View From the Cab

Making the Best of the Situation

Richard Oswald
By  Richard Oswald , DTN Special Correspondent

LANGDON, Mo. (DTN) -- "The older you get, the tougher it is to watch it." That's the way DTN View From the Cab farmer Jim Hoover described the effects of dry weather on his crops outside Newport, Pennsylvania.

But then things got better.

"We had rain and it's made me feel better. We got a half-inch on Thursday, three-tenths on Friday, and an inch on Saturday," Jim told DTN late Sunday. "It helped the beans more than it did the corn, so I'm certainly better off now than when we talked last week. It isn't gonna be a great crop, but it's not gonna be the disaster I thought it was."

Double-crop beans planted after wheat are doing well. They're about a foot tall. "It all depends on the weather now." Jim told DTN that neighbors who grew barley have planted those acres to double-crop beans as well.

Jim and his son, Craig, grow turkeys on their home farms, with a brooder building and two finishing barns at each location. "We moved some flocks. Performance has been pretty good. Conversions were good. We're getting ready to move more over (poults from the brooding barns to finishing barns). We made it through the hot weather. We didn't lose too many -- you normally lose a few," he said.

Rain and heat aside, Jim sees another problem looming. "There's a lot of people here hurting, not from the standpoint of production but price. It's the same with wheat. I don't know what they're going to do. We have a lot of guys who if they have crop insurance, they have very low levels of coverage. These guys who don't have any money can't pay their bills," he explained.

Jim made some good forward sales. But due to dry weather he had been concerned about a production shortfall and unfilled contracts. "Now that I got some rain I don't need to worry that I sold too much." But if rain made more grain, what about selling the overage? "I can't make any money at $3.50 corn," he said.

Although his wheat and triticale crops did well, Jim has concerns about profitability of those crops, too. "When you say $4.50 on wheat, that's the same as $3.50 on corn."

Meanwhile, in Illinois, DTN View From the Cab farmer Chase Brown told DTN things are better now that the cattle are in. "A phone call from the sheriff is never good. They said there were cows on the road about six miles from us." After a moment's denial -- six miles seemed impossible -- Chase checked the pasture and sure enough, "seven replacement heifers and a bull" were missing. "They were a good six miles from home," he said. The cattle had been drylotted, but upon reaching through the fence for a taste of grass "they decided to go on a little trip" looking for greener pastures. After some help from neighbors, the errant creatures are safely back home.

"The only thing hurt is our pride. I'm sure I'll get a hard time at the coffee shop," Chase said.

Chase and his wife, Ashley, traveled to New Mexico last week to visit two ranches that'll be holding production sales in the fall. The Browns have a herd of purebred Hereford cows, and they were scoping offerings of purebred heifers. "We found some heifers we like. The only question is if we can afford them. The average price is usually about $7,500 to $8,000 per head, but the high seller has been between $25,000 and $30,000. I can tell you right now I will not be buying the top seller," Chase told DTN late Sunday evening from his home outside Decatur.

Chase won't need to go back to New Mexico in October. That's because the cattle will be sold online by the Superior Livestock Auction. "They market their cattle differently than we do around here," he said.

Seed wheat grown for Beck's Seed has been delivered to the buyer. "When I got back, the guys had set up the augers and started moving it. There was half a load left on Sunday," Chase noted. But one load testing 14.2% moisture was rejected for being over the 13.5% maximum. "Dad (David Brown) was driving. He had to go 70 miles to Beck's, then another 40 miles to a grain buyer to be offloaded. We all draw straws to see who has to drive the semi because no one wants to drive the truck. He was in the truck all day. Needless to say, Dad was not happy."

Chase's corn crop looks great. "Ears are full all the way to the end." But at a county Farm Bureau meeting last Friday "a few guys from the southern end of the county were grumbling that their field tiles weren't running." That's an indicator that soil moisture levels are low. "Some run year round. An old farmer here says if you ever see one particular tile not running you're in trouble. It stopped running in 2012 (A drought year)," Chase said.

"Our soybeans look great. They're probably some of the tallest beans I've seen in years." Weeds are having a great year too. "We have a late seeding of velvetleaf. It's not bad, but those stand out like a sore thumb. Is it worth another trip cross the field (to spray them)? No. It's more visual. They look ugly going down the road," he said. "Water hemp is a huge issue. We've got it everywhere. Guys that didn't put a pre-plant down are paying dearly. We've gotta go to Liberty beans or dicamba. Roundup is not an option anymore."

An experiment with summer annual Teff grass for hay has ended badly. Wet weather forced windrows to lay in the field too long, smothering out part of the stand. Some went to seed when mowing was delayed, allowing the crop to mature and die naturally, and weeds were a problem. "I told Dad let's just use a batwing shredder on it to keep the weeds down. We'll try it again but not on that field."

Weather hasn't been much kinder to the alfalfa field, with rains helping to germinate weeds as they held up mowing. A silage chopper might be the answer. "We have a 50% chance of rain. We could make haylage in a day or two. Hay has to dry, but for haylage it just has to wilt."

It's about making the best of a bad situation.

"The ensiling process makes it more digestible, but poor feed is just poor feed," Chase said.

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Richard Oswald