With equipment ready for the field but fields not ready for planting we use our time to complete projects on the never-ending to do list. We had a couple of cattle gates that needed some leveling and reinforcing. It was kind of muddy so we used pallets as a work platform inside the cattle year. The observers stood at the edge of the concrete for a while and then one brave steer ventured off, through the mud, to get a closer look at the situation.
Taking a stroll around the pasture fence, making sure the electric fencing isn’t grounding out somewhere, always attracts the attention of our steers. You always hear about the curiosity of cats but steers are a close second.
We started out our winter shop season with an overhaul of a John Deere CCS air seeder we purchased mid summer. It only has about 5000 acres on it but needed some attention. We dismantled each row unit to install new disk openers, as the old ones were worn down to the point where they would not work as well as we’d like. We also made sure everything else worked on the row units and took grease as well.
Air seeders use a ground drive system to turn the meters. They have a section control system that allows 1/2 of the width to be shut off for narrower areas and to prevent too much seed waste on point rows. We decided to take things up a level and installed the Inetllidrive system. It allows us to control every 30″ section individually thus minimizing overlap with already seeded areas. Electric motors drive each 30″ section and can independently control the feed rate of each section. The company claims that they will save 10-12% on seed costs per acre. That adds up fast when seed beans cost $50/unit plus and we’re using 1.15 units/acre. At a savings of $6/acre this unit will pay for itself in 3 years!
There was no reason to expect the 2019 corn harvest to be easy but, in hindsight, it was the worst year of farming I have ever experienced! Planting corn a month later than usual is never a good thing but coupling it with the fact that the entire summer was cool and wet made the resulting crop yield and quality a costly challenge both monetarily and mentally. Corn yields themselves were okay but, when faced with the reality of dryer gas expenses due to wetter than usual corn along with an LP shortage driving prices higher yet and elevator charges and discounts for wet corn delivered to them, this year was one for the books.
2019 presented us with challenges in timeliness and quality for soybean and corn harvesting. Harvest was much later than usual, which meant that we didn’t have the normal, dry weather we need for soybeans to come out of the field at less than 13% moisture. This is a problem in a couple of ways. First the elevators will discount the soybeans brought in over 13% by 1% for every 1/2% they are over 13%. As the moisture climbs higher, the discount percent increases more yet. The second challenge is presented because we raise seed beans for Pioneer. They don’t want our soybeans for seed if they are over 14%. We waited through two days of sun and slight warmth to get to that point and still ended up with a bin of seed that tested higher than 14%.
We rely on a platform scale to weigh the grain we bring from the fields to our storage bins. It is not a legal scale but gets us close enough to knowing, load by load, what is dumped at our bin site. Over the past couple of years it has become unreliable and finally failed completely this fall as we tested it while getting our grain handling system ready for harvest. Normally, this would have been discovered too late in the year to do anything about it but, with the late harvest, we had a window of opportunity to order and replace the weigh bars.
With all of the rain the fell during 2018 and 2019, our cattle have had the challenge of wading through a foot of mucky mud to get to and from the water fountain. We planned on filling the gap between our two concrete pads during the summer of 2018 but the weather never cooperated. 2019 presented it’s challenges as well. We prepped the area, during a short dry spell, in October, by removing mud down to solid ground but then it rained and filled the hole with a foot plus of water. We were able to pump some of the water out but managed to plug up two different pumps with the thick muddy water. Eventually enough water was removed to place a rock foundation in the bottom and cover that with gravel to prep for the cement. The weather cooperated and concrete was finally poured. I’m happy to report the the steers and the farmers appreciate the final result.
Sometimes there’s just too much weed pressure. Several factors can cause this but, in the end, they need to be taken care of. 2019 saw us, once again, out in the field with hoes. We even brought out my nephew for the FUN! Another field was beyond what we wanted to handle so we hired a crew of migrant workers to walk that field.
There’s nothing like a good storm to make you thankful for your current situation. With rain and wet being the theme of spring and early summer, it wasn’t a real surprise to have a severe storm pop up. What was the surprise was how small of an area was affected, the amount of damage in that area and that the tornado passed by about 1 mile to the north of us.
With the late planting start, we were unable to achieve good weed control with our vertical till machine on some fields. The weeds were larger than 3″ and they just slipped through without being fully uprooted. On a couple of fields we had to use a pass with chemical to know out the weeds to give the soybeans a good start without competition.
It’s been a long crop year. I’m finally getting around to posting after the most trying crop year of my farming career! 2018 ended with a lot of moisture in the ground. Spring 2018 brought a lot more snow and then unending rain. We did get our crop in the ground but not in a timely manner. We did manage to get our corn test plot planted during one narrow window of opportunity.