Winter Shop Projects

Air Seeder

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!

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Scale Weigh Bar Replacement

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.

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Cattle Yard Concrete

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.

Weed Control and Fertilization

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.

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Planting 2019

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.

Shop projects – spring 2019

After harvest our machinery gets cleaned and inspected with a list of what needs to be done to ready it for the next crop year. This list gets prioritized into winter and summer projects. This winter seemed to be busier than usual. Not only did we spend way too much time moving snow but the pre-spring project list was longer than usual.

Every fall the air conditioner condenser, on our semi tractor that actually has a working AC, fills up with bees wing from all the corn chaff flying around. As you can see in these images, it’s rather nasty and in a very difficult area to see. This means blindly cleaning and using a phone to take these photos to monitor the progress.

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Another snowy winter!

The 2018-2019 winter started out rather slow but once the snow started in mid January, it was never ending along with the winds. We burned through more tractor fuel than we ever have trying to keep up. Not only did we have two yards to clear, we also had to blow portions of the road to travel between farm sites. I am thankful for the snow blower because if we were piling with a loader we would have run out of space to push the snow especially between my garage and barn.

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Liming in January

It’s unusual to get field work done in the middle of winter in Minnesota. January of 2019 was the exception for us. We are farming a field that has never been grid sampled for fertility. From our past experiences of using this practice since the mid 1980s, we know that grid sampling is the only way to know what is going on in the field on a smaller scale. The field is broken down into 440′ x 440′ grids that are each sampled independently. A map is then generated that shows what each grid needs for fertilizer. Some findings are interesting and show how past farming practices still are visible today.

A couple discoveries of note in this field:
1. The 160 acres was farmed by two different owners for many years. This shows up most dramatically in the pH and zinc levels. The south 80 has extremely low pH in a large number of the grids. The north 80 has extremely low zinc levels in a large number of the grids
2. You can use the Phosphorous levels as an indicator of where the farm site was located and where they hauled the manure. The P levels are much higher in these areas even decades later.

We visited with the coop about our spring fertilizer needs in early January and asked them if lime was ever applied in the winter. They said that usually it could be done in March if conditions allow. A day later they called to say that the applicator was able to do the lime right now if we had an area that they could access to pile the lime without getting stuck in snow drifts. We took the snow blower to the field and cleared a path. They hauled lime in on Saturday, January 11 and spread it on Monday.

Soybean Harvest 2018

It was a slow started to our 2018 soybean harvest. After nearly filling our first corn bin, the weather finally cooperated for beans.

We combined our seed beans first. These need to be done in the most ideal conditions to insure top quality for Pioneer and bring our farm the maximum premiums. Premiums are paid based on moisture content, clean-out and foreign matter in the bean sample. There was a prolonged rainy spell right before combining that caused some of the soybean pods to split open and drop beans on the ground.

We were pleasantly surprised at the soybean yields. After a summer of endless rain and large areas drowned out, most fields yielded at or above our average. Numerous areas of 70 plus bushel beans made up for the areas with no beans.

Aphid Spraying

Post flooding, the beans that are left are looking great! Scouting for aphids is next on the list. After a couple of times out, it was determined that spraying would pay off in 2018. Normally scouting is much more prolonged but the aphids were coming hard and fast with exploding populations!