consumption,
5. Anhydrous ammonia will preserve forage quality,
6. Ammoniating hay increases animal performance.
Ammoniating hay is simply done by covering the bales with black plastic and sealing the edges real good with soil, gravel or even tires. Once covered and sealed, apply the ammonia through hoses under the plastic. The ideal amount is 3% or about 60 lbs of ammonia per ton of hay. Your tank needs to have an accurate gauge so that you don’t over-apply. Apply the ammonia slowly, 1 to 5 minutes per ton, usually works. Keep the bales covered for 15 to 45 days depending on outside temperatures (59 to 86 degrees takes 1 to 4 weeks). When you are ready to feed uncover the bales for 3 days or more before feeding to allow any residual ammonia to escape.
Ammonia is harder to find now but is still available. The cost will knock you over till you understand that it is still the cheapest source of nitrogen. Always, always exercise extreme caution when use anhydrous ammonia because it can injure or even kill you.

Short of Hay?

The winter of 2009-10 is shaping up to be very challenging for Texas cow-calf producers. Limited rainfall this summer resulted in very limited amounts of hay for feeding this winter. It will be at least several months before spring arrives with the hope of good rains and spring green-up. Most producers are currently faced with the question of how to survive this winter on the limited amount of hay that is available. A couple of options may be corn and/or alfalfa. A pound of corn (whole or cracked) can replace approximately 2.25 lbs of average quality bermudagrass hay. This may be an economical substitution for hay when supplies are short and prices are high. Dr. Jason Banta, Beef Cattle Specialist, Overton, Texas, developed several diets using corn and/or alfalfa to help stretch forage supplies. It is recommended to maintain at least 50% of the ration as hay or a similar roughage source. This level should greatly reduce the risk of feeding high starch feeds and also provide adequate fill to reduce management problems due to hungry cattle. It is also important to gradually increase the amount of corn in the ration in order to prevent potential digestive problems. These examples do not guarantee performance of cattle. Actual performance may be higher or lower depending on the given situation and diets should be adjusted according to actual performance. Be sure to evaluate the body condition of the cattle on a regular basis during the feeding period. The costs associated with each diet should be carefully considered prior to making a management decision. These examples only represent a small fraction of the options available to producers; all options should be considered before deciding on the best strategy for a particular operation.
Possible Ingredients:
Average Quality Bermuda Hay: 10% CP; 50% TDN;
Alfalfa Hay: 13% CP; 56% TDN;
Cracked Corn: 9.8% CP; 90% TDN;
Cottonseed Meal: 46.1% CP; 75% TDN
Possible ration combinations for dry pregnant cows fed every day:
1. 15 lbs bermudagrass hay + 5 lbs cracked corn + .25 lbs of cottonseed meal
2. 15 lbs alfalfa (alfalfa has been cheaper in price even than Bermuda!) + 3 lbs cracked corn
Possible ration combinations after calving fed every day:
1. 16 lbs of bermudagrass hay + 5.5 lbs cracked corn + 1 lb cottonseed meal
2. 28 lbs of alfalfa hay

Monday, December 21, 2009

IRS Tax Deductions for Landscape Tree Losses

Unfortunately many people in this area have been affected by severe drought even to the point of losing huge landscape trees. When a devastating drought has hit your property you do lose trees and many people don’t realize that trees add value to property and as such qualify you for a greater loss than you may have thought. The Texas Forest Service (TFS) has provided some reminders for anyone affected by natural disasters and Texas has had its share this year. Although neither TFS nor I are tax experts, just bringing up the subject may help you get some tax relief if you have had a loss.
When it comes to acceptable techniques and methods for valuing landscape tree loss for federal income tax deductions, there are hardly any definitive languages available from the tax law or the rules and criteria by the IRS. Analysis and appraisal of landscaping and real estate is complex and requires professional training and experience. The best course of action or defense a taxpayer can use is to work with a professional (real estate appraisers and professional arborists) and diligently document the value determination in a detailed and accurate manner.
The income tax law for a casualty loss deduction requires that the amount of deduction is limited to the smaller of (1) the decrease in fair market value (FMV) before and after the disaster or (2) the adjusted basis of your property. Salvage sale (this would generally be available for pine trees in East Texas but not here in Williamson County) further reduces the deductions allowed.
One of the most authoritative rulebooks used by the professional arborists is the Guideline for Plant Appraisal, 9th Edition. According to this guide, "variations of Cost Approach (Replacement Cost, Cost of Repair, Cost of Cure) and the Market Approach more closely follow the IRS criteria and standards."
The problem with the cost of restoration/replacement/repair is that this approach can be practically impossible for many cases. For example, the cost of replacing a 60-year-old live oak tree is difficult to estimate, if not impossible. Due to practical reasons, a competent professional appraisal is frequently used in establishing the value of landscape trees for tax purposes.
The Market Approach (comparable sales) used by professional arborists also more closely follows the IRS criteria. However, the comparable sale method is extremely difficult to use when nearby property was also damaged. The Guide cautions that "the Market Approach should be coordinated with qualified, licensed real-estate appraisers." A real-estate appraiser as well as professional arborists may be necessary. Trees and shrubs on a residential property that are destroyed must be appraised together with the real estate. Business property must separately value the trees and the building.”
I hope this helps if you have landscape tree damage. If you want a listing of professional arborists or want to contact the Texas Forest Service just give me a call.

