I don’t know about the rest of you, but I have never been so happy to see a year-end in all my life.
2019 is kind of like the cow that is a maneater when she calves, is hard to catch and constantly out. It is almost a relief the day you take her to the sale barn. Yes, 2019 was that way for me and I know it was that way for most of you reading this column.
It seemed like I went into January last year way behind and out of sorts. Then we had the stretch of wet, nasty, cold weather like I have never experienced before. Lambing and calving were like no other year and hopefully we don’t see the likes of it again, ever. I lost more calves and lambs in a month than I had in the last four years prior and that was about the toughest time I have ever gone through. Physically, I still have aches and pains from slogging through the mud and slipping on the ice. My feet still protest when I try to put them in Muck Boots.
Just when it looked like we had made it to spring and the worst was behind us, it started to rain. The last of my hay disappeared quick as the tops of my boots. The small window of dry weather demanded that we choose between getting the cows out to pasture and planting corn. The lack of hay made the decision easy. That pushed corn planting to the time we should have been planting soybeans, and soybean planting into haying season.
This summer was the haying season from … well, it was bad. The conditions were tough, and the hay was even tougher. The only good thing I have to say about my haying season is that it is over, and I have plenty of hay. Not a lot of good hay, but if I run out this year, we are all in trouble. The best thing to come out of haying season was my new baler. I can’t tell you what kind or where I got it because I am working out an endorsement deal. I don’t think endorsement in exchange for my repair bill is a bad deal.
This fall the weather and my life finally straightened out and I would guess that many of you would say the same thing. For the first time in two years, I feel like I am not very far behind and almost caught up. Now if we would just get the markets to straighten out and prices up, life would be good again and farming and ranching would be a lot more fun.
That all gives me much more optimism for 2020. We don’t know what the weather will be like, a friend of mine said he would be happy with an average year. I reminded Joe that the average is just the middle in between the two extremes and the weather in Kansas is never average. Aside from that I feel like I am much more prepared for the upcoming year and I can better handle what Mother Nature throws my way.
I enter 2020 with the hope that we have hit rock bottom in our markets and that the coming year will bring trade agreements and higher prices. I know that is optimistic, but often that is all we have in agriculture and it is what keeps us going. I am not sure what the upcoming year will bring us, but I look forward to the challenges that come my way.
Yes, 2019 was a rough year and one that we will look back on for a long time to come. My guess is I will tell my grandkids about the winter of ‘19 with more fondness than I describe it right now. They say what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, and if you are reading this then 2019 didn’t kill you, so ultimately you are better for it. I know personally we learned and made changes based on some of the problems we had in the past year.
I am excited about the new year and the new decade. I think we are on the verge of good times in agriculture again and the best is yet to come. I look forward to 2020 being the start of those good years and I wish all of you the best in the upcoming year. My wish for all of you is this: May the rain come at the right time, your livestock give birth in the daylight, the temperatures be seasonal and your decisions the right ones. Most of all, I hope the upcoming year finds you with family and friends and you are at peace. Let’s make 2020 a year to remember for all the right reasons.
Glenn Brunkow is a fifth-generation farmer in the Northern Flint Hills of Pottawatomie County in Kansas. He was a county Extension agent for 19 years before returning to farm and ranch full time. He can be reached at email@example.com.