On March 30, Dennis and I had the privilege of touring the Beck’s headquarters in Atlanta, IN (just north of Indianapolis). Beck’s has not had a presence in Minnesota before 2018.
Last fall we go our first Practical Farm Research book from them in the mail. I was quite impressed with the effort they put into helping farmers make decisions that affect their bottom line. A couple of Beck’s billboards also appeared on the south edge of Redwood Falls. I didn’t know much more than this for a couple of months. I get to know Jacob Tintes, one of the people on the ground in MN working hard to set up a dealer network. In visiting with him, I was informed that there could be an opportunity to tour the headquarters and through some questions at one of the top guys there. When Jacob called me to offer the opportunity to get on a jet in New Ulm and take a day trip to Indiana, Dennis and I jumped at the opportunity.
The trip left quite an impression. I have never had such an in depth education on a seed company as I had on that day. My confidence in them has been boosted to a very high level. Since we have our seed purchased made for 2018, we will not be doing any large scale planting of Beck’s hybrids but we will definitely be looking at them in our test plot this spring.
On a side note, we had a crazy realization coming home. We were flying above the snow line from the last winter storm. The south side of the plane had snow and the north side was basically snow free.
I’m sitting in the office on April 14, 2018 looking at through snow covered windows at a persistent blizzard. Biggest storm of the winter for us! It started yesterday with a wintry mix of rain/ice pellets/snow pellets/snow. Through the night it became all snow. We had a lull this morning to get the steer chores done and now we wait out the storm.
I figure that this is as good of time as any to get caught up on some of our winter happenings. Winter was going so well until we hit March and April. These scenes have been all too common since.
We spent some time, in early March in the shop getting some small projects out of the way. Lawn mowers were gone through and a portable auger was refurbished with all new bearings.
On March 20 we did catch a nice break, where the yard wasn’t too soft, and pulled the planter out of the shed to get it ready for the 2018 planting season. After power washing the dust off of it, we moved it into the comfortable environment of the shop.
We did take some time to attend the 2018 Soybean Symposium at the U of M Landscape Arboretum. There were great topics and plenty of discussion that revolve around soybean quality and trade.
OK. I know it’s now the end of January and I’m still not caught up on posting from last fall. I am finally feeling caught up, to a point, with my most important winter office work. Last year’s data has been pored over, crunched, edited, tweaked, post calibrated and used to make decisions for 2018 and forward. Time has been put into selecting seed, figuring out the best way to keep weeds at bay both chemically and physically, crunching numbers to make the current corn and soybean prices work, developing marketing plans and attending winter meetings put on by the U of M, Coop and other ag related entities. My calendar for February still has more meetings and training sessions on it.
First field of corn.
Opening up the headland.
Fan motor needed bearings.
Now where was I before going off on that tangent. Oh yeah, corn harvest. It really did happen and I have the pictures to prove it. Normally, we don’t start harvesting corn until after soybeans are done but this fall was not normal by any measure. After getting tired of the weather delay we kept having during soybean harvest, we gave in and harvested some corn. The moisture was at 22%, dry enough to get a start. The variety removed all of the headlands on a 300 acre field. Taking these off would make harvesting the remainder of that field much easier when the time came. After meticulously going through the electric motors that need to reliably get us through harvest, we still had a breakdown on day two of corn harvest. We hadn’t done the main motors that cool the large grain bin. The second one went out about 3/4 of the way through harvest as well. Oh, well. Maybe next year will be trouble free. Yes, I’m dreaming again. Continue reading →
I was informed on Monday, January 29, by the National Corn Growers Association, that I was the grand prize winner of the 2017 Fields-of-Corn photo contest. I had entered this contest quite a few years ago and haven’t thought too much about it again until this fall, after capturing a spectacular sunset during corn harvest. One of my greatest joys during the harvest season, is the never ending beauty, displayed by God, during the evening sunset. I never tire of viewing or snapping photos. The backdrops, provided during harvest, add to the canvas something that is only available during a short season of the year.
In the past, cell phone photos seemed to lack something but I have been very impressed with the iPhone 7 camera. It is so much better at picking up differences in lighting to capture the full beauty of what my eye catches.
Soybean harvest weather started out so well. But then the BIG rain hit. Waiting for the soils to dry out allowed us to do some, much needed, tree trimming that we had been trying to get at all summer. For the most part, the soils handled the rain event well. Fields dried out and firmed up in about 10 days. We didn’t have to go around any standing water or mud. The money spent on drainage tile pays off in many ways.
A neighboring field after 5″ + of rain.
Neighboring field with ducks at sunset.
Burning tree branches after a couple days of trimming.
Our grain handling system is a key piece in the harvest process. It needs to run efficiently, with as few break downs as possible, to get through corn harvest in a timely manner. Even a small thing can bring harvest to a halt. Every seven years we change the bearings in all the electric motors of our grain system that put high hours on annually. 2017 was the year to do this again. We take all the the smaller motors off but leave the larger ones in place and remove the internal rotor that the bearings are mounted on. The largest motor, a 20hp 3ph motor on the top our our 120′ grain leg, is always a challenge. This year, we were able to do all the work on top of the grain leg thanks to a powerful 20V DeWalt impact wrench that helped remove the bearings from the shaft.
We also need to test fire the grain dryer to make sure that the flame control system is working properly. One of the burners wouldn’t fire. Upon investigation, a wire wast found to be chewed in half by some critter.
Our seed beans are handled in a gentle manner. This means using a belt conveyor to load them from the truck to the bins. We also unload the combine tank at half throttle to limit damage to the seed from the augers.
Our time, during the end of August and first three weeks in September, is spent getting ready for harvest. This includes making sure the combine, along with the corn and bean heads, is harvest ready. A post-harvest inspection is done every year by our local John Deere dealer. They are quite thorough and always find something that needs attention. We are comfortable in handling most of the combine repairs but let the dealer do the ones that are more involved.
It is frustrating to find that major seed companies don’t have a level of quality control that matches their seed prices. With the impending wet and cold planting season that was forecast this spring, we had our equipment ready to get a jump start planting corn if that window of opportunity presented itself. April 18 – April 24 was our window and it quickly closed again until May 5. Two of the five varieties we planted failed at their first task of creating a good stand (high percentage) that emerges evenly. Gold Country 104-37 had very uneven emergence and a thin stand. Dekalb 52-85 had even emergence but, once again, a thin stand. Why don’t these companies publish a cold germ test on their seed tags? Warm germ is quite deceiving.
In this photos, taken from the top of our grain leg, you can see the difference in stand. The one on the left is obviously thinner than the one on the right. Both are Dekalb varieties.
In early August we hired some kids to help walk a soybean seed field. We had to get rid of the volunteer corn and some weed escapes. It was a long day that ended with a trip to Dairy Queen as an added bonus.