Fertilizer prices skyrocket, worry Texas farmers

Brownwood Bulletin
Scott Anderson

In recent weeks, farm input costs have soared to record highs, leading farmers and ranchers in the Lone Star State to become increasingly worried.

Fertilizer costs have jumped anywhere from 50-90%.

There are some alternatives, like possibly going to a different crop. But you can only cut back so much. When you start shorting your crops on fertility and crop protection products, you usually pay for that in the long run.

Tariffs on raw phosphate from Russia and Morocco and urea ammonium nitrate from Russia and Tobago related to U.S. anti-dumping investigations combined with factory slowdowns and shutdowns and rising energy costs for fertilizer producers are contributing to the price increases.

Supply chain tensions continue to be a concern, but he noted, thankfully, Texas Gulf ports don’t appear to be facing the same backlog as those on the West Coast.

In addition to fertilizer, corn and soybean seed costs are expected to rise anywhere from 5-15% in 2022 due to supply chain issues.

Rabies vaccination

Rabies is often thought of as a disease of pets or urban wildlife, but livestock can be exposed or infected, as well.

Often, that exposure occurs in pastures, where wildlife and domestic species interact.

Texas has quite a variety of wildlife species that can transmit the disease. So, there is a risk, but it isn’t a huge risk, because there are vaccines that can help prevent the disease. Boehringer Ingelheim has a vaccine that’s been used for decades in the U.S. that’s been proven to be safe and effective in horses, cattle, sheep, cats, dogs and ferrets.

With a recent increase in skunks spreading rabies in the Panhandle and Central Texas, it’s important to ensure livestock and pets are protected through vaccination.

Another vector that will likely be a concern for Texas farmers and ranchers is the vampire bat.

Vampire bats are mainly found in Mexico and Central and South America, but their habitat has been expanding north into the U.S. over the past few years.

In Mexico, vampire bats cause about $47 million a year in damages through livestock predation and public health risk concerns.

The vampire bat has been a problem for livestock producers in Mexico for years. It also feeds on other livestock, but primarily cattle, and those animals suffer because of the blood meals being taken. Not only are those animals at risk for potentially having rabies transmitted by the bite of a vampire bat, but due to the blood meal the vampire bat consumes, it stresses the cattle or stresses the horse, and you see a decrease in that animal’s production levels.

Since the vampire bat has been detected as close as 35-40 miles south of the Texas-Mexico border, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and other governmental agencies have increased surveillance. Maki noted feedlots, farms and wild animal habitats are being surveyed for signs of vampire bat feeding.

If someone has an animal with an atypical bite wound, such as on the ears or neck or withers, where vampire bats feed, [USDA’s] Wildlife Services wants to know about it. The Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) should also have more information about the surveillance program, awareness and resources for people interested in learning more.

The rabies case-reporting system in Texas is linked with federal information, which helps equip the Lone Star State to handle a potential vampire bat spread.

In animals, rabies manifests in one of two forms: furious and paralytic. Maki noted the form is influenced by the animal species.

Dogs and cats quite often get the furious form of rabies, the typical thing we think of when we think ‘rabid animal.’ Foxes can also become very aggressive, lose their fear of humans and attack and bite them. But the other form, paralytic or ‘dumb,’ is when the rabies virus basically causes paralysis in an animal, and they’re showing neurological symptoms like staggering or weaving around during the daytime when that wildlife species would normally be out only at night.

Other animals with paralytic rabies may hide under vehicles or in sheds or other places around homes and businesses because they’re sick and have lost their innate sense of self-preservation. Maki said this form can be even more dangerous to humans because people may think the animal needs help and approach it.

Cattle often get the paralytic form. But since there are a lot of different diseases that can cause neurological symptoms in livestock, we want to be sure livestock owners are aware that rabies may be the issue. Recumbency, not being able to rise, weakness in the hind legs, stumbling, hitting the head on a fence—those are not normal behaviors for a cow. Livestock producers should associate these signs with rabies, especially in unvaccinated animals or those with lapsed vaccinations, so they do not end up exposing themselves while handling that sick animals.

If ranchers notice any of these signs in their livestock, contact a veterinarian immediately. Veterinarians are best qualified to make preliminary differential diagnoses between rabies or other issues while handling the animal safely.

If you’re bitten and the animal is rabid, the post-exposure prophylaxis is expensive. The technology has changed and the number of doses of vaccine you would receive are not as plentiful or as painful in the past, but it’s still expensive.