Feature

MoDOT studies ways to increase waterway freight

Written by Nancy Jorgensen on .

Farmers stand to benefit from lower freight rates if more grain and fertilizer moves along the Missouri River again after an eight-year hiatus caused by low river levels.

Ernest Perry, freight development administrator at the Missouri Department of Transportation, leads an effort to study ways to increase freight travel along the Missouri, create jobs and promote an environmentally friendlier way to transport goods.

“We’re having a transportation capacity crisis,” Perry said. “We have too many vehicles on our highways, and it’s only going to get worse. The only capacity we have left is the waterway. The river is a tremendous transportation asset that can help relieve freight-related highway congestion. It provides environmental benefits in that it is the most fuel efficient, and is an economic engine for the state.”

A federal appropriation of $900,000 will fund the research and planning project. MoDOT recently named a 12-member project coordination team that developed a request for proposal and asked vendors to bid on developing the plan. Once a vendor’s selected, the plan will take 14 months to complete, with results to be announced in June 2011.

The study got rolling in December when farmers, shippers and government agencies offered input at a MoDOT forum in Rocheport, Mo. Participants identified ways to increase river freight movement through market assessment and development, port infrastructure and river management.

Forum participants identified obstacles to moving freight down the river including business risk related to unreliable water flows and levels. In addition, since so many freight operators have moved off the river, support services are harder to find. As it stands today in Missouri, only seven of 14 authorized public ports on the river have the capability to transport goods across their dock. “The active ports, however, are seeing a lot of business and growth,” Perry reported, adding that over the last two years, more than $16 million has been invested in 20 projects at the seven active ports through the MoDOT waterways program.

“Right now, river conditions are the best they have been in years for freight, so some of these normal obstacles shouldn’t slow us down,” Perry said.

River’s ready for freight

John LaRandeau, a representative from the Corps of Engineers Northwestern Division, explained that the Corps built the Missouri River liquid highway, completing it in 1980. Today the Corps manages all 735 miles of the navigation channel from Sioux City, Iowa, to St. Louis, where the Missouri runs into the Mississippi River. In 2008, he added, the Missouri River basin emerged from an eight-year drought that reduced flows and shortened navigation seasons. As a result, commercial operators largely abandoned moving grain along the river.

Long-haul tonnage on the Missouri River peaked in 1977 at 3.34 million tons, according to the Corps. In 2008, preliminary estimates dropped to 0.175 million tons. Over that time, other droughts and floods contributed to the decline, along with ethanol plants processing grain that would have otherwise been shipped, and freight competition from the Arkansas River.

“The drought is over and the reservoirs are full,” LaRandeau said. “For 2010, the Missouri River liquid highway is open, available and reliable, providing a channel nine feet deep by 300 feet wide for a full eight-month season.” Typically, freight traffic freezes in the winter.

Navigation isn’t the Corps’ only priority as it manages the river. Congress mandates other purposes, including flood control, irrigation, hydropower, recreation, water supply, water quality and fish and wildlife.

Perry maintains that Missouri needs the MoDOT navigation study to represent the state’s interests in light of the five-year Missouri River Authorized Purposes Study (MRAPS) launched in 2009. While the responsibility for MRAPS has been assigned to the Corps, “This appears to be an effort driven by the upstream states to re-evaluate the river’s authorized purposes with the intention to downgrade the priority of navigation as well as other downstream uses,” Perry said.

Shippers support expansion

Private companies like AGRIServices of Brunswick, LLC, continue to move grain along the Missouri River, but on a more limited basis than in the past. “We located along the Missouri so we could use barges to move grain out and fertilizer into this community,” said Bill Jackson, manager of this operation that operates in the central part of the state. Last year, his company brought in 70 barge-loads of fertilizer from the Lower Mississippi, selling much of it wholesale to dealers. It also shipped 35 barges of grain downriver to New Orleans export markets.

Jackson is a member of the MoDOT project coordination team. “I support Dr. Perry’s project because it promotes rational understanding of the Missouri River resource,” Jackson said. “Nothing beats a good crisis for motivation to get rational and productive. When our highways get too dilapidated and congested, we’ll get motivated to look at the inland waterways system as an alternative.”

