It has been a very busy summer here as we have been in one of the worst droughts I have seen. We have caught a few timely rains here that other areas of the state have not. Our non-irrigated corn is just barely hanging on. We will have a crop from it, but it will be less than expected. Our irrigated fields look great and yield projections for those will most likely be record yields the way it looks now as we are way ahead on Growing Degree Units and have very minimal disease and insect pressure.
The popcorn looks good this year as do all of the soybeans also. I have included a few pictures of gravity irrigation and pictures of the crops to catch you all up with what is going on. Hope to get back to posting a little more often, but mother nature and kids activities dictate my free time this time of year.
We are thankful to have the irrigation on our farms as much of this country’s ag producers are not so fortunate!
Our corn is nearing roasting ear stage and it looks like harvest will be around two weeks early this year.
Spring work is in full swing at our farm theses days. This is probbly the earliest we have been able to get field work done that I can remember. It was a very mild winter and that in turn will present its own set of problems this year.
One of the problems we will see is that our compaction zones in the soild were not broke by the natural freeze and thaw that we usually experience. Another issue we will deal with may be heavier than normal disease and pest pressures in our crops. This is going to mean increased costs for our farm most likely and the use of fungicides and some insecticides which we have not had to use for quite a few years, at least on our conventional corn.
We do use both fungicides and insecticides on all of our popcorn acres as the popcorn plant is a much more susceptible plant than our yellow commercial corns. Popcorn in general has weak scores when it comes to plant diseases and pest like corn borer and rootworm as all of our popcorn is non-GMO. Much of our popcorn ends up in export channels and it is a requirement that it is non-GMO. It is all source verified and can be traced all the way back to individual fields it was rasied in. We also document every single thing we do in that field regarding application, and what is put on the crop regarding fertilier, chemicals, etc.
The one thing I think a lot of people do not realize is that we do this same documentation for all of our crops. It is a requirement of the federal government and we can be audited at any time for compliance. The majority of the yellow corn that we grow is GMO corn and requires little to no fungicides or insecticides as the plant has a natural resistance to most of our major concerns. On our farm we use GPS technology and computers to document everything we do with a time stamp. We can telll you exactly what time of day we were in a certain spot in the field, how fast we were traveling, amounts applied, wind direction, and its speed. This keeps us in compliance and also provides us documentation regarding potential drift, etc. should there be a concern with a neighbors field or farm.
So, spring work has begun, but so has the task of documenting all that we do to ensure a safe, abundant food source for all.
One of the common misconceptions with row crop farming is that we tend to take the winters off and basically sit around doing nothing. I would say a decade or two ago if you were purely a grain farmer, there was a lot more time off than now, however, most farms twenty years ago had a livestock presence also. It seems we finish harvest, start fall fieldwork, ground freezes, and you tackle the continual pile of bookwork and planning for the next year along with working on equipment for the next few months so it performs with minimal breakdowns.
We used to have a cow/calf herd on this farm and I will tell you that when it is snowing and blowing I do not miss the cows a bit, but many in our area who farm also tend to a livestock herd year round. I can tell you that if you have livestock, there is no downtime on the farm. I remember calving out heifers (Cows who are having their first calf) and waking every two to four hours for two months to check on them in cold weather. I also remember rolling bales in blizzards to try to keep them warm and give them a dry place to herd along with some energy from the feedstock. Carrying a half frozen calf through snow while the cow head butts you in the rear because you took the calf. Having a cow jump in the back of a pickup because you are tagging her calf. The days of raising livestock on a larger scale are not something we intend to do again, but we will have a small herd again someday to teach my children the responsibility of caring for food animals and understanding the purpose they serve.
Another thing that has changed over the years for our farm is that there is a tremendous amount of management and bookwork that goes into a farming operation. We have become more like a full fledged business. We have moved from written accounting ledgers, to quicken, to quickbooks, and now to managerial accounting which allows us to analyze data from a cash or accrual basis on individual field levels. We have changed from, well I think i will plant this because of rotation or preference to hard financial analysis of what crop will provide the best return while also properly nurturing the soil that is the living organism that our farm depends on each and every day to make our living. We spend days in the winter analyzing yield data, soils maps, soil fertility tests, and hybrid data to pull all of these things together and go to the field in March or April with a plan that rests on hopes of a good weather year.
You all know the sayings about farmers. “Three and three, three weeks in the spring and three weeks in the fall”, Keep the hat rolled so it will fit in the mailbox”, etc, etc. Agriculture has become a full time, highly management focused business. It has adapted and changed to meet ever increasing needs both domestically and globally while maintaining the “Family Farm”.
Do we slow down a little in the winter compared to the growing season, yes, but do accountants slow down other than year end and the tax season early in the year? Yes, they do. Is winter “downtime” on our farm? I would say, no. Is winter downtime when raising livestock on a farm? I would definitely say NO!
Well, we finished up harvest a little over a week ago and it has been a blur of activity since then. We are shredding stalks on the gravity irrigated fields, discing up our organic quarter to return it to conventional production, drying grain in the bins to prepare the crop for winter storage, cleaning up equipment, winterizing equipment, storing equipment in the building for the winter, purchasing and making commitments for next years crop inputs, planning for next years crop and meeting with our seed customers to get next years orders.
Below are a few pictures to get you caught up on our farm happenings.
Just a few pictures to catch you up with what we have going this time of year. We are currently very busy with yellow corn harvest and have seen some very good yields. We finished soybeans a few days ago. The corn is still a little too wet to go to the elevator with it so we are putting it in bins to dry it down and store.
Also included is a short video of how I taught my black lab Coal to jump up to the combine platform to ride along. I apologize for the video being sideways as I held my phone that way. Tilt your head a little to the left and you will never notice!!!