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kansasfarmer's blog

October 2007 - Posts

  • Halloween

    October 31st means several thing to me.  It is my goal for finishing harvest, that will not be met this year.  It is the anniversary of the biggest rain I ever saw, 14 inches in 1998.  Had my combine sitting on what I thought was high ground, the water still got to the top of the drive tires.  I shelled corn today on some of our lowest ground, spent the afternoon dodging trees in amongst the corn from the flood June 30 of this year.  Just as I was about to finish the field I was in, and the day, I blew a hydraulic hose on my 4wd unit on the combine dumping all the oil and leaving me sitting still, in the lowest part of the field.......had a little trouble leaving it there, but there was nothing I could do, too late in the day to get a new hose.  Thankfully, no rain is forecast for tonight or tomorrow. 

    I don't know if Halloween is even celebrated in the UK, it is a semi important holiday in the USA, little kids dress in costumes and trick or treat, heard a poll today that something like 79% of parents end up "raiding" their kids candy take(my dad always did that to us, he generally got all of the good stuff).  The slightly older kids generally get into alot of mischief on Halloween night, throw eggs, smash jack o lanterns, toilet paper alot of trees and our small towns usually nothing criminal.  In the old days they use to turn over outhouses, and my father tells of rolling burning tires down the highest hill in our town.  It isn't as lawless as it sounds, if you don't do these things in the UK it may sound rougher than it is.  Generally the fire department gets called to a minor fire or two.  The student government at school use to sell "spook insurance" around town as a fundraiser, meaning if your house got egged or shaving creamed, or anything else you owned, the stugo kids would clean it up.  My tractor was toilet papered once, actually the night of the flood, by 2 of the high school boys that helped me during the summer.  They were very proud of themselves!  Many of the TV channels will carry the classic horror shows, Dracula(Stuart probably is a neighbor to his 7 or 8 great grandchildren) Frankenstein and then the new ones like Scream.  Just giving you a glimpse into our've got the Queen and Ascot, we have toilet paper and smashed pumpkins.  After Halloween we move rapidly toward our two biggest holidays, Thanksgiving and Christmas. 

  • Done with soybeans

    I was able to finish harvesting soybeans Friday.  Our yields were more or less average, with the much higher price it was probably the highest grossing soybean crop in 21 years of farming.  Started back on corn Saturday.  Bought some 18-46-0 today for the whopping price of $486 per ton.  This will push our fertilizer costs for wheat to $50, double the price of 3 years ago.  Seed costs appear to be in the $22 per acre range, we use very little herbicide, about $6 will catch that.  It will take $2 per bushel on an average yield of 40 bpa to cover just those costs, add another $2.50 to $3 for rent and machinery costs.  We are going to be looking at $5 bushel breakeven costs, just a little scary...corn will be even worse because it takes more fertilizer. 

  • More rain

    Got another 6 tenths of rain last night, to go with the 3 inches we had Wednesday.  Saturday and Sunday were the only two decent days for combining.  Both Markw and AllyR have commented is seems our harvest goes on forever, I never really thought of it that way although it seems like it does.  You need to realize a couple of things about our harvest period.  Our wheat harvest is probably about like yours,we have about 6 to 7 days ideally, if you get a few showers that might stretch to 10 then you are done, but the wheat all matures at once, and we don't grow as much of it.  On the other hand we start planting corn the first of April, if we have weather problems you don't get it all in sometimes until the first of May, if you have really bad weather maybe you don't get it in until the middle of May(such as this year).  We plant soybeans right after corn, this year started the middle of May, got done with the first ones the middle of June, then planted some more after the wheat was taken off, ended the 7th of July.  We try to spread our maturities out both in terms of the varieties we plant and planting dates as a hedge against a hot dry snap either during corn pollination or pod set on the beans, in Kansas it is a safe bet you will get at least a few 100F plus days every summer.  My corn maturities run from 105 to 118 day corn, and my beans run from an early group 3 to a late group 4.  Another reason for spreading out planting dates and maturities is so it won't all be ready to combine at once.  Finally, in my own case you have to figure in taking care of the stock, which takes a good part of everyday as well.  My goal is to have harvest finished each year by Halloween, I am thinking that will not happen this year.


  • In the same boat you were

    So far today we have had slightly over 2 inches of rain, putting me in the same boat many of you were now with regard to harvest.  I was fairly close to being done with soybeans, had it not been for that blasted wobble box I would have been.  How long this does us in for will be determined by how much more rain we get, and how warm it gets. We were dry enough that the rain we have so far wouldn't have slowed us down much, but we are getting to the time of the year where it can stay cloudy and not dry at all during the day.  It appears our threat of hail is over for the day, that had been what we were watching for, but since the sun never came out the heat didn't build which is generally what gives us hail and tornadoes, hot humid days.  We have been lucky in this spot, missing the heavy rains around us this last weekend and getting just 2 tenths Saturday and 4 tenths Monday. 

