Wheat is one of the grain crops we grow around our farm. It is all sold with an intention of going to the food market to be used as flour for something like cookies or pastry. But harvesting that grain is only the beginning for the crop, as we also want to harvest the stalk of the dried up wheat plant. Continue reading
It may be among the more controversial practices around the farm, but spraying pesticides is an essential one. Why is it so essential? Well, as the sprayer heads out to get a head start on the spring weeds, let’s take a look.
As we head into spring, one of the big jobs for the next few months is going to be to harvest, haul & store the feed for the next year for the cows.
One of my favourite YouTubers is Geoffrey, a dairy farmer in Saskatchewan. He has put together a great video on some of the ways his family harvests forages (like hay, pea & barley silage) that will be fed to their cows.
Now that spring has arrived, farmers are heading to the fields to get their crops planted for the year. While farmers and the general public are often in a rush to get places when on the roads, we must remember to practice safe driving procedures throughout this busy time. Everyone will arrive home safe to their families at the end of the day if the public remains vigilant while driving, and the farmers use proper safety signs and lights to signal their traffic intentions. And remember, only pass farm equipment when it’s safe to do so. Driving behind a slow moving vehicle for 2 miles takes the same amount of time as waiting at 2 stop lights in the city. Be safe and enjoy the warm weather!
As Canadians, we are good at many things – but one of the things we’re best at is talking about the weather. Especially our dislike of the weather. It always seems to be able to be too hot, too cold, too wet, too something. This is always extremely evident once we start getting snow and it’s been on the ground for a while. It’s wet, it’s cold and if you’re not tobogganing, skiing or snowshoeing – most tend to find it more bothersome than exciting.
Unless of course, you’re a farmer.
If you’re a farmer like us? We love snow. Love love love it.
For one? Snow has great insulating properties. It covers up perennial plants like strawberries and keeps them from being damaged by the cold weather, or short term changes we see between the warmth and the cold. It allows them to have a better winter, stay healthier and produce a better crop the following season. Every year we put strawberries “to bed” by covering them up with a layer of straw to help them survive the harsh Canadian winters filled with cold and wind. The plants are much healthier when this layer of straw is covered with healthy layer of snow. (And it’s the straw that helps collect the snow to keep on top of the plants!) Years where there is little or no snow cover often means that the plants and the fruit will struggle to produce the next spring and summer because they exerted so much energy trying to survive the winter and build themselves back up into healthy plants once spring arrives. If there is not enough straw or snow cover, the crowns of the plants can be damaged both temporarily or permanently.
Spreading straw, trying to get it done before there’s too much snow cover!
Snow is also great for farmers because it adds moisture to the soil. As farmers, we rely a lot on mother nature to give us enough water in the soil to grow our crops. If there has been a lot of snow over the winter, then when that snow melts, the excess water will drain into the fields and add moisture to the ground. Starting off a season with a healthy amount of water in the soil means that plants and trees are better able to grow the next summer. For us on our farm, it also usually amounts to being able to harvest a better maple syrup crop, because the trees have more water that they are able to turn into sap.
And one of the biggest reasons we love snow though? It gives us a little time to slow down, catch up on work, catch up with family, and possibly even get in a small vacation or two.
Vacations various family members have been able to take over the years in our off season!
…When we’re lucky!
This fall, with the wet weather we have had all summer and continuing now, it is making corn harvest slower for many farmers. Since most crops were late this summer due the moisture and lower heat unit accumulation (this means there was less heat and sunlight to help the crops grow and mature), the crops matured later and therefore did not have time to dry down in the field before the cooler weather set in. It is important that corn and other crops are at a certain moisture in order to store without worrying about spoilage. Usually the moisture that farmers aim to have corn at is below 16 percent, this way if it is stored on farm it will not spoil in the bin, and if it is sold to an elevator, they will not have to pay to dry it.
Many farms now have a drying system in place, as it is usually difficult to let the corn dry down to 16 percent in the field without losing yield. This is because as genetics are getting better, farmers choose longer season corn varieties in order to get higher yields. If they were to choose a short season variety that would dry down early in the field, they would be giving up enough yield that the cost of drying is far worth it.
On my farm we are currently harvesting corn at 23-28 percent moisture. This means that we have quite a bit of drying to do! The dryer bin that we have in place, like at most farms, is not able to hold all that we have in the field. This means that we must harvest enough to fill a bin, and then wait for it to dry until we can harvest more. It is this process (and that the yields are so good!) that is slowing many farmers down this year, because while there is usually some drying to do, it normally is a much faster because the corn is not as wet. The drying system that we use is one that is very common on farms. The bin uses a system of stirators which move the corn around, as well as a fan and heating system. Our bin is heated using propane.
This year, with some of the crazy wind storms that we experienced in the summer, there is also quite a bit of corn that has lodged (fallen over). This is another factor that many farmers are having to contend with when harvesting as they cannot drive as fast and in some cases have to combine all one way, meaning lots of extra driving and time taken.
