Friday, June 6, 2014

Calf 27 update


A group of cows and calves enjoying the shade. Calf 27 is the white faced calf to the far left.

We moved the cow calf pairs from the pasture they were born in this past week. Normally they would have been moved to summer pasture in mid May, but the calving pasture had sufficient grass to support them for longer so we concentrated on planting spring crops.

Just prior to moving the cow calf pairs to summer pasture they were vaccinated and the larger group had a bull turned out with them. Since we added more cows to the herd last winter and had two groups of cows we needed an additional bull. My son and I bought a young bull from Wolf Creek Angus Ranch, this son is more interested in the farm equipment but thinks it's cool to help select the bulls. Wolf Creek Angus is owned and operated by a couple that has been great at helping us select bulls that meets our needs in the past. Our needs and objectives are a little different than many because we will feed the calves at the farm until they reach optimum weight for the finishing phase of feeding where they will be fed for us at a feedlot. We need cattle that will gain efficiently on feed and have high quality meat that can qualify for premiums from packers. 

Even through we have been in a drought and this will be the worst wheat crop since 1989, seeding conditions this spring has been ideal. All the seed went into good soil moisture and warm soils that promote rapid seed emergence. We have all the corn, soybeans and sunflowers seeded and vigorously growing. Normally grain sorghum seeding would be starting, but we only have three fields left and with both of our planters operating they can be finished in a couple of days after the fields dry out. This past week we've received 2.5 inches of rain and another storm is just about here so those last fields will be seeded much later than the others.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

The chronicles of calf 27

Author's note: this is the initial segment of following a calf from birth. As always these photos and many more are on my Flickr photo stream. 

I have been waiting until there was a calf born with very distinctive markings that can be easily tracked before posting about springing calving, calving is what it's called when a calf is born. When I saw that Bowtie had calved I was hoping she had another white face calf, Bowtie is an all black cow except for a small patch of white hair on her forehead shaped like a bowtie. She is not a pet, just a nice calm cow like the rest of them that won't run someone over if she thinks they even looking at her calf.

Calf 27
Calf 27's first visit to the corral, he couldn't have been much more than 2 or 3 hours old when I found him in the pasture. He followed Bowtie into the corral when I fed this evening.

feeding time
Calf 20, the one with the white on his face, was Bowtie's calf last year and a full brother to calf 27.

calf 20
This is a more recent picture of calf 20 at the cattle pens. He was one of the younger calves of the ones from our cows. We bought some calves from local farmers to feed with our calves. All of the calves will go to a custom cattle feedlot in a couple of weeks for the finishing phase.

Tall grass
This is an attempt to show how tall the grass is in the calving pasture. This happens to be a patch of Big Bluestem, our native grass pastures are very diverse in different plants. Most of the cows prefer to have their calves out here, but a few have calved in the corral.

Hiding out
A calf hiding in the tall grass, I just barely noticed it when driving by. I have trails that I drive on so I can see any calves laying where I drive.

Cow and calf
I saw this cow and her calf laying in the corral one morning when I went to check on them. They seemed so content sitting in the morning light. Her calf had been born the night before.

  Newborn calf 2
Cow 9 with her new born calf minutes after she had it. I was trying to get a picture of her standing, but she just couldn't yet.

There are 16 more cows yet to have their calves keep checking back for more adventures of calf 27 and his pasture mates.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Pictures of winter 2014

Sun Dog 1
My youngest son was helping me scoop snow out of the driveway when he asked me "Dad why are there three suns?" I looked up and told him that it was a Sun Dog and they are real rare to see them here. It's the first one that I have seen. I couldn't get all of it in the screen on my phone's camera.

snow on wheat stubble, 2/6/14
A field of wheat stubble, it did a good job of catching this last snow and will have a good start for grain sorghum or corn next spring.

Winter Turkeys
It's hard to make it out in the picture, but on the right hand side of the road is a turkey crossing it. It took about three tries to get a picture of one crossing the road from a field that was in grain sorghum last year.

Turkey stratchings.
Turkeys had been scratching and digging through the snow to get to find some grain sorghum in this field. Our spring calving cows are also in this field so I'm sure they're recycling whole grain out of the pats. It reminds me of a story old timers told of having a cow, pig and chickens in a corral. The cow was the only one that was fed and the pigs and chickens would scavenge what went through the cow. I would guess the pig got scraps from the house also.

Cow number 10
Cow number 10 posing for the camera while here "sisters" are eating hay. Even though they are being pastured on grain sorghum stubble I have made hay available for them. They have gotten about all they can from the stubble and will be moved to the calving pasture in the next week if all goes well. They are due to start calving the end of February they could start earlier since they were bred to a calving ease bull and that can have them calving a couple of weeks earlier.

These photos along with many others can be found on my flickr photostream.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Harvest update 13

We wrapped up soybean harvest and wheat seeding the end of October and moved on to corn and then grain sorghum harvest.

There were some mechanical setbacks with harvest, a nagging problems with a header during soybean harvest, the header is the front part that cuts the plant and brings them into the combine. I was seeding wheat, but they told me they usually had it repaired by the time of day that the soybeans were ready for harvest, most crops will take on moisture from dew or frost overnnight and will not harvest properly until late morning.