Today, more sand and gravel moves on the Missouri River than any other commodity. Steve Engemann, another member of the MoDOT project coordination team, is president of Hermann Sand & Gravel, Inc., a family business based in Hermann, Mo., about 100 miles upriver from St. Louis. The company loaded and unloaded commercial barges in the late 80s and 90s, but the flow was interrupted until last year.

“I’m glad to see MoDOT trying to help get more traffic on the Missouri River,” Engemann said. “It is a great resource that is under-utilized. It is a perfectly navigable river that has great potential. It is a shame to waste it.”

He’d like to see a more dependable channel, dug deeper so it compares to the Mississippi River. That would allow more freight per barge, saving shipping costs. A few successful seasons of shipping would attract more freight operators to dip their toe in, he added, but the waterway needs to be more stable and reliable. “I hope that there will be dedicated service on the river, which would make overall shipping rates cheaper,” he said.

Environmental concerns

Jackson and Engemann expressed concern that the Corps is moving away from a focus on navigation and flood control in favor of fish and wildlife concerns. As evidence of the Corps’ success in this vein, Jackson points to the Big Muddy National Fish and Wildlife Refuge created in 1994. Today it’s grown to 11,000 acres along the Missouri River from Kansas City to St. Louis.

The case of the pallid sturgeon illustrates Jackson’s and Engemann’s point about the Corps’ changing priorities. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service prescribed a spring rise in river levels to encourage spawning of the endangered fish. As a result, the Corps released more water from upstream dams each March and May since 2006. These releases can take five days to reach Kansas City and 10 days to reach St. Louis. During that time, weather and other factors can combine with added flow to create flooding downstream.

According to John Drew, state hydrologist for the Missouri Department of Natural Resources (MDNR), “Research since 2006 has shown that the spring rise is not needed to cue pallid sturgeon to spawn, and it is likely cued by water temperature. While the spring rise is limited by flood control criteria, there is still concern that it increases the risk of flooding. Given the potential flood risk… Missouri has argued that it should be discontinued.”

Drew believes we can strike a balance. “It doesn’t have to be an either/or between navigation, fish and wildlife,” he said. “In recent years, the Corps of Engineers has been aggressively constructing habitat for pallid sturgeon and two birds that are also on the federal endangered species list, the interior least tern and piping plover. The creation of this habitat has helped the Corps of Engineers maintain reservoir releases needed to support navigation and other uses of the river, such as drinking water intakes.”

Protecting Missouri’s rights

Beyond fish and wildlife issues, MDNR also wades into battles to preserve Missouri’s right to Missouri River water, challenging upstream states like Montana and the Dakotas that want to cut water releases during drought. “Upstream reservoir recreation interests want downstream releases curtailed even further so that more water is retained in the reservoirs,” Drew said. “If more water is held in the upper reservoirs, navigation, power generation, downstream water supplies and other uses would see even more detrimental effects.”

“Fifty percent of Missouri’s citizens get their drinking water from the Missouri River or its alluvium,” added Mike Wells, deputy director for water resources at MDNR. “When flows hit navigation target levels in the summer, then there is more than enough water to supply drinking water for our communities, cooling water for power plants, and water for fish and wildlife habitat.”

Correspondence

Bill Jackson of AGRIServices of Brunswick said that continued degradation of the highway system will bring new focus to river transportation.
No matter how you stand on the pallid sturgeon, everyone agrees that moving more freight by river could not only save shipping costs, but help the environment.

“Waterborne commerce is a much more energy efficient mode of transportation,” said Drew. “It also has advantages for air quality, safety and other considerations. Waterborne commerce can move the same ton of freight 1.4 times farther than rail, and 3.7 times farther than trucks on one gallon of fuel.” Moving freight by water also helps ease road congestion. “One barge can move the same amount of dry cargo as 70 trucks or 16 rail cars,” Drew said.

Hopes rise for the river

For 2010, the Corps’ LaRandeau forecasts full service and a full season for Missouri River navigation. Fertilizer will be barged to Brunswick, asphalt to Kansas City, cement to Jefferson City and clay to St. Louis. More grain will come downriver from Nebraska. In addition, he sees large freight like windmill parts moving more efficiently along the Missouri than on highways.

