ONIDA - Let me be the first to warn you, if you haven't noticed already, that there are lots of pheasants on the road. They come up to the edge of the road to eat pebbles for their gizzards, which aids their digestion. They have a tendency to fly at the last moment right into the path of oncoming vehicles, destroying grills, headlights and even windshields. My own car is in the body shop now as I write this.
The other evening on my way home from work near the junction of Hwy 14 and 83, I saw a pheasant in the unharvested sunflower plots. The rooster was standing on the snow quite close to the down-turned head of one of the sunflowers when suddenly, he jumped up and pecked at it. According to an article in the February issue of The Sunflower magazine entitled Bird Food Market Healthy by Sonia Mullally, sunflower seed is desirable to so many species of birds because of its high oil content that provides energy for feather replacement, migration and survival in the winter months.
Wayne Lindberg of Sunbird, Inc. in Huron, says the demand for bird food has been steady over the past few years. It has been a bird food winter so far this year. Even though prices of bird food are up 60% from July, retailers haven't really raised their prices all that much yet. But, in the next quarter and into the next growing season, if supplies go down, retailers will start seeing a price effect and pass that along to the consumer - and that may be the test. If we're still paying upwards of $25 [per cwt] as spring rolls in, farmers might be more interested in planting the black oilseeds for us.
Randy Brown of Harrold Grain Company in Harrold also has seen prices on a steady climb over the past few months. However, he isn't sure it really has affected consumers' buying habits so far. The market still has good potential. It's very territorial, in a sense. In some areas, the market is up - and down in others. It's hard to predict. But it still remains a cheap form of entertainment that won't be going away anytime soon. The whole market complex has been very bullish this year. It's going to be a very interesting 2011, said Brown.
Mullally's article goes on to say that the failure of the wheat crop in Russia due to drought conditions this past summer, driving export volumes upward, was one of many international factors that sent commodity prices higher. Another influence is demand from China. Bird food may not be among the commodities China is buying from the United States, but the Asian Country's seemingly unending demand for other crops may result in growers planting fewer specialty crops such as oil sunflower.
Contact your local Extension office or go to http://www.sunflowernsa.com.