Bell-Williamson Counties Pecan Show Results

Bell-Williamson Counties Pecan Show Results
The Bell-Williamson County Extension Pecan Committees hosted the annual Bell-Williamson Counties Pecan Show this past Thursday, December 3rd, at the Bell County Extension office. This year’s show featured 58 entries, from 16 area growers. Dr. Tommy Thompson, Pecan Research Geneticist with USDA-ARS served as the Pecan Show Judge for this year’s show. Dr. Thompson has over 30 years of breeding work and is responsible for most of the newest pecan varieties.
The Commercial Division features pecan varieties that are typically found in commercial orchards and are sold in the largest quantities to Pecan Shellers. The fact that they are sold commercially does not limit their popularity with homeowners and small growers who either eat the pecan themselves or peddle the pecans in roadside stands. Every year new pecans are added to the Commercial Division list and old ones are moved to the Classic Division or dropped completely for lack of interest.
In the commercial division there were 38 entries in 10 classes. In the Caddo class Ron Leps of Georgetown placed first. In the Cheyenne class Warren Sefcik of Georgetown won the class, Al Endsley of Taylor placed 2nd and Ronny Wells of Belton placed 3rd. Choctaw is a very popular variety in Central Texas noted for its large size and kernel quality. In the Choctaw class Warren Sefcik won 1st, Ken Gerstenberg of Belton won 2nd and Raymond Danek of Georgetown won 3rd. In the Desirable class 1st place went to Warren Sefcik, 2nd to Raymond Danek and 3rd to R.H. Schlieker of Temple. The Kanza class was won by Darwin Karkoska of Granger. The first place Kiowa was shown by Raymond Danek, 2nd place by Darwin Karkoska and 3rd place by Ken Gerstenberg. The Reserve Champion Commercial pecan was won by the 1st place entry in the Oconee class and was shown by Ken Gerstenberg. Second place Oconee went to Warren Sefcik and 3rd place to Raymond Danek. The Mohawk class was won by Dennis and Marilyn Perz and 2nd place went to Ken Gerstenberg. The Pawnee pecan was introduced in the eighties and has since been planted on thousands of acres. The Champion Commercial pecan came from the Pawnee class and was shown by Ray Ponton of Taylor. Second place Pawnee was Ronny Wells of Belton and third was Ed Zucknick of Taylor. The Sioux pecan is known for being a small pecan with a long slender shape. Its size of 60 nuts per pound compared to a Choctaw at 36 makes it seems like a “native” pecan. But when you start to shell a Sioux you realize it is thin shelled and the pecan meat is one of the lightest colors you will find in a pecan. It is high in oil content which makes it a constant favorite in taste tests. This year the Sioux winner was Ron Leps, 2nd place was Ed Zucknick and 3rd place was David Phillips of Little River.
The Classic Division is made up of pecan varieties that are no longer propagated by commercial orchards but are still enjoyed by growers, hobbyists and homeowners. The Classic Division featured 19 entries in 12 classes. In the Brake Class Darwin Karkoska placed 1st. Ed Zucknick placed 1st with his Melrose pecan. In the Nacono class Ken Gerstenberg placed 1st and was this Nacono was named Champion of the Classic Division. R.H. Schlieker placed 2nd in the Nacono class and Darwin Karkoska placed 3rd. The Podsednik pecan is the largest pecan shown with an average of only 29 nuts per pound. It is large but in many years this pecan just won’t fill and ends up being a problem, but not this year! The first place Podsednik was also named Reserve Champion Classic and was shown by David Phillips. Prilop is a native pecan that was propagated, named and trees sold because of its outstanding flavor and size. In this class Ken Gerstenberg had the 1st place entry. In the Shawnee class Raymond Danek placed first and in the Stuart class Jane Danek also placed first. The Variety Seedling class features pecans from trees where only one parent is known. In this class there were five entries, Ronny Wells placed 1st, David Phillips placed 2nd and Ed Zucknick placed 3rd. The Other Variety class is for pecan varieties that do not have a specific class and so all are judged together. The winner of the Other Variety class was David Phillips with an Imperial, David Phillips also placed second with his Aggie variety and Ronny Wells placed 3rd.
The Native Pecan Division consists of pecans grown on trees that are the result of nature planting the trees mostly in pecan bottoms. The genetic background of the trees is unknown but in some cases the pecans can be quite good. In fact many “native” Texans claim that the only good pecan is a native. It is a myth to think that natives have to be small and hard shelled in order to be termed “native”. Many natives are thin shelled and large compared to other native pecans. There have been many years that native pecan entries from the Bell-Williamson pecan show have won the state pecan show. Unfortunately this year the native production was very low and many growers did not enter. This year we had one native so Champion Native honors go to Ed Zucknick of Taylor.
All first place class winners automatically advance to the Regional Pecan Show held in Stephenville on Wednesday, December 9th. The first three placings from each class at the Regional shows advance to the State Pecan Show held each July as a part of the Texas Pecan Growers Annual Meeting. Congratulations to all the winners in this year’s Bell-Williamson Counties Pecan Show!