Even with all these challenges that farmers are facing, things are still getting accomplished and harvested, and this means happy farmers.
It’s that time of year again – school has started, the days are getting shorter and cooler, the leaves are changing, and the crops are almost ready! This means that it is time for farmers to switch things into high gear. While they have been working hard all year, harvest time is extra busy for everyone. On my farm, harvest is a little less hectic than on others though. Since we only crop 175 acres, as the hens are the main focus of our farm, we do not own our own combine and therefore get our soybeans and corn custom harvested by a neighbour. When our custom operator comes to harvest our soybeans, we must be ready with wagons in order to ensure he always has a place to unload when the combine is full. We want everything to be as efficient as possible in order to get things done fast in case the weather changes and also because the custom operator has many other fields to harvest.
The first crop that will be harvested on our farm is the soybeans – they will likely be ready at the end of this week if the weather stays good. As soybeans mature, they begin to drop their leaves and the pods and seeds dry down. A good way to tell if a field is ready is if the soybeans “pop”, but a more scientific way to tell if the field is ready to harvest is if the soybeans are less than 15% moisture. This year, we did a bit of a trial on my farm where we planted two different varieties of soybeans that are in two different maturity categories to see if it would affect the yield. In soybeans, the maturity or relative maturity (RM) is categorized by numbers, with a lower RM soybean maturing faster than a high RM soybean. In our plot, we planted a 1.0 RM and a 1.5 RM soybean. There has been only a small difference in how mature the soybeans have been over the course of the growing season, but over the past few weeks, the small difference has been very easy to see. When we take off this plot, we will have a weigh wagon that we will use to measure the yield of the two different varieties to see if one is higher. Through my job as an agronomist, we also have a few other similar plots in collaboration with the local Soil and Crop Improvement Association comparing the RM of soybeans, so we can use these results to help determine if using a higher RM will give us higher yields.
After our beans are harvested, it will be a little while before our corn is ready to harvest, and so we will get a bit of a break, but not for long! So as you are around the country side over the next little while and see all sorts of machinery in the fields and on the road as farmers harvest corn silage, and soybeans, and edible beans, and grain corn and more, drive safe and remember that farmers are in just as big a hurry to get things done as you 🙂
Oats can make a tasty breakfast. Cows think so too! And while yours may come rolled, boiled and with a bit of cinnamon, for the cows they like them either plain or wrapped up with the stem. This week we harvested our oats that will be used to feed the cows.
Step one – cut them!
Using our haybine, the green oats are cut into rows. If we waited until they dried – they would sprout while in the bales.
Step two – bale them! Using a round baler, they are baled up while still a bit wet.
Step three – wrap them! Wrapping them in plastic helps to keep the feed from spoiling.
When we are ready to feed the bales, we will use the loader tractor to put the bales into large feeding boxes that allow the cows to eat whenever they are hungry for snack!
Have you ever been driving down a country road and noticed the tall cylinders on many farms made of cement or steel. Those cylinders are called silos, and their purpose is to store feed for livestock. On my farm we have two silos used for feed storage one holds haylage and the other high moisture corn. Haylage is simply damp hay that is chopped into roughly 2.5cm pieces and put into the silos for storage and to ferment. In the first video I will show you how we transform our hay into silage and put it into the wagon for transportation to the silo. The second video shows you how we unload the wagons and blow it into the top of the silo for storage to be fed to the animals as needed.
For any farmer spring is a busy, busy time. There is equipment to get ready, fields to work, animals to care for, fertilizer to order, manure to spread, barns to open up again, and, in some areas, there are even stones to pick. That’s right, picking stones.
You might never have thought about this as a chore that farmers have to do, but in stony areas of Ontario it is a necessary and essential task. On my farm, especially when I was growing up, a regular family chore each spring was going over our fields and removing stones. We would all head out in our work boots, and warm layers, one person would get lucky and get to drive the tractor that day, and the rest of us would each get a fork to help load the stones into the tractor’s bucket. We would then go over the fields and pick any stone that was big enough to harm our equipment.
Stones can cause big trouble with machinery, especially planters. There are many parts in planters such as disks and springs and packer wheels that can not only break on impact with a stone, but it can cause all the hard work that a farmer did to set his planter just right to come undone. This can lead to many other problems in the field because seed placement in the soil won’t be as accurate.
Fortunately, as I’ve gotten older and busier, there are some solutions and other options to stone picking. For example, you can buy mechanical stone pickers that can be hooked up to a tractor and driven over a field in order to eliminate some of the labour needed. Another way that farmers have lessened the need for stone picking is through less and shallower tillage. For example, on my farm just like many others, we used to plow the field every year. This was a deep form of tillage and would bring many more stones to the surface resulting in lots of stone picking. Now we use no tillage in our soybeans, and only disc (a shallow form of tillage) for our corn. This means fewer rocks are brought to the surface, less time is spent picking rocks, and we have more time to focus on the many other spring tasks to be done around the farm.