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
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.
This week we finished one of the most important jobs of the year, harvesting corn that will be used as feed for the cows. (There is a video on YouTube on how we fill the silo)
Now that the silo is full, how are we going to get all of it out? When my grandfather put his first silo up, he had to climb up each day with a pitchfork and pitch it out. Talk about labour intensive! Then, along came a helpful workhorse – the Silo Unloader.
This machine makes emptying the silo a fast and easy job.
Hanging from the top of the silo, the unloader is gradually lowered as it eats away at the corn silage. An auger slowly spins around, bringing the feed from the outside of the silo, into the centre of it. From the centre, three strong paddles spin so quickly, that it blows the feed up into the air, hitting the hood that directs the feed an opening in the side of the silo.
From that opening, the feed runs down a clear plastic chute – and into the motorized feed cart waiting to take the feed to the cows. (A blog on that isn’t far away)
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 🙂
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.