View From the Cab

Hot, Hot, Hot

Richard Oswald
By  Richard Oswald , DTN Special Correspondent
This year's View From the Cab farmers are Chase Brown of Decatur, Illinois, and Jim Hoover of Newport, Pennsylvania. (Brown photo by Pam Smith; Hoover photo by Edwin Remsberg)

LANGDON, Mo. (DTN) -- "We're in bad shape. We're really, really dry. If we don't have a rain in the next week or so we're going to be hurt." That's the summation by DTN View From the Cab farmer Jim Hoover of crop conditions at his place, Hoover's Turkey Farm, outside Newport, Pennsylvania.

When DTN contacted Jim late Sunday, he'd just finished watching a smattering of sprinkles that provided little more than encouragement for corn and soybean plants on his dry, red shale Pennsylvania soil.

"We haven't had anything for a couple of weeks. It's nice to have a little. We got maybe a tenth or two," he said. Echoing sentiments of weather-challenged farmers everywhere, Jim told DTN "It's never pleasant. You wait for the storms to go through and they either go north or south. Corn and soybeans around here really look rough. We had some stuff we got in early that looked good. Pods on soybeans aren't forming now like they should. It's kind of discouraging," he said.

On a brighter note, summer crop triticale grown for seed and straw has been good. "We just finished up Thursday night. Everyone is tired and glad to be done. (Yield was) unbelievable. The wheat was too. We had one triticale field that went over 100 bushels per acre."

Yields have been so good in fact, his buyer has temporarily run out of storage space for the crop. "We're storing it on our grain trailers. It's really clean. You don't see a weed seed or anything when you look across the top of a load. Nothing but grain," Jim explained.

Big crops leave big residues. "We have over 1,500 3x3x8 foot big square bales of stored triticale straw. It's bright gold straw. I have people call wanting to know 'what is that?'" he said.

It's been hot with highs in the 90s. That means doubling up on fans inside the turkey barns. "We have to worry about heat. Normally there are six fans, 50 feet apart, hanging down from the middle. We had to double that and put them 25 feet apart." Wire mesh on building sidewalls allows air circulation with help from more exhaust fans in the walls. But "lint" and dirt can build up on mesh, which cuts back airflow. "We wash it out with a high pressure hose, blowing water outside the building" to keep floors inside dry as possible.

Nipple waterers supply plenty of fresh water for birds while minimizing leakage and moisture in litter. "So far they're in pretty good shape. We haven't lost any birds. We have a younger flock that's only about four weeks old. They're doing fine and still have plenty of room, so they can run from one end of the building to the other," Jim told DTN.

But turkeys don't always react to conditions the way other livestock might. "They hunker down to get cool. Then another one does that. Pretty soon they make a pile. It's the same way when they're scared. Thunderstorms can scare them. What scares them is when lightning strikes nearby and changes the contrast of light. If it makes a loud crack that can scare them too. Sometimes when you get flocks in the spring or the fall when the curtains are down if you get a strip of light coming in through the curtain you can lose a couple thousand birds in a couple of days until they get used to that," Jim said.

Birds that pile up aren't always lost. But preventing death loss requires pound-of-cure exertion on the part of the farmer.

"You can save them if you're there, but you better be in your 20s, 30s, or 40s. It's pretty hard on a guy in his 70s," Jim said.

Meanwhile, outside Decatur, Illinois, View From the Cab farmer Chase Brown has seen heat of his own. "It's been really, really hot. It was miserable pretty much all week," he told DTN.

But heat combined with rain isn't so bad. According to Chase, corn around Decatur looks like most people have come to expect from northern Illinois -- "tremendous."

"Some say better than 2014. I do not agree with that. There are holes in some fields. And we have had some stress. And temperatures at night aren't going below 75, some plants are using sugar that won't get into the ears. N is another concern. We had 10 inches of rain in December. I think guys who fall applied may have lost some. We did some in the fall. I can't say I can see any difference in corn that was fall applied and corn that was y-dropped (with liquid N in the spring) but that might change in the next few weeks." On the other hand, "2014 was just perfect. It never got above 90," Chase explained.

Heat and humidity made up Chase's mind -- fungicide was going to be a necessity on most fields. "There is no disease yet, but I have absolutely no regret applying fungicide. I think we're gonna need it. I can't say I've ever seen southern leaf rust in any of our fields. Typically, what we treat for is gray leaf spot," he said.

"I'm seeing a lot of elbowing and lodging on the outside of our fields. I think that came from wind a few weeks ago. The corn crop looks healthy. We had a heck of a sweet corn crop if that's any indication."

After a rocky start seeding forage sorghum, plants have emerged and it's a good stand. But it has competition. "When we vertical tilled we kind of planted all the (lost) wheat. I put all the N on for the sorghum when I planted. Now we have bright green strips of volunteer wheat. It makes great feed so it doesn't bother me being in there, but I wish it hadn't taken up the sorghum's N," Chase said.

"All the cow hay is put up. The cows are fed for the winter." It wasn't easy what with rain and humidity that kept most fields damp until midday with dew coming up again by early evening. The part of the crop Chase planned to sell was impacted too. "It's a little frustrating. We went from having high-dollar horse hay to having low-quality cow hay. We can still sell it, but we won't get premium price out of it."

"We're talking about cutting back on how much pure alfalfa we're going to do. We just haven't had the climate to deal with it. It needs to be dug up anyway. We just won't reseed it," Chase explained.

DTN reached Chase by cell phone late Sunday just after he'd pulled off the road for the night in Oklahoma City. He and his wife Ashley were on the way to New Mexico to look at some cattle, possible replacement stock for their purebred Hereford cowherd.

"It's always fun coming here. They're true cowboys out here," he said.

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Richard Oswald