Thursday, November 21, 2013

Harvest update 13

We wrapped up soybean harvest and wheat seeding the end of October and moved on to corn and then grain sorghum harvest.

There were some mechanical setbacks with harvest, a nagging problems with a header during soybean harvest, the header is the front part that cuts the plant and brings them into the combine. I was seeding wheat, but they told me they usually had it repaired by the time of day that the soybeans were ready for harvest, most crops will take on moisture from dew or frost overnnight and will not harvest properly until late morning.

The combine we use for corn had a couple of major components fail that took quite a bit of time to repair. After that corn harvest was smooth sailing.

I tried harvesting grain sorghum while the rest of the crew harvested corn, but was only able to do a about a hundred acres due to high moisture content of the grain and having to utilize a couple of grain bins that have huge fans that can dry the grain to acceptable levels for storage.

I shifted my attention to helping with corn harvest since we were storing the rest of the crop on the farm for winter and spring delivery to cattle feedlots and feed mills. Our irrigated corn is very high quality that cattle feeders and feed mills recognize and will possibly pay premium. Also my area uses more corn than is raised locally.

The last field of corn harvested was one that was planted to drought tolerant hybrids on a field that has a slightly limited irrigation water available and considerable variation in soils, this can make getting enough water in the soil for the crop challenging particularly in hot dry and weather periods. Half of the field was planted to seed from Pioneer/DuPont gene marker assisted breeding and the other half utilized Monsanto's drought tolerant bio tech trait. The whole field averaged 170 bushel an acre which is very good for it. I was very pleased considering the non irrigated portion was planted with the same seeding and fertilizer rate as the irrigated part, ideally the non irrigation portion would be planted with 6,000 less seeds an acre and save a 1/4 or more on fertilizer.

irrigated corn in a pasture?
This is the field that was planted to the drought tolerant corn, it's along a creek with native pastures on all 4 sides. In the foreground is some of the native plants that are common on our virgin prairie.

Dryland corn
This is some of the dryland corn on that field, this happens to be from the Pioneer seed. The ears were smaller than the DeKalb corn, but very uniform and every plant had an ear except for what the deer ate.

This is an ear of corn from the DeKalb seed on the dryland. It had kernels set on 20 rows, I've only seen a few ears of corn that was 20 row in my entire lif

After we finished corn that afternoon I cut a test sample of grain sorghum. I had heard from neighbors and elevator employees that they hadn't been any below 17% moisture. I was surprised the sample was 15.6% moisture, so I went back and cut a semi load, that load was 15.3% moisture and has been the highest moisture since then. Grain sorghum over 15% is discounted and higher moisture levels get discounted at higher rates. The yield has been very goood and test weights higher than I expected considering the cool spell during August, the truck drivers have reported test weights up to 62 pounds a bushel, the standard is 56 pounds a bushel. Plants have gone down in places in fields, this is another problem we face with growing it. I tried a new sorghum from Pioneer/DuPont and was very pleased with it, generally there isn't new sorghum seed released so getting a new hybrid to plant is exciting.

I feel we are moving into a more normal weather pattern and with my limited experience with drought tolerant corn it will be a viable option than grain sorghum and will allow me to better maximize my labor. Many times dryland corn is ready for harvest during a slow time in September between irrigation and the beginning of wheat seeding and soybean harvest when we have more hours of daylight. I've gotten lucky this year with sorghum drying down in the field as it has, normally it won't we have to take the discounts. Freeing up time and labor now would allow time to expand our cattle enterprise and to be more timely with the management. 

On of my seed dealers that also farms has experimented with planting corn lato, I assume mid June. He left a portion of a sorghum field and then planted corn. I think this is the second or third year of experimenting with this and was very successful this year. He mentioned that he might try late planting corn on one of his better dryland fields. The reason for the experiment was to try to time the corn's water needs to the typical rain pattern of August, these are the rains that help our sorghum produce the yields it does.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Grain bin view

Tonight while transferring pictures from my phone to computer I found some that I had taken in early July during wheat harvest for a blog post.

I was sitting on top of a grain bin that we were filling with wheat during harvest looking around. It had been quite awhile since I had sat up there and took in the view. I appologize for the poor pictures, phone cameras just don't work like top end telephoto cameras.

This is the bin that we were filling with wheat, we raise Hard Red Winter Wheat the kind used for bread baking.

The truck sitting at the auger that is used to convey the grain to the bin.

This is looking to the southeast, the trees on the hill is where my great great grandparents put down roots after stints in different parts of the county. There is a mix of crop land and native range land in this stretch of a mile and half between the bin and old farmstead.

Looking to the east. If you look past the field of brome hay to the wheat field with Marestail is growing in fairly evenly spaced rows. This field had been in soybeans planted in 30 inch row spacing.

Looking to the south. More of the brome hay field that great granddad established when he bought this parcel in the 50's, I think that is what I was told. Where it looks brown past the hay field is seeded to grain sorghum. The green to the right of it is soybeans. Trees line a creek that winds through a pasture that is still in native prairie grass.

This is looking directly to the northeast. The tin shed was a hog barn that is now just storage. The open sided shed was originally used to store small square bales of hay, now the livestock trailer, a wheat truck, and a couple of headers for the combines reside there. The field behind had been hog pens off and on most of my childhood, at one time much of the area where we were unloading the truck was also a hog pens.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Musk thistle round up

The weather has been horrible for planting soybeans and grain sorghum the past week and 1.2 inches last night made it even worse. Wet weather does make it possible to pull Musk Thistles in our range lands and waste areas. The root was sideways on this little b*$#@%d indicating it was growing around either a compacted soil layer or most likely a rock.

