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.
Following last summer’s devastating hail event on our Morgan field we were advised to plant Liberty Link soybeans this year to give us later season options for weed control. Driving by the field one week prior to planting made our stomachs turn. The weeds had grown very quickly this spring and were threatening to make planting difficult. We sprayed a burn down herbicide on the field and, after working it with our vertical till machine a week later, the planting went quite smooth.
Spraying Liberty Link Soybeans
A pre-emerge herbicide was applied after planting and again about a month later. Two weeks after that, we had a lot of grass laughing at us as it continued to emerge and flourish. An application of Liberty was applied and now we are preparing to cultivate the field on Monday, July 17. A lot of extra effort and money has been spent on this field due to last June’s hail. We expect our efforts to pay off by keeping the weeds from seeding. This should make the future years of weed control a little more normal.
A long overdue task was completed at the end of June. The cattle yard base has eroded over the years and becomes a mucky mess of foot deep manure that the steers must muck through to get to the cattle shed as well as stepping off the south side of the concrete pad next to the barn.
Last summer we started the task of locating some high quality clay to rejuvenate the yard but fell short of finding any. This spring we watched as a neighboring farm site was torn down and clay piles appeared on the horizon. We approached the party responsible for the clay and were granted access to it. Our window of opportunity came at the end of June as rains subsided and the yard dried up enough to work with the dirt.
A job well done!
The first thing that had to be done was remove the poor quality dirt. A mountain of dirt/manure was created. This will be hauled to the field in fall once the crops are harvested. We then borrowed a dump truck from a neighbor to haul in the clay. The clay was packed layer by layer throughout the cattle yard to give the steers a firm foundation.
All in all, a lot of time was spend on this project but it the results are well worth it. Happy steers make great steaks! Continue reading →