The Corps has ideas for improving navigation on the Missouri, such as increasing the authorized draft, but these ideas require feasibility studies that consider water supply and environmental impacts. There would also be considerable involvement by all stakeholders in the Missouri River basin, and the required Congressional authorization and funding.

Perry supports deepening the channel. He’s impressed with how the Corps can dredge or add rock structures to scour the river’s bottom. As the MoDOT study kicks off, one of the project team’s first tasks will be to identify navigational problem spots on the river.

The team will also strategize ways to return traditional commodities like grain to the river, to identify new markets, and to identify infrastructure and equipment that might be needed for both. As the study draws to a close in June 2011, the team will determine how to move forward.

“We can do something to get freight back on the water,” Perry concluded. “The freight industry’s fired up, and economic conditions today make this an opportune time to move forward. We need to get the word out that the river works for Missouri agriculture and businesses, and it is the lowest cost, most efficient, greenest, and safest way to ship freight.”

The Waterways Council, an association of waterways users across the nation, recently launched a TV commercial campaign targeted at opinion-leaders in Washington, D.C. The 30-second spot, “Keep America Moving,” highlights the value of the inland waterways system to jobs, the environment and energy efficiency, and traffic congestion relief. You can find it on YouTube or by visiting www.waterwayscouncil.org.

To learn more about MoDOT efforts, visit http://www.modot.mo.gov/othertransportation and click on “waterways” and “freight.”
 

Farmers would benefit from moving freight by waterway

Mike Geske, a farmer from Matthews, Mo., estimates that the average Missouri farmer could save about 25 cents per bushel by shipping corn to St. Louis ports by barge instead of truck. “If elevators could move grain and fertilizer on the Missouri, freight rates would go down,” said Geske. “Elevators could pass the savings along to farmers.”

Geske estimates it might cost a Missouri farmer about 55 cents a bushel to ship corn to St. Louis by truck compared to about 30 to 35 cents by waterway. Farmers farther from St. Louis would save more, and those closer would save less. Geske raised 200,000 bushels of corn in 2009—for a farmer of his size, the savings might have reached $50,000. “It could make the difference between profit and loss,” he said.

Actually, Geske raises corn, cotton and rice near Matthews, south of St. Louis, and he benefits from the Mississippi River waterway, where freight continued to move through the recent drought. He’s pushing for increasing barge traffic along the Missouri River in his role as director with both the Missouri and National Corn Growers Associations.

Farmers would also benefit if inputs could be shipped via the waterway, Geske added. He estimates that last year, a typical Missouri farmer might have saved about $10 to $15 per acre if fertilizer arrived via barge rather than truck. “Fertilizer prices bounce up and down, but shipping by the Missouri River might save an average of $30 to $40 per ton,” he said.

While savings estimates differ, Ernest Perry, freight development administrator at the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT), confirmed that economies could be gained. “Research by the University of Missouri demonstrates that having waterways available for shipping movement can reduce shipping costs between $4 and $8 a ton through additional competition,” he said. Beyond cost savings and improved grain prices, expanding river freight would enhance global access to markets, Perry added.

We asked the kids

on .

{gallery}April10/safekids:200:260:1:2{/gallery}

If you ever want to know why farm and workplace safety is important, look at those cute faces in tow when farmers and agricultural workers aren’t on the job. We can be stoic in the face of injury, but it makes you flinch to think about how a child might be affected by the loss of abilities or income from an injured parent. So to help remind us all about staying safe, we asked the children and grandchildren of MFA employees to make posters offering us all advice on the topic.

We’ll use all of the entered posters in an ad campaign to highlight importance of being safe at work and at home.
Judges in the contest faced tough decisions in awarding the winners. There were plenty of clever ideas and nice artwork. But after much deliberation, judges ordered the posters as follows.

Stimulus for the last mile

Written by Nancy Jorgensen on .

A rural area gets high-speed internet and more

Will the federal stimulus package bring affordable broadband service to unserved and underserved areas of rural America? Dan Strode thinks it will—at least for 5,000 homes and businesses served by Ralls County Electric Cooperative in northeastern Missouri.

