Sunday, December 17, 2017

WHAT A YEAR!

Our 2017 has been quite a year. We more than doubled the amount of tillable acres we operate through two new rental contracts and brought in an additional 150 feeder calves to graze cover crop this fall. The additional workload this spring and fall has pushed my sanity to the limit. This year, like all the others, has provided me with a sharp learning curve regarding cover crop selection and termination procedures, and low crop prices continue to make farming a formidable challenge. However, the most important event this year was the birth of our little girl Eden which I will fawn over at the end of the post.

No-tilling corn into a grazed cover crop.
Corn follows the wheat/cover crops in our rotation. Some of the cover crop was grazed last fall and some didn't have any cattle grazing it and was allowed to grow uninhibited. The number one problem with no-till corn is getting a good stand established into the previous years crop residue. So needless to say, stand establishment was a much greater challenge in the cover crop that wasn't grazed. Even though the residue managers on our corn planter were set rather aggressively and the down pressure was maxed out, the residue in some areas was just too thick to establish a proper stand of corn. If the cover crop is not grazed down to eliminate some of the residue prior to planting corn, I believe it needs to be strip-tilled. Perhaps some of the newer model planters with pneumatic down pressure and residue managers would be up to the task of planting into that much residue but our older planter was not up to the job. Thinking on the positive side though, with all that residue covering the soil surface we pretty much eliminated any erosion potential.

This spring was very wet, making planting and spraying windows very slim and hard to come by. Terminating winter hardy cover crops on time became very difficult. One field being planted to corn had red clover and rye grass coming back from the previous year. Yes rye grass. I was happy for the good stand of red clover and the supplemental nitrogen it would supply. I no-tilled corn directly into this field but was unable to come back and terminate the cover crop for almost two weeks. Red clover can be a very impressive weed smothering plant. Unfortunately, this made it very good at choking out corn as well. Even after terminating the cover crop it was very difficult for the corn plant to push up through the mass of dead red clover and rye grass.  We did strip-till a few passes in the middle of the field for a comparison. It became very evident on the yield map exactly where those passes were because the stand of corn, and thus the yield, was much better.


"Lucky" doesn't even begin to describe it.
I'm the type of person who likes to save the best for last. The most important and life changing event this year was the arrival of our little girl Eden on June 15th. She came six and a half weeks early and spent three weeks at Children's Hospital in Minneapolis before she got to come home on the 4th of July. Sara spent the majority of May at the Mother-Baby Center in Minneapolis (right across from Children's) because she developed preeclampsia while in the twin cities for work. Her blood pressure could no longer be controlled so doctors performed an emergency c-section at 10:45 PM on June 15th for Sara and Eden's safety. I have never witnessed such compassion and professionalism as I did from the staff at Children's and the Mother-Baby Center. Words can not do justice to how incredible the nursing staff and doctors were at these two hospitals. Eden just turned six months old earlier this week and I find the time going by much too fast. She loves to be held and can melt her daddy's heart with a smile or a giggle. Truth be told, I wouldn't mind if she stayed this age. She has made this our best year yet and we are extremely grateful. We wish everyone a merry Christmas and a happy New Year. Thanks for reading.