By Robert Burns, Texas A&M University
Escalating unrest in the Middle East is not only going to continue to drive gasoline and diesel fuel prices up to 2008 levels, but there’s a good chance it will do the same to the costs of fertilizing pastures, according to a Texas AgriLife Research expert.
Even if it doesn’t further contribute to rising fertilizer costs, they’re high enough already that livestock producers “absolutely must learn to better manage nitrogen applications to stay in business,” said Dr. Monte Rouquette, AgriLife Research forage scientist.
For the last six to 10 years, fertilizer costs have been rising, he said. The prices relaxed somewhat in the last three years from 2008 when they reached 70 to 75 cents per pound. But even before the Middle East meltdown, prices had been steadily climbing.
Though nitrogen fertilizer is made from natural gas, all fuel prices are linked, he explained, so the increase in one leads to a rise in others. There’s also the associated cost of transporting and applying fertilizer as the cost of diesel rises.
This all could mean that cow/calf and other livestock producers will have to drastically rethink their production strategies as all the modern, improved warm-season grasses are big users of nitrogen.
“We are revisiting the dilemma of the price of fertilizer becoming a major constraint on pasture use, and that would indicate that if managers don’t have efficient cattle that have sales value — as well as a plan for utilization of the forage that is produced — then fertilizers may windup on the endangered list,” Rouquette said.
Pasture and Livestock Management Workshop