Harvest 2020 brought great surprises with record corn and near record soybean yields! After the summer or COVID and commodity prices crashing, there was some light at the end of the tunnel.
Normally we would harvest the soybeans before corn but they beans were not dry and the weather wasn’t allowing them to dry very fast so we opted to harvest corn until the beans were ready. We had nearly 1/2 our corn harvested before starting soybeans.
Our new grain dryer worked flawlessly allowing us to concentrate on other things to keep harvest running smooth.
Just to refresh your memories, we had a grain dryer fire last fall. The dryer was repaired to the point that we could finish drying our harvest but we decided to replace it in time to use for the 2020 season.
Replacing a grain dryer is no small task and it consumed a lot of our spare time during the summer of 2020. To start things out, we thought we had a company lined up to do the crane work for us but they failed to follow through. After a text and phone call we had K & S Millwrights, from Buffalo Lake, MN, lined up to help us with the project. They were doing some work at a nearby town and would get to us once that project was completed.
In the mean time, we had a lot of work to do getting ready for the crane to come. We disconnected everything from our old grain dryer then went to the farm site of the farmer we purchased the “new to us” dryer from and prepped that one for moving.
As soybean yields rise, Otto Farms is required to have more on farm storage available in order to continue planting the same number of acres for seed. In 2020 we added another 1800 bushels of seed storage by removing three unused tanks and replacing them with two used tanks moved in from about 30 miles away.
The soybeans are up! It’s a messy look but we expect great results! The system we installed to minimize overlap shuts off every 30″ of seeder width as it crosses into planted ground. Here’s a great example of the results!
Now that soybeans are up, post emerge spraying is the next step for weed control.
Y-dropping fertilizer on corn in our second year went much better than in 2019. We had a one day window in 2019 and struggled to get fertilizer on. In 2020, we had a much wider window of opportunity. We also decided to try applying at a smaller height stage to widen the window and it worked well.
Taking short cuts on chemical can sometimes get us in trouble. This year, we had to cultivate two fields because of weed pressure. One of the fields, was wiped out by hail a few years ago and we didn’t realize how much seed is still in the soil from the weeds that took over that year. The other field had a lot of lambsquarters coming and it was too late to spray.
Not the earliest we’ve started but April 21 is an excellent date to get started with planting. With our new air seeder, we had hopes of getting some beans in early, while planting corn, but with no delays or down time corn was in the ground before we knew it.
Our first year of soybean planting with a no till air seeder was fairly uneventful. There were definitely new things to learn and manage well. Down pressure is critical to get good seed placement.
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%.
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.