View From the Cab

Dog Days of Summer Arrive Early

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) -- "I can handle the heat but not that humidity." That's the observation DTN View From the Cab farmer Chase Brown of Decatur, Illinois, made about last week's weather.

"Tuesday was the hottest," Chase told DTN from his home late Sunday. It was especially bad because some of Chase's purebred Hereford heifers were implanted with embryos that day. The secret to success is body temperature. And with high temperatures of about 95 degrees Fahrenheit combined with the activity of herding his cattle into pens and chutes, body temperatures were likely too warm. "I don't have a whole lot of hope they'll stick and settle, as hot as it was," he said.

Whether it's software or artificial breeding, technology comes at a cost. "Ten dollars to $15 for CIDRs and drugs, vet charges of $15 to put the embryos in -- embryos cost $500 to $1,000. It can get pricey if it's a hot summer. If I can get 70% success (on the first try), I'm happy," Chase said.

Artificial insemination doesn't offer the advantage of hand picked in addition to sires... but it's cheaper than using embryos. AI costs on average about $25 to $75 per straw. Each one-half cc (cubic centimeter) straw of semen -- straws are about the size of the stir sticks people use to stir their coffee -- offers enough semen and sperm to breed one heifer or cow. Depending on the value of a bull, sperm-count levels can be adjusted from 20 million to 40 million or more. "Breeders may dilute semen in order to be able to sell more. One bull I really liked cost $45 per straw. That bull sold for $100,000. I can't afford to pay that, but I can afford to pay $45," Chase said.

Semen and embryos are stored in nitrogen tanks capable of achieving interior temperatures of minus 300 degrees Fahrenheit. Nitrogen must be replenished about four times each year. It costs about $350 per tank, per year, for nitrogen. If a nitrogen tank goes dry, the effects can be irreversible. "One friend of mine whose tank went dry lost 30 years of genetics."

You never know when you might want a 40-year-old bull. Chase told DTN that bulls popular in the 70s have made a resurgence today due to their unique genetic potential in combination with modern-day cows.

Weather hasn't been totally dry. Pop-up showers last week delivered anywhere from 0.30 of an inch to a full inch across the Browns' farm. "I wish it had been a little more consistent and we had gotten more," Chase said.

Weather has been dry and warm enough that some corn has been rolling. It's been a varietal thing with 12 rows of one variety showing signs of heat stress while the next 12 of a different corn look fine. "I wouldn't say we've lost any yield potential yet, but I would say in another 10 days we might," Chase explained.

Tallest corn is chest high. Soybeans are 6 to 8 inches.

Weed pressure is increasing. It's time to begin spraying herbicide on soybeans. Chase said all their soybeans will be sprayed in the next few days. He has observed burning in neighbors fields where weed treatments have turned entire fields brown.

More hay was mowed on Thursday. If drying conditions are right, baling should have started on Monday of this week. With wheat harvest approaching as soon as this weekend, the goal is to have the hay up first. Chase reports wheat being harvested south of Decatur, within 40 miles of his farm.

Multiple applications of N to corn fields throughout the growing season have grown in popularity. An airstrip on the farm is leased to a commercial aerial applicator. He's made inquiries about whether hay on the landing field has been bailed and removed in time for aerial application of ammonium nitrate to standing corn fields beginning this week.

"As a family, we try to stay active in community service. A fundraiser in August titled 'An Evening in Key West' needs donated items for their auction." Last year Chase built a purple martin house that brought $1,500. This year's donation is more ambitious: A child's playhouse built to look like a pirate ship. It's a group effort. "Two brothers-in-law, an uncle and Dad and I are working on it," Chase explained.

Meanwhile, near Newport, Pennsylvania, Jim Hoover and his family at Hoover's Turkey Farm had a "beautiful couple of days. We need rain. Other than that, we're in good shape," Jim told DTN late Sunday.

Jim told DTN his corn is waist high and soybeans are 6 to 8 inches tall. High temperatures last week were in the 80s with lows in the 50s.

Craig, Jim's son, does the spraying. Last week he got all the farm's soybean fields sprayed for weeds. One of their biggest problem weeds isn't easy to kill. "Roundup actually gets the pokeberries, but it takes a while," Jim said.

In addition to pokeberries, another problem weed is dock. "Mason (Jim's grandson) and Kato (Jim's hired man) spent three days on dock and pokeberries using hand sprayers to spot spray with crossbow. We were warned it could make the corn brittle, but if we don't spray, we won't have any corn," Jim explained.

Sweet corn is ready. Daughter, Stacey, and son-in-law, Mark, sell direct to consumers in their own farmers market. They rely on migrant workers to help get the crop out on time. This time the person they normally contract with showed up with extra help. That facilitated meeting demand for the perishable farm product. "I have so much respect for those people. How they can just go out there and pick and pick, they never complain. I am really impressed with them," Jim said.

Wheat cutting time is close. Inspectors from the state department of agriculture have verified the crop's quality. Trucks that will haul grain and straw to market must be checked over and inspected this week. In addition to that, based upon a mechanic friend's advice, a 9-year-old recently-purchased used truck will have the radiator rebuilt. Wagons used to haul wheat in from the field are being checked for field readiness. Mason will be welding minor breaks and checking for steering axle problems. "You really have to stay on top of stuff like that," Jim said.

In addition to older machinery maintenance, a new tractor has had ongoing problems. The dealership has struggled to fix it because the company has been slow to correct its design. Jim was told by a mechanic friend that some farmers have been slow to recognize the importance of technology and electrical systems to the operation of farm tractors.

Technology can also be a problem when it comes to annual certification of planted acres at FSA. Jim's farm is made up of about 33 rented acreages. Each of those must be certified. "My appointment was at 7 a.m. It should have taken about two-and-a-half hours. If the report comes up short of official acres, you have got to find it," Jim said. When Jim's report came up short 55 acres, the person with the most seniority in his local FSA stepped in. "After almost five hours, she told me, 'I think we've found the problem and it's the government's fault for a change. Our computer was using (official) government acreages rather than taking into account reported acres from the producer.' When I walked out of the office, it was 10 after 12," Jim explained.

Sunday was Father's Day. Craig and his wife, Jill, offered up a Saturday night dinner in town. But typical to his daughter and son-in-law's situation, a farm-raised gift was in store.

"Tonight we had the last of the strawberries and shortcake I got for Father's Day, thanks to Stacey and Mark," Jim said.

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Richard Oswald