    Saturday is the day I need to be off 485 acres of my rented grass, which means in a way it isn't so bad we won't be able to combine the rest of this week.  The flip side is it isn't great weather to wean calves in, we don't have the buildings like you have in the UK(it would be nice in wet weather to house the cattle, just not profitable).  The unfortunate thing about raising cattle and crops in this particular area is the work all comes at once, corn planting coincides with going to grass, wheat harvest coincides with haying, putting up the first cutting of alfalfa competes with planting soybeans, and then in the fall soybean, milo and corn harvest conflicts with wheat planting and coming back off of grass.  When you get into Iowa and Illinois you tend to have farmers who just farm arable, or at least more that do, whereas in our area we raise both crops and livestock.

    280 acres of land was sold in our community at auction last night, 200 acres of good haymeadow brought $1030 per acre, 80 acres of rough pasture brought $790.  Got an email from Lincolnshire that some farmland brought 10000 pounds over there.  Tomorrow night they are selling a 3180 acre tract of grass 10 miles west of me, it will be interesting to see what it brings.

  • Crime and punishment

    I guess it is a stretch to tie this blog in with farming.  I can only say that in my conversations with farmers and my non farming relatives in the UK, I found one of the many things we have in common is our problems with crime.  I have blogged earlier about our "trial of the century" here in my home county.  Of the 1000 potential jurors who reported a week ago, I am now told they have  a pool of nearly 30, they need 45 before narrowing it to 12.  The mother of the suspect is now in jail herself for threatening potential jurors.  Apparently he is not denying that he shot our Sheriff, his defense is he was high on meth and did not know what he was doing, therefore it cannot have been premeditated so he should not be executed.  For many others this question would be academic, but in a situation where almost all of us know either the victim or the shooter, and many of us know both, it is now a little harder to answer the question of when do you become not responsible for you own actions?  On one hand, the young man accused did indeed live a troubled home life.  I don't know that he ever had any contact with his real father, his extended family had numerous brushes with the law.  He was in trouble from an early age.  On the other hand, numerous people did try very hard to help him get on the right path in life, including the man he shot to death.  For my part, I guess that in my heart I believe that when you make the decision to use something that impairs your judgement, you need to be willing to accept the consequences of what you do while impaired. 

    Each morning after my wife is done with the computer I have a pretty steady routine, I check the weather, my email, the Fox news site for American news, the BBC for your news, and FWi.  This morning several things caught my eye tied into this.  One is a week old deal where the EU wanted a common statement on the death penalty(against it) but Poland held out.  The Europeans commonly criticize the USA for capital punishment, saying it is cruel and unusual punishment.  The next story that caught my eye on the Fox site was that a Florida man had been sentenced to death for beating a girl and her mother and then leaving them for alligators to eat.  The third involved a story that surfaced a week or 10 days ago about a man who brutally raped a 3 year old girl and video taped it.  The tape was "discovered" and turned over to police.  The police went all out to find the girl, which they did successfully, and the focus had been on finding the rapist, which they now have.  I believe with all my heart this man should be executed.  Not as a deterent, but because anyone who would rape a 3 year old girl does not deserve to live.  I think most of my countrymen agree with me, and we are very offended when Europe tries to paint us in the same picture with China and Iran who also use the death penalty, sometimes for the same reasons we do but often for very different reasons. While I admit that in some cases where the death penalty is asked for perhaps it is not warranted, and I actually am not certain in our local case I could vote for it if I was on the jury, in the latter 2 cases I mention I cannot imagine how a rational person could argue against putting those two men to death, and think the EU shows remarkable arrogance in criticizing our nation for doing so.

  • Singing a different song

    I got an inch of rain Monday morning.  Very welcome.  Now, more rain is forecast and for the moment I do not want it.  Each morning we have a heavy dew, the soybeans won't work until noon or later, Tuesday  it was 3pm before they would thresh, and they get tough early, often in the past I was able to cut until 9 or 10 pm, it gets dark now at about 7:10, yesterday they were getting tough a half hour before that.  The bottom line is the best day I have had I combined 40 acres, most days it has been 25.  I think it surprised some of the farmers I met that our fields are not bigger than yours.  We farm at the joining of two rivers, and many creeks feed those rivers, all the ground is river or creek bottom.  We have quite a few fields in the 10-20 acre area.  The biggest field is 105 acres, but we plant it in strips so the biggest area of any one crop is 25 acres in that field.  Changing from field to field, especially if we have to take the head off, takes some time as well.  All of our wheat will go in after soybeans, so I have none of that planted, although the 85 acres of triticale I planted to graze out is looking much better after the rain.