The combine we use for corn had a couple of major components fail that took quite a bit of time to repair. After that corn harvest was smooth sailing.

I tried harvesting grain sorghum while the rest of the crew harvested corn, but was only able to do a about a hundred acres due to high moisture content of the grain and having to utilize a couple of grain bins that have huge fans that can dry the grain to acceptable levels for storage.

I shifted my attention to helping with corn harvest since we were storing the rest of the crop on the farm for winter and spring delivery to cattle feedlots and feed mills. Our irrigated corn is very high quality that cattle feeders and feed mills recognize and will possibly pay premium. Also my area uses more corn than is raised locally.

The last field of corn harvested was one that was planted to drought tolerant hybrids on a field that has a slightly limited irrigation water available and considerable variation in soils, this can make getting enough water in the soil for the crop challenging particularly in hot dry and weather periods. Half of the field was planted to seed from Pioneer/DuPont gene marker assisted breeding and the other half utilized Monsanto's drought tolerant bio tech trait. The whole field averaged 170 bushel an acre which is very good for it. I was very pleased considering the non irrigated portion was planted with the same seeding and fertilizer rate as the irrigated part, ideally the non irrigation portion would be planted with 6,000 less seeds an acre and save a 1/4 or more on fertilizer.

irrigated corn in a pasture?
This is the field that was planted to the drought tolerant corn, it's along a creek with native pastures on all 4 sides. In the foreground is some of the native plants that are common on our virgin prairie.


Dryland corn
This is some of the dryland corn on that field, this happens to be from the Pioneer seed. The ears were smaller than the DeKalb corn, but very uniform and every plant had an ear except for what the deer ate.

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This is an ear of corn from the DeKalb seed on the dryland. It had kernels set on 20 rows, I've only seen a few ears of corn that was 20 row in my entire lif

After we finished corn that afternoon I cut a test sample of grain sorghum. I had heard from neighbors and elevator employees that they hadn't been any below 17% moisture. I was surprised the sample was 15.6% moisture, so I went back and cut a semi load, that load was 15.3% moisture and has been the highest moisture since then. Grain sorghum over 15% is discounted and higher moisture levels get discounted at higher rates. The yield has been very goood and test weights higher than I expected considering the cool spell during August, the truck drivers have reported test weights up to 62 pounds a bushel, the standard is 56 pounds a bushel. Plants have gone down in places in fields, this is another problem we face with growing it. I tried a new sorghum from Pioneer/DuPont and was very pleased with it, generally there isn't new sorghum seed released so getting a new hybrid to plant is exciting.

I feel we are moving into a more normal weather pattern and with my limited experience with drought tolerant corn it will be a viable option than grain sorghum and will allow me to better maximize my labor. Many times dryland corn is ready for harvest during a slow time in September between irrigation and the beginning of wheat seeding and soybean harvest when we have more hours of daylight. I've gotten lucky this year with sorghum drying down in the field as it has, normally it won't we have to take the discounts. Freeing up time and labor now would allow time to expand our cattle enterprise and to be more timely with the management. 

On of my seed dealers that also farms has experimented with planting corn lato, I assume mid June. He left a portion of a sorghum field and then planted corn. I think this is the second or third year of experimenting with this and was very successful this year. He mentioned that he might try late planting corn on one of his better dryland fields. The reason for the experiment was to try to time the corn's water needs to the typical rain pattern of August, these are the rains that help our sorghum produce the yields it does.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Grain bin view

Tonight while transferring pictures from my phone to computer I found some that I had taken in early July during wheat harvest for a blog post.

I was sitting on top of a grain bin that we were filling with wheat during harvest looking around. It had been quite awhile since I had sat up there and took in the view. I appologize for the poor pictures, phone cameras just don't work like top end telephoto cameras.

075
This is the bin that we were filling with wheat, we raise Hard Red Winter Wheat the kind used for bread baking.


078
The truck sitting at the auger that is used to convey the grain to the bin.

070
This is looking to the southeast, the trees on the hill is where my great great grandparents put down roots after stints in different parts of the county. There is a mix of crop land and native range land in this stretch of a mile and half between the bin and old farmstead.

071
Looking to the east. If you look past the field of brome hay to the wheat field with Marestail is growing in fairly evenly spaced rows. This field had been in soybeans planted in 30 inch row spacing.

069
Looking to the south. More of the brome hay field that great granddad established when he bought this parcel in the 50's, I think that is what I was told. Where it looks brown past the hay field is seeded to grain sorghum. The green to the right of it is soybeans. Trees line a creek that winds through a pasture that is still in native prairie grass.

 074
This is looking directly to the northeast. The tin shed was a hog barn that is now just storage. The open sided shed was originally used to store small square bales of hay, now the livestock trailer, a wheat truck, and a couple of headers for the combines reside there. The field behind had been hog pens off and on most of my childhood, at one time much of the area where we were unloading the truck was also a hog pens.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Musk thistle round up

The weather has been horrible for planting soybeans and grain sorghum the past week and 1.2 inches last night made it even worse. Wet weather does make it possible to pull Musk Thistles in our range lands and waste areas. The root was sideways on this little b*$#@%d indicating it was growing around either a compacted soil layer or most likely a rock.