“We took the bull by the horns, and I can’t tell you how excited we are,” said Strode, CEO and general manager of Ralls County Electric in New London.

The $20 million project assures all the electric co-op’s customers access to what the telecommunications industry calls the triple play—high-speed Internet, TV/video and voice/phone service. Over the next three years, the co-op’s technology subsidiary will construct fiber lines to each customer’s home, with the first receiving service as early as June. In addition, it hopes to bring distance learning to schools, tele-medicine to health systems, and better communications to public safety officials. Stimulus rules require that outside wholesale vendors can jump on board the network to offer competing service.

Ralls County Electric surveyed almost 500 of its members and learned that 96 percent would sign up at planned rates of $39.95 per month for 10 megabytes (MBs). A lower fee of $19.95 for 1 MB will also be offered. That’s a good deal when you consider the up-front cost—divide $20 million by 5,000 customers, and it comes to $4,000 per customer. Until now, rural networks might cost $10,000 per customer. The bargain comes through new architecture invented by Strode’s vendor, Pulse Broadband of Chesterfield, Mo., which has managed more than 50,000 miles of plant.....

External forces challenge agriculture

Written by Nancy Jorgensen and Steve Fairchild on .

Sow gestation stalls still a target

Chris Chinn’s family uses gestation stalls to keep pregnant sows separated on their farm near Clarence, Mo. She contends that the stall system her family adopted in the 1990s provides more safety for the sows and their offspring than group housing. Yet the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and other groups have successfully led battles in seven states to ban the stalls, also called crates.

“Gestation stalls prevent injuries from sows fighting,” explains Chinn, who has addressed hundreds of audiences across the nation in recent years as part of the American Farm Bureau Federation’s Young Farmers and Ranchers program, which she chaired in 2007. “They also allow us to make sure that each animal gets adequate food and water. Before we had crates, the sows were in a group setting, and dominant sows ate all the feed.”

In groups, overweight sows ended up with babies too big to birth, she added, and underweight sows’ offspring were often stillborn. Beyond production, nutrition and safety benefits, the stalls allow farmers to keep individual records on each animal’s feeding habits and health, and provide easier access for farm workers and vets. It represents an evolution of hog production that affords both efficiency and careful husbandry.

Take Care of those first-calf Heifers

Written by Jim White on .

Good nutrition and time of calving will earn you more beef

In future years the beef cattle industry will have to make some significant changes and become more businesslike in its approach to owning cattle. The move will be necessary to cope with interest rates, tight capital and a fluctuating cattle market. One of these changes will be an increased level of management in the beef cow herd.  alt

Aside from plain frugality, there are a couple calculations cattle producers must be aware of to increase productivity. One is a simple formula: the percent net calf crop is equal to the number of calves weaned divided by the number of cows in the breeding herd times 100. Calculation of net calf crop in this manner gives a true measure of production.

Primary factors affecting percent net calf crop are:

• Failure of the female to become pregnant.
• Calf losses at or shortly after birth.

These two factors, in a survey of 12,827 calvings at Miles City, Montana Research Station, accounted for 82 percent of the net calf crop reduction.

The second formula to be aware of is pounds of calf produced per cow, calculated as the total pounds of calf weaned per year divided by the number of cows in the breeding herd. The Montana data showed one herd had the highest net calf crop but the lowest pounds of calf per cow, causing it to be the least productive. In that study, poor reproductive performance was 28 percent and calving loss at birth was 14 percent of the reduction in pounds of calf weaned per cow. Weaning weight and growth rate are important, but if you lose 42 percent of the potential calf crop along the way, it is time for an honest evaluation of your program.

Since failure of the female to become pregnant accounts for 60 percent of the total reduction in net calf crop and 28 percent of reduced pounds of calf weaned per cow, let’s have a closer look at how you can increase pregnancy rates.

1. Effect of time of birth on weaning weight

0-20 Days

21-40 Days

41-60 Days

Avg Daily Gain

Age at Weaning

Weaning Weight

70%

24%

6%

1.68

207

417

42%

39%

9%

1.49

195

360

19%

33%

48%

1.28

181

301

Beef Digest Dec-Jan 1980

Heifers calving as two-year-olds early in the breeding season wean heavier calves and continue calving early throughout their productive life. The nearby table shows the effect of time of birth in the calving season on weaning weight with heifers that calve earlier and wean older, heavier calves.

