Friday, August 30, 2013

2013 silage harvest: week 1 recap

The first week of our summer/fall silage harvest will be coming to an end later this afternoon, and so far I am very happy with our yields. We're averaging 14 tons of chopped corn per acre on the first 22 acres harvested, which is about as good as it can get for the ground we planted it on. And not only are we chopping lots of "cow food", it looks like the feed quality is also going to be pretty good. It will be interesting to see if we can maintain these yields as we finish our corn crop, which we should be able to do next week barring weather delays or major equipment issues. After we finish the corn, we'll move into the sorghum crop.

chopping corn for silage

a mild and moist summer led to 15ton/acre yields in this field

While we've had a few minor, inevitable equipment issues, preventative maintenance has keep the chopper in the field and out of the farm shop.

a load of corn silage being dumped into the bunker

Friday, August 23, 2013

Shifting gears (and forages)

putting the silage chopper back together
Our attempt to bale hay this week as pretty much been a disaster. We were able to get nearly 100 bales off of half of our cut acreage, but it is going to be some really low quality stuff. After yesterday afternoon's brief shower (the fifth straight day of rain), we decided to let the remaining hay sit until next week. Some we will bale and then use as "erosion control". The rest we'll allow to rot down and essentially re-fertilize the fields.

All is not as gloomy as the clouds we've been seeing over and over, though.  The wet weather that has plagued our hay harvest this week has been very beneficial to our silage crops. We have replaced a few parts on our silage chopper and hope to have it back together by sometime tomorrow. Our plan is to chop just enough this weekend to feed "green chop" to the cows before we go into full-scale silage harvest mode next week. We will start with our corn and then move into our BMR sorghum varieties.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Wet hay say, "Bale another day."

I've always heard that the ideal time to cut burmudagrass hay is 30-35 days after the previous cutting. Well, that's exactly what we did with 52 acres of the stuff last Thursday and Friday. At the time, the weather forecast showed a fair chance of rain on Saturday, and then nothing greater than 20% before the chances rose to 50%+ during the second half of this week. Our thought was that it would have enough time to dry even if it did get a little wet Saturday, and we should have it all baled and hauled out of the fields by the end of Wednesday.

It stayed cloudy but never rained on Saturday. Meanwhile, the greater rain chances shifted to the first of the week.

We got 0.1" of precipitation during an afternoon-long mist/drizzle on Sunday. The not-fully-dried-out hay was now wet.

We never saw the sun on Monday, but we did see a couple of short downpours. Needless to say we never made it into the hayfield.

By midday today we were finally getting enough sunshine to start giving it a try. I spent 3.5 hours "fluffing" some of the hay with the tedder to speed up the drying process, and by 4pm the first 10 acres was dry enough to bale.  As luck would have it, though, a stray rain shower found its way into the field just as the hay rake and baler were doing the same. Once again, hay baling must be postponed another day.

I guess there are two things that we can learn from the events of the past few days. First of all, never place too much faith in a weather forecast beyond three days. And secondly, a farmer can ALWAYS find an opportunity to complain about the weather, even in the midst of one of the best summers weather-wise in recent memory.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Summer Break is over

For the first time since late May, my wife and kids were up and ready to go before I made it back home from the morning milking. Yes, today is first day of the new school year.  Summer break is over, and, coincidentally (or not), so is my hiatus from this blog.

another cloudy, damp August morning
The story over the last 10-12 weeks has definitely been the weather. Other than a dry stretch during the second half of June, we've had more than adequate amounts of rainfall and the summer heat hasn't been nearly oppressive as normal. In fact, I dare say we've had a few days of very "comfortable" weather this summer. Though late getting it planted, our silage crops look to have taken advantage of the extra water, and our first cutting of bermudagrass hay was outstanding. The second cutting is currently on the ground, but yesterday's drizzle and this morning's clouds will likely either delay or postpone the baler going into the field.

Well, it's 7:30 and time to get back to work. You can follow me on Twitter (@gilmerdairy) for a "play-by-play" of the work day, and I'll occasionally post a photo or short farm video there, too. So until next time, y'all have a "dairy' good day!