Monday, January 21, 2013

2012 year in review

I can't believe half of January has already passed. I had been wanting to do some kind of a 2012 wrap up and couldn't think of anything until after I uploaded photos to my flickr account. I have a decent amount of photos uploaded from over the past few years, many of the photos have descriptions of what is taking place. It dawned on me I could pick and choose various photos from through out the year, I wasn't as camera happy as in the past partially because much of it will not vary a great deal from year to year.

We have a small herd of spring calving cows. I was surprised at how many we had the first month, 80%. Then calving slowed to a crawl. I think the heat during the summer before combined with them raising their first calf and were still growing may have had some influence on it. This happens to be the only white faced calf born this year.

I spent a good portion of my spring seeding corn, sunflowers, soybeans and grain sorghum. I didn't have a picture of planting this year so I used this one from my archives.

Wheat harvest came unusually early this year, but this yields were respectable considering the weather turned hot and dry during grain fill. We started harvest the end of May, where normally we may start June 17th. As what normally happens I spent the first few days finishing sorghum planting. We had started planting early this year and I finished planting this year earlier and finished earlier than normal.

The bare strip is from having half the planter turned off while planting sorghum the previous year. Soybeans struggled to sprout and grow here until after a good rain. I was surprised while checking planting depth during planting that we actually had some soil moisture in the planting zone where there was even a minimal amount of residue covering the soil.

first irrigation
This how I spent most of wheat harvest and the rest of the summer irrigating corn and soybeans. We had replaced an irrigation system last spring and this is the first irrigation pass with it.

Bulgarian farmers

On June 16th we had a group of farmers from Bulgaria visit the farm. It was an interesting visit, once they became comfortable with us the ones that could speak English visited with us. They were interested in how we raise Sunflowers, but farmers will be farmers no matter where they are from the conversation turned to farming practices in general and all the crops we raise. This is the only photo I took was this one of them looking over my dad's older Corvette. The International Grains Program at Kansas State University coordinated the tour.

We did our normal double crop planting of soybeans and sunflowers this summer after wheat harvest. We planted more double crop soybeans this past summer than previously and less sunflowers.

Fall cow calf pair 1
We acquired a few fall calving cows last spring. They had started calving a couple of weeks earlier than expected. These cows came from Harms Plainview Ranch so they should genetically exceed most commercial cows.

Wheat seeding visitors
This fall during wheat seeding we had a group of wheat flour millers from Japan visit. They were interested in hard white wheat and how we raise it. My dad is explaining to them how the drill puts seed and fertilizer in the soil in this picture. This was also coordinated with International Grains Program at Kansas State University and
Farmer Direct Foods was also involved. My mom is a heckuva a home baker and made a loaf of bread with both red, the more common breadwheat, and white twisted together which gave them a comparison of the two types of bread.

Milo, also known as grain sorghum, harvest was fair to good, I experimented with more hybrids this year because of an old reliable being unavailable. Planting date and the years how many years the field hand been in a no till cropping system. This happens to be a variety that has yellow grain and is known for high yield potential. I chose this variety because it was optimum planting time and I thought we would have timely August rain. We didn't get the amount of rain in August that I was expecting, but the heavy wheat stubble and quality soil held the water and allowed us to have a good crop on this field. The grain heads weren't anything besides ordinary, but it came into the combine really good.

double crop soybeans.
A field of double crop soybeans during harvest. They ranged anywhere from fair to bad, in some fields the real advantage for having them was establishing some bacteria in the soil that helps the plant extract nitrogen from air.

Curious calf
My oldest son with a curious calf. I picked up my son after school to help me 
cube the cows, cubes are a high protein feed used to supplement cattle. While 
the cows were crowding around the piles of cubes, the calves were loitering 
around the pickup. This guy walked up to my son and started nibbling on his 
coat and checking him out. The calf had done this for a few minutes before I 
took the picture. This set of cows seem to be very calm and gentle which is 
great for having him out with me learning about cattle. Since he is all about 
animals and livestock, I want him to learn all he can about working with 
them properly.

Our irrigated corn was good despite the hot weather last summer. We did have a hybrid that suffered from sun scald thankfully I didn't have alot of that one. Last year I had tried quite a few new hybrids and only planted the ones that performed the best and didn't experiment with anything new this year. The irrigated soybeans were good to great, a couple of fields had damage from a corn herbicide.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Keeping it Simple

I thought of this when my oldest son, he's 9, tried to extort $2 from my daughter. She flipped it around on him after I suggested she ask him to her look for her money as they cleaned her room. In some of her battles to get her brothers to help her clean up I reminded her that boys work best with simple instructions.

In a past life before returning to my family's farm I had worked on a variety of hog farms, ranging from medium to large size. One of the most important things I took away from them was the most productive farms were the ones with training and operating procedures that were the simplest and easiest to understand. Many times I thought a trained monkey could do many of the jobs that I did from the stand point that the procedures and training made it simple.

This is one of my weak links as a manager is that I tend to complicate things more than I should. Normal procedures tend to get altered by people when they aren't laid out in a simple easy to follow method.