Farmer Focus: Time to harvest deer pest to save maize

September was a fairly cool and wet month and crops have maturing very slowly. Many of the soya beans in my area are still green from top to bottom and will need several more weeks with no frost.

I think we will have a decent crop for the most part, but the prices will be the worst for several years. Hopefully by the time you read this, I will have started harvest.

Fall marks the harvest of another kind on my farm – deer. Eight guys from Texas pay me to hunt deer. Some years that is the difference between profit and loss.

Up until 2000, we allowed hunting for free, but that year we had a particularly bad crop, so when out-of-state hunters offered to pay to hunt, I quickly accepted.

This caused quite a lot of hard feelings among local hunters – something I regret – but it is one more way to make land pay for itself. Some years more than 90,000 deer are harvested in Kansas.

Deer are also my primary pest. It is not unusual to see eight or more deer grazing in a soya bean field. They will take one or two bites from an ear of corn, then drop it and pull another one off the stalk.

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Antler sheds also end up in tyres, and have caused many flat tyres over the years. The damage doesn’t stop on the farm though. Each year in Kansas there are 8,000-10,000 car accidents involving deer, usually in the dark. I have been involved in four myself. My wife hit a deer early one morning, doing $6,000 worth of damage to a new car.

Last month we went to the Kansas State Fair. Members of 4H and FFA, our rough equivalent of Young Farmers, come to Hutchinson from all over the state to exhibit livestock.

We watched the draft horse pull, the sheep shearing demonstration and part of the Grand Drive, where the best livestock compete for supreme champion.

When I write my next article I’ll have a really good idea whether 2014 will be a success or a failure.

Brian Hind farms 1,250ha of prairie land, of which 770ha is family owned plus the rest is rented. Of this, 330ha is arable cropping with maize, soya, grain sorghum, alfalfa plus a mix of rye, triticale and turnips for grazing by 200 beef cattle. Grassland is used to produce hay.