Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Grazing cover crops

There has been quite a bit of discussion about cover crops and dual purpose cover/forage crops for the past few years. Some of the seed blends can get quite costly, I've seen quotes as high as $60 an acre for some seed mixes, this was the price of seed wheat during the height of the high grain price cycle.

Since I still had sunflower seed in the planter boxes  I added some grain sorghum, corn, soybeans, and some more sunflower seed that was in the left over seed pile in the shop. All of this was seed that had been cleaned out of the planter so the cost of the seed was already paid for by the full season crop. This was planted on wheat stubble that was fallow until grain sorghum is planted next June, the seed was left over, part of the field was fertilized got the fertilizer that was left in the planter, so the only real expense was my time and wear and tear on the planter.

The seed mix I planted. It's a mix of corn, soybeans, sunflowers, and grain sorghum. This is some seed that had been cleaned out of the planter the last couple of years.

I started with a seed population of 30,000 and decided to bump that to 40,000, for two reasons a, to see what it would do and b, I was getting tired of sitting in the tractor. I picked 30,000 because that is high for sunflowers, low for grain sorghum, high for corn, and extremely low for soybeans. I used the sunflower seed meter disk since they were the closest to medium size and played with the vacuum until I was satisfied with the seeding rate. I wasn't overly concerned with seeding accuracy due to the purpose of this crop.

I seeded this on July, 30th in a normal year nothing should have made it to full maturity. With the mild fall and late killing freeze the sunflowers did, but didn't retain seed and some shorter season corn did might of made it to physiological maturity. Both the sorghum and corn should have been high nutrient level in the plant at the time of a killing frost.

Looking down the row, I ended up with more grain sorghum in the mix that I had originally planned. I didn't put any more bags in, but at about 15,000 seeds per pound when compared to the other seeds it makes sense.

I was surprised at the amount of volunteer wheat growing in it between the rows. Having it growing will extend the time that a root is actively growing. I feel root activity adds considerably to to soil health.

Some calves grazing it. Those are sunflowers to the left of the calf in the foreground.

To simplify the fencing I including part of the adjoining wheat field. Typically we don't pasture wheat, but it is an accepted practice for the area. The calves will be of before the wheat gets to the jointing stage this spring so there will be no permanent harm to the wheat.

I don't have access to scales to measure growth so I will track the amount of hay I feed compared to what I would have fed in a drylot. Normally we feed medium quality brome, priced at about $45 a bale.

In future years I will add a few turnips or radishes and Austrian winter peas. I think this will be an inexpensive way to add even more diversity. The turnips or radishes will have deep roots along with the sunflowers and will absorb nutrients and the peas will convert atmospheric nitrogen to usable nitrogen in the plant that will go into the soil after it decomposes. The peas might over winter, I haven't found a definitive answer, but even if they do it should be simple to kill out in the spring when I do spring burn down for the volunteer wheat.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Tibbits Farms through the years 1912 to 1930s

We moved into my Granddad's house this past summer and among some of the things that came with the house was some of his parents belongings. One night my youngest son was quizzing me about combines and somehow the conversation turned towards combines without cabs. This brought a very curios look to his face. I remembered seeing a box marked photos, expecting to find photos from the 1950's to show him pictures of cabless combines. I was quite surprised to find pictures this old. I'm also very thankful that they took the time to label many of the pictures with the people in them, what they were doing and the year. Some of these pictures have made it on my twitter feed on throwback Thursdays.  As always these photos along with lots that haven't made it on the blog yet are on my Flickr account.

Maude and Nell, 1912. It's not wrote on the photo, but I assume that is my great granddad in the photo.

Maude and Nell again in 1912, new harness.

No year, but the people are labeled. 1 R. T. Tibbits, my great granddad, 2. H.R. Tibbits, my great-great grandfather, 3 Miller, I presume either hired help or neighbor that they traded labor with.

No names or dates were on this picture. It appears that it took quite a crew to harvest.

Stacking bundle grain, no date.

1. Fred Schur, the Schur family are long time neighbors, 2. George Tibbits, I think it is great-great granddads brother, 3. Herbert or H.R. Tibbits, great-great granddad.

No names or dates.

Mabel Tibbits, my great grandma, 1923. It also has August 1923 wrote in pencil on the back of the picture, which is the month and year my granddad was born.

All that is wrote on the picture is 1929. It looks like they were harvesting some really nice wheat that year.

Fred Cline at the combine wheel, Riley T. sitting on the grain tank, Herbert standing on the truck, and Riley D. sitting on the truck bed. Three generations in the field, Herbert is my great-great granddad, Riley T. is my great granddad, and Riley D. is my granddad.

Fred Cline on the tractor, Riley D. on the ground, Riley T. at the combine's wheel, and Herbert standing on the platform.

Cy Austin, 1929. I don't remember how he is related to us, but it is a really good picture of the combine working.

No name or date wrote down,

Cutting Atlas, 1941. Atlas was a predecessor to forage sorghum, I think they would take it back to the farm and chop it as silage and blow it into an upright silo to feed during the winter.

Riley T,, 1936. I think he might be cutting Atlas or corn.

Farmall cultivating, 1936. Either Atlas or corn. Looks like the leaves might be curled some which can be cause by heat or drought stress.

Listing corn, 1934. A lister pushes dirt out of the way and seed is planted in the bottom of the furrow, then the ridges will be knocked down when they cultivated.

1935, It looks like they are listing I would guess corn.

Herbert, drilling wheat 1936. He is using 2 12 hole and a 16 hole drill.

1937 D35 truck. The back of the picture says 1947, but the tag is a 38. The truck is gone, but the tag might be part of a collection.

Pet heifers,1936.

These are all of the pictures I have scanned so far. There are more farm pictures from this time frame in the box.

I was looking through them thinking how neat it was to have them and then it struck me that many of them were from the Great Depression and dust bowl era. With that in mind some of these pictures will resurface along with some of the others in future blogs.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Where our corn is going

Normally our corn is sold to a cattle feedlot to be used as an ingredient in cattle feed. This year it is going to an ethanol plant. This is the first time that we have delivered to an ethanol plant, some of the corn and grain sorghum that we have delivered to elevators might have gone to ethanol.

Loading corn bound for an ethanol plant.
I posted this picture to twitter, @ksfarmboy, today while loading our semi for the drive to Russell, Kansas.

Our grain prices have changed greatly in our area the past year. Typically in my area corn is priced twenty cents a bushel, 56 pounds per bushel of both corn and grain sorghum, more than sorghum. China started importing sorghum last year and has been aggressively importing it this year. This has driven the sorghum price locally to a over a dollar a bushel over corn, making corn a natural alternative for sorghum in many Kansas ethanol plants and for other end users of sorghum in the area.
The corn is being delivered to White Energy in Russell Kansas. This ethanol plant is combined with a wheat gluten plant and share many resources. To learn more about it the plant.