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Animal Industries Await Corn Yields
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Agricultural industries dependent on corn are more than ready for harvest to begin. Unfortunately, they have a long wait ahead of them and yields still are uncertain.
Corn prices are having a dramatic impact on the poultry, catfish, beef, dairy and swine industries.
Mike McAlpin, president of the Mississippi Poultry Association, said corn prices have doubled since January. He said feed is the primary poultry cost, regardless of the price.
"Any agricultural industry that relies on corn is in a world of hurt right now," McAlpin said. "Poultry was a fairly profitable industry going into the winter. Now, probably all the poultry companies are losing money."
McAlpin said broiler prices are near 65 cents per pound, which is close to year-ago prices.
"All the corn in Mississippi wouldn't help us. Mississippi just doesn't grow enough to meet our demand," McAlpin said. "Most of our corn comes from the Midwest."
Mississippi has about 550,000 acres of corn, an increase over last year's 300,000 acres.
Dr. Tom Jones, extension agricultural economist at Mississippi State University, said Mississippi growers could produce 50 million bushels of corn this year if the weather cooperates.
"We export a large percentage of the state's crop because of its high quality and the proximity to the Mississippi River," Jones said. "Mississippi's livestock industries consume more than 60 million bushels."
Jones said July futures are trading in the high $4 per bushel range. December futures are about $1.30 per bushel lower.
"Feed costs will remain high until after harvest in the fall. Since corn prices are influenced greatly by weather in the Midwest, a small crop could result in continued high feed costs," Jones said. "Supplies have been so low, livestock producers desperately need a bumper crop to bring them some relief."
Dr. Erick Larson, extension agronomist at MSU, said corn is in the critical stage of determining yields.
"Most of the corn has started silking. In the first two weeks after silking, kernel numbers are determined," Larson said. "In the next two weeks, kernels are most susceptible to stress while they are in the process of determining their weight at maturity -- about 60 days after silking."
The corn specialist said growers are beginning to watch for disease problems. Some fields show signs of crazy top, which occurs in fields that were flooded when the corn was 6 to 8 inches tall. These plants grow tall but fail to tassel, and therefore won't produce corn.
Southern rust, which is probably the most devastating disease, will be another concern. It is often brought in by tropical storms.