Wednesday, 3 July 2013
Day 16 of Nuffield Extension With OSU
Another full on day today with the OSU (Oklahoma State University) this time in the great company of OCES NW Area Agronomist Roger Gribble. Roger and I met in Stillwater and headed out towards Enid to the North. We stopped briefly to look at some where the wheat grazing trials are located at the OSU Wheat pasture research Unit. We headed on to meet up with Brent Smith who works for Equity Marketing Alliance. This company markets the grain from many of the OS grain coops, taking the grain marketing pressure off the elevator managers. In total between 40-50 million bushels are marketed each year (1.1-1.4 million tonnes) by the company. The main commodity being wheat but some corn, canola, grain sorghum, soya and sunflowers. After the visit we took a drive to one of the many elevators based at Enid. In the picture above there is an elevator capable of storing 60,000,000 bushels (1.6 MT) of wheat! There is actually enough storage in Enid to store all of Oklahoma's wheat if required.
On the way to the next stop, a meeting with Mike Rossen from Wheeler Brothers Grain Elevator's I saw the graveyard for the other major industry in Oklahoma; oil. There are 'nodding' donkeys everywhere. New drilling rigs are being installed almost daily and there is plenty of employment opportunities for people working in the oils industry. It's something that Agriculture has to compete with to attract and retain new entrants.
Mike's operation is wide reaching from grain storage and marketing to seed, fertiliser and chemical selling and scouting. There is also custom application of lime and fertilisers and even applications of pesticides applied by air. The company also has it's own railroad to move grain around the SW of the US even down as far as Mexico. Another string to the operation is a cattle feed yard. There is space there for 30,000 head of finishing cattle. At the moment it isn't filled right up as there is no money in beef with high corn prices. Cattle come into the wheat grazing fields (1st Nov ish) at about 200Kg before staying on the pastures until mid Feb (ish) and weighing about 375 Kg before putting the final weight on in the feed lot, ending up at 570Kg. There is a compromise between grazing too much, which increases soil erosion and reduces wheat yields and not grazing enough which reduces the value of the cattle. It's a bit of a compromise but as wheat income has improved and cattle numbers are reducing, there are fewer 'stocker' cattle being used this way.
After lunch we headed down to Oklahoma City to the Producers Cooperative Oil Mill. This mill started crushing cotton seeds, producing cotton oil in 1944. The mill is owned by a cooperative of Gin's from Oklahoma, Texas, Kansas, Arkansas, Missouri and Tennessee and processes over 200,000T of cotton seed/year. There is storage for 128,000T of whole cotton seed which takes up a lot of space as shown here
The cotton goes through various stages to extract the oil. Firstly the lint is removed in the gin saw. This takes two passes and the better quality cotton first taken off is used in domestic markets for bedding, then the next grade with a few husks in it is used for cellulose breakdown, hot dog skins, jet fuel, dynamite and TV screens! The husks are then removed and used a s a 'filler' in beef cattle rations before the oil is chemically extruded from the seed or meat. these chemicals are then refined out of the process firstly on site then through a couple more processes at the customers. THe plant is also able to crush Canola now which has enabled Oklahoma growers ti have a local market for the newbie crop in the state. Canola area is gradually increasing thanks to work form the OSU, providing technical knowledge and the fact that adding this crop into the rotation in contributing to higher wheat yields. Thanks to Joe Gribble for showing us around this afternoon, it was the first time I had visited a cotton crushing plant.
After the cotton crushing plant Roger and I headed into Oklahoma in search of some an authentic cowboy hat for me. We located one fairly quickly and it was steamed to create the right style. We had a look around the Oklahoma Cattle Stockyards before Roger very kindly drove me to drop the hire car off and find a hotel for the night. A very, very big thank you to everyone at the Oklahoma State University, but especially to Jason and Roger for their time, knowledge, hospitality and information they have shared with me over the last couple of days.