Spring is always a busy time on the farm. It is the time of year when the ground is thawing out, animals spend more time outside and spring planting kicks into high gear. Many tasks need to be performed in a short period of time. This includes spreading manure stocks (on livestock farms), tilling the land, planting, spraying and of course on dairy farms, as with every day of the year, the cows need to be milked on a regular routine.
It is very important during the winter and early spring to be doing maintenance on the equipment. This includes tractors, wagons, planters and seed drills. A tractor, just like a car, requires service at regular intervals. You need to change the engine oil as this is what keeps the engine lubricated and running smoothly. Just as important is the hydraulic oil which serves two purposes: this includes lubricating the transmission (a series of gears that transmits the engines power to turn the wheels) and is also used to control the equipment that is pulled by the tractor. These are just two of the major areas where maintenance is very important but there are many others areas just as important to ensure a smooth and less frustrating spring planting.
Cows, pigs, sheep and other forms of livestock are always producing manure. This manure is an excellent fertilizer to be spread on the fields. The optimum time to do this is in the spring before planting crops such as corn that require a large amount of nitrogen, which allows for the most amount of the nutrients to be used by the plant. Farmers are not allowed to spread manure on frozen ground or ground that is covered in snow; this is to minimize the amount of run-off getting into creeks and waterways. Many farmers will do soil tests as well as manure sample tests to ensure the crop will receive all the required nutrients for optimum growth. If the manure isn’t able to supply all the nutrients the plant requires, fertilizer many be spread on the soil to optimize the nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium (N-P-K).
There are a few different ways to plant crops. One of the oldest methods of tillage is using the moldboard plow to turn the soil in the fall followed by a few passes in the spring with a cultivator or disk before planting the crop, to ensure a flat and even surface. Many farmers are starting to use no-till planting, with this method no tillage is done in the fall. The farmer will plant directly into the field requiring no tillage. An advantage to this method is there is less fuel being used because of the reduced number to passes over the field before planting. There are many other combinations of tillage depending on different soils types and crop to be planted.
Once the crop has been planted it is very important to keep a constant watch on the crops. One 25 kg bag of seed can cost the farmer upwards of $200. Things that are important to watch include: even germination across the field, pest/weed pressure. If pests or weeds are spotted it in the field it is important to spray pesticides or herbicide quickly to minimize the crop loss and ensure the crop has optimum growing conditions.
Spring is a very busy time on the farm but a very rewarding time when you see your crops growing in the fields and harvest them in the fall. Many pieces of farm equipment are larger than your families car so when you’re out on the road and see a tractor pulling a large piece of equipment with a slow moving vehicle sign in the back, slow down, give them space and of course wave to them, farmers love to wave at people. If you’re driving by a field and see a farmer working take a minute to stop and watch what they are doing to produce the high quality that your family enjoys many times a day.