Late-calving heifers exhibit erratic reproductive performance, producing calves sporadically and missing some years. Therefore, selection of replacement heifers based on pregnancy and especially early conception may be an excellent tool for increasing profits. A study at Miles City with 140 yearling Angus heifers was conducted to examine this possibility. Two groups were evaluated:

2. Production Efficiency of New management vs. Controls New Management

 

Estrus

Pregnancy

Control Estrus

Pregnancy

First 21 days (%)

95

70

77

46

First 45 days (%)

100

87

96

75

End of breeding Season (%)

100

87

--

90

Weaning weight (lb.)

433

 

396

 

Miles City, Montana Experiment Station

• A control group with a 90-day breeding season and selection into the cow herd on pregnancy, adjusted weaning weight and conformation.

• The “new management” group. Heifers in this group were bred 21 days earlier, selected into the cow herd entirely on early pregnancy and had a 45-day breeding season.

Seventy-percent more heifers were exposed than were needed as replacements and estrus synchronization was used on the new management group. Table 2 shows the results with more heifers in the new management group exhibiting early estrus and pregnancy and increased weaning weight.


3. Influence of weight of cattle of different on proportion cycling
 

85-90 percent

65-70 percent

50 percent

Angus

650

600

550

Hereford

725

700

675

Shorthorn

600

550

535

Charolals

750

725

700

A &  H Cross

675

760

625

Simmental x English Breeds

750

700

675

Limousin x English Breeds

750

700

675

Brahman x English Breeds

750

725

700

Wittbank, J.N.

These data show that getting heifers cycling and settled early in the breeding season is important for early calving the first and subsequent calvings. This emphasizes the importance of heifers reaching puberty by 14 months of age. The weights needed for 50, 70 and 90 percent of the heifers to cycle for several breeds are shown below. By knowing your weaning weights and target breeding weights, rate of gain may be calculated and a management plan and nutrition program formulated.

Heifers on straight roughage usually do not have the rumen capacity to meet energy needs and can’t compete well with older cows for available feed. In addition, protein and mineral requirements are higher for heifers than for cows and often are not met. Therefore, heifers should be separated from the cows and fed to meet their needs.

Heifers in a trial at Kansas State University were divided into three groups to study the effect of energy level on cow and calf performance. Energy levels were based on the NRC requirement of 8.4 lbs. TDN and altered as shown Table 4.

 

 

4. Influence of weight of cattle of different on proportion cycling
 

Group 1

Group 2

Group 3

Energy Level

     

Phase 1 (70 dys.)

NRC

70% NRC

70% NRC

Phase 2 (50 dys.)

NRC

NRC

70% NRC

Weight Change (lbs.)

     

Phase 1

60.3

-15.5

14.6

Phase 2

85.7

130.9

75.6

Total

146

115.5

90.2

       

Milk Production  (lbs.)

11

12

9.5

First Service Conception (percent)

37

48

25

Conception - 60 days Breeding Season

80

82

68

Corah, et al.

As the research shows, management and nutrition of heifers are extremely important for the beef producer. Ideally, heifers should be separated from cows and fed to meet their higher nutrient requirement and increase the number cycling for early breeding.

Light-weight heifers at weaning require more grain to reach puberty by breeding season and may need to be separated from heavier heifers. They should be bred 20 to 30 days before the cows and bred at 14 months if calving as two-year-olds is desired. More heifers should be kept back for replacements and emphasis of selection into the cow herd on early conception.

You’ll never catch me claiming that ruminant nutritionists have rhythm. But we sure can bang on a drum. I’ve been banging this one a long time. In fact, I penned the bulk of what you’ve just read 30 years ago. It’s all still true. Bang, bang, bang…

Dr White is ruminant nutritionist for MFA Incorporated.

Magazine

  • Subscriptions
  • Advertising
  • This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Support

  • This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
  • FAQ
  • Copyright Notice