  • Republican Debate

    Tonight I watched the 2 hour long Presidential debate among the Republican candidates, debate number 6 I believe for an election still over a year away.  This debate focused on the economy, farming was only mentioned once, that was a jibe from one of the questioners over the 26 billion spent this year on subsidies, she should have done her homework and said, 13 billion on subsidies, the rest for foodstamps etc.  This question was asked of Mitt Romney from Massachusetts, hardly a farming stronghold, amazingly he said he supported farm subsidies as long as European farmers are being subsidised so should ours be.  With regard to energy all seem to be genuine in their serious approach to making our country less dependant on the Persian Gulf for oil, it seems this is now more of a question of national security than anything else, this translated into their support for continued government support for biofuels, but I was also surprised the majority seemed in favor of more nuclear power.  The most surprising question to me was asked of several, "Will London replace New York as the world financial center?".  Of course everyone said "no", one even said, "will the UK replace the USA as the main world power, NO".  I hadn't realized this even was a concern, but the banter back and forth made clear to me that London is controlling more and more world finance.  China has taken center stage for countries that worry us economically, while we are quite concerned about Iran militarily, all but one seemed to agree Iran must never obtain a nuclear weapon.  My final thoughts are that I still don't know who to vote for, and I am going to be mighty tired of all this by the time we get to November 2008.

  • Breakdowns

    I have been fighting a battle with my 1020 flex head, it has always been prone to problems on the wobble box end.  Several days ago right about time to quit for the night the metal bar where the sickle runs broke.  Spent most of the next day taking it apart, put new sections in the sickle and new guards since we were apart anyway, welded it and started late in the afternoon, got about 5 acres cut and broke it again.  This time I got a new piece , fixed the problem, cut 40 acres then midway through Saturday afternoon broke the new piece of metal.  Have spent most of this Sunday working on it, finally we found another brace piece loose we hope caused the problem to begin with.  Today has been one of the most humid days of the year, about 88F and humidity close to that, this morning early it was 98%.  This may be the last really warm day we have this year, as a cold front is approaching, I can hear thunder as I type this, I am hoping for a good inch or so of rain, then 10 or 15 days of dry weather to finish harvest and planting wheat.  We have been promised heavy rains for quite sometime and they have always missed us or just never happened, I need a good rain, but then I need more dry weather.

  • Finally got into some good soybeans

    Yesterday I moved to some of our best ground to cut soybeans.  They are barely mature, but with the memory of our sprouted wheat I am pushing to get things cut.  The stalks cut like barbed wire, but they threshed good and made in excess of 40 bpa, very good for the lack of late rains.  Soybeans plunged 47cents a bushel the day before, but with prices at $8.85, these beans will be the highest grossing I have ever cut. 

    To get an idea of the numbers we have been dealing with, for the last 3 or 4 years in our area we have had corn prices of $1.60-$2.50 on farm, mainly $2, wheat $2.80-$4, mostly  around $3, and soybeans running mostly between $5-$6, although I was able to forward contract some a few years ago for $7.50.  Average yields for us are about 40 bpa for wheat, 100 for corn, and 30 for soybeans.  Most rent is either shares(a third or 2 fifths to the landowner) or cash, in our area running between $30 to $65 per acre, depending on the ground.  Seed cost per acre for corn and beans run us around $30 per acre now, higher for corn if you use the newest varieties.  Seed wheat ran about $10-15 for wheat until this year.  Farmland costs $1000-$1500 per acre now, but up until the last 5 or 6 years most could be bought for less than $800.  Our guaranteed government payment has been declining each year and now is about $9 per acre arable, although 4 or 5 years ago it was around $15-$18.  Roundup costs $11 per acre applied, fertilizer costs per acre on my farm had been $25 per acre wheat, $10 for soybeans, and around $40 for corn.  If you do the math with these numbers you will see our margins have been very tight.  This is why we double crop as much as possible, and as fast as I can I sow my corn and bean ground back to rye or triticale for winter grazing.

  • Troubling forecast

    We had a tiny rain Sunday afternoon, 15 hundredths of and inch, with a hard wind.  Hail is forecast for tomorrow, by no means is that a promise we will get it, but at this stage any hail, even tiny hail, is not welcome, as it will shatter the soybeans.  What would be nice is a one inch rain, then some clear weather.  I am sticking to my guns with my full moon forecast, however it is not always right, and it only takes a little hail to ruin soybeans at this stage.  Barring breakdowns I will cut beans today as soon as the dew is off, they are just barely ready, but I would just as soon be docked for moisture as run the risk of shatter.  We have about a third of the beans still with green leaves. 10 percent cut, and the rest just almost ready, just a two or three more days of sun would finish them.  The corn will stand through most anything, it is not as important to cut as beans, if both are ready you always cut the beans first.  It took 22 acres of corn to fill a bin Friday, took 60 to fill that same bin last year, more of an indication of how bad last summer was rather than how good this crop is.

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