View From the Cab

Teamwork, Attention to Detail are Hallmarks of Judisch Farm

Richard Oswald , DTN Special Correspondent
Brent and Lisa Judisch of Cedar Falls, Iowa, are one of two farm families being featured in DTN's 2017 View From the Cab column. (DTN photo by Pamela Smith)

LANGDON, Mo. (DTN) -- Brent Judisch and his wife, Lisa, are a team. Brent puts it this way: "We don't have a job, we are a farmer."

This year, from spring planting through fall harvest, Brent and Lisa are also part of another team: They're one of two farm families being featured in DTN's 2017 View From the Cab weekly column.

Brent and Lisa farm in northeastern Iowa near Cedar Falls, where they raise corn and soybeans.

Team Judisch does it all, from tillage to planting, spraying, fertilizing, harvesting, and then some. At planting time, Lisa performs tillage ahead of Brent's planter. Whenever duty calls and Brent is elsewhere, Lisa is perfectly comfortable filling in. "At harvest, Lisa and I both handle combine duties full time, she has her machine and I have mine," Brent explained.

In addition to farm work, Brent also has an off-farm job. "My daytime job is that I've sold John Deere equipment for 30 years (for P&K Midwest, a John Deere dealership selling across multiple locations in Iowa)." Brent said he enjoys selling equipment. "It allows for a great deal of networking," he said.

Brent has nothing against a little scuffed paint. "I prefer selling late-model used equipment the best. Selling new sometimes can be a price war. Selling used, each unit is a little different than the next one, so selling technique may come into who gets a particular deal," he said.

When it comes to managing their farming operations, Brent said attention to detail is always important. "I always track everything we do, every day. You'd be surprised how often you go back four, five, six years to check something," he said, adding that he plans everything from seed to machinery. It all goes into a notebook or iPad. Brent and Lisa each have one of those. Even when part-time help steps in -- "Normally, there's five people involved," Brent said -- Brent takes notes.

Crop scouting is also one of Brent's favorite pastimes. He scouts his own crops and participates in the annual ProFarmer Crop Tour. "I started about four years ago, and I've been hooked ever since," he said.

The crop mix on the Judisch farm tends toward 65% corn and 35% soybeans. As those percentages indicate, soybeans are generally only planted on fields after multiple years of corn, while some cornfields remain in continuous corn. Conservation tillage is used to protect corn-on-corn acres. Corn acres headed for soybeans receive a pass with a vertical tillage machine. "We are pretty flat, but we do have some fields subject to erosion. We've learned we have less erosion with continuous corn," Brent said.

Corn is planted in 30-inch rows with one of two 24-row planters. Soybeans are drilled in 15-inch rows. "We side dress our corn-on-corn (injected into the soil with a coulter caddy), but not corn following soybeans," Brent told DTN.

Partial applications of fertilizer combined with herbicide are made pre-emerge by a custom applicator. "We do post-emerge sidedress applications of N ourselves. Everything is 32% (liquid urea)," Brent explained. Yield goals for corn are determined by soil types in individual fields. Fields with a goal of 180 bushels per acre get a total of 160 units of N. Fields with 220-bpa expectations are supported with 190 units.

How does Brent arrive at those figures? The secret is in keeping track. "We have 20-some years of yield history." Soil samples help determine fertility, but Mother Nature can throw curveballs. "I will say we had to re-evaluate in 2016 when our 180-bushel (corn) ground made 220 (bushels per acre)," Brent said. Actual historic corn yields are 180 to 220 bpa, and sometimes better. Soybeans yield in the 50-bpa range, but 70 bpa happen after multiple years of corn, Brent said.

"With 8 feet of topsoil, we can get 220-bushel corn consistently," he said.

Brent said his continuous corn yields well, it protects against erosion better than soybeans, and ethanol plants in the area offer a great basis. But there's another reason soybeans take a back seat to corn. It's called "harvest."

"Last year we probably had only 10 prime days to harvest beans," Brent said. Soybean harvest goes best when humidity levels are low. "We are in an area that is probably too wet more than too dry. No rain doesn't hurt us as much as too much rain."

Brent and Lisa own about 15% of the 1,800 acres they farm. They rent the rest. With lower commodity prices, rent has fallen about 15% in the last three years. "We have very good landlords. Most have multiple tenants. There's a lot of investment."

That land investment comes both from farmers and off-farm investors, Brent said.

The Judisches' on-farm storage capacity is about one-third of anticipated corn production. The rest of the corn and soybeans goes directly to town to ethanol plants or grain elevators. "We try to forward contract the beans," Brent said.

Hectic planting and harvest isn't the sleepy endeavor it was 50 or 60 years ago when farmers routinely worked months to complete the work instead of weeks. But sometimes even the most efficient team has to admit it takes a village.

Brent breaks it down like this: "Our operation consists of myself, managing all stages of the operation, running every piece of equipment, especially the planter, sidedresser, sprayer and combine. My wife, Lisa, handles 90% of the paperwork, does tillage, plants, and is our primary combine operator. Our partners are Harold and Charlene Burington, who have over 60 years in farming. Harold plants, fills the sprayer, and drives a semi in the fall. Charlene is our 'go-fer' person and shuttle driver, which on some days is the most important person. My dad, Duane Judisch, runs one tillage tractor spring and fall, and drives a semi in the fall. And Rusty Zey, is the primary operator of the soybean drill and mans a grain cart in the fall."

Not to be forgotten are the best products of the farm.

"Our family includes three daughters: Alex, our oldest, is at the University of Pittsburgh in Pennsylvania. She is a Biomedical Engineer, working in an eye disease research lab. She received her Master's degree at the University of Iowa. Our middle daughter, Madie, is a senior at the University of Iowa in speech pathology. She will attend graduate school in the fall at the University of Iowa. Our youngest daughter is a sophomore in high school at Cedar Falls High School."

It's also worth pointing out that Brent has a Bachelor's degree in business, and Lisa has a PhD in psychology.

"She (Lisa) is a fun girl. She's a farm girl, her parents still farm. She's out there every day. We were able to raise three kids on the farm. I still think farm kids have a better outlook on life. They learn to work and they learn to sacrifice," Brent said.

Richard Oswald can be reached at talk@dtn.com

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Editor's Note:

Each year DTN follows two farmers with weekly updates through their crop season. Next week, View From the Cab 2017 readers will meet young farmer Zack Rendel of Miami, Oklahoma.

Also, consider entering our DTN/The Progressive Farmer #MyPlanting17 Photo Contest from now until May 21 for a chance to win some great prizes.

Entering is easy, but please limit yourself to one entry per month. For all the details, visit: http://bit.ly/…

(PS/AG/BAS/ES)