Agriculture and animals will have starring roles in the week that lies ahead.

The brand-new trading year kicks off in quiet fashion, especially when it comes to earnings reports. There aren't any major companies stepping up on the quarterly stage, but the same can't be said for the rest of the week.

(NYSE: MOS) and Neogen (Nasdaq: NEOG) check in on Tuesday. Analysts see both companies posting higher earnings than they did a year ago.

There's been a flurry of buyout activity in Mosaic's potash specialty. Neogen's a maker of food-safety testing kits and veterinarian products, and it's managed to consistently post year-over-year earnings growth during the recession. If analysts are on target, both companies will prove that they're still growing their bottom lines.

Consumer-facing companies are on parade come Wednesday as Ruby Tuesday (NYSE: RT) and Family Dollar (NYSE: FDO) provide glimpses into casual dining and deep-discount retail, respectively. Are folks eating out again? Are shoppers still gravitating to low-priced bargains? Neither company may be the ideal bellwether for their industries, but they'll offer the first taste for investors in either niche in 2011.

(Nasdaq: XRTX) and Monsanto (NYSE: MON) report their quarterly financials on Thursday.

Xyratex's data-storage sector has seen even heavier consolidation than Mosaic's agricultural space. We'll see how it's holding up as one of the few swinging singles in this space. Wall Street expects Monsanto to reverse the small quarterly deficit it rang up a year ago.

The first week of the year closes out with AZZ (NYSE: AZZ) reporting. Analysts see AZZ earning $0.76 a share, just ahead of the $0.70 it delivered during the same quarter a year earlier.

Until next week, I remain,

Rick Munarriz

See a stock in this story you'd like to follow? Add it to My Watchlist, which will find all of our Foolish analysis on it.

Motley Fool Options has recommended a synthetic long position on Monsanto. The Fool owns shares of AZZ. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors.

Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz recommends windshield wiper fluid when trying to look forward. He is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early. He owns no shares in any of the companies in this story. The Fool has a disclosure policy.