View From the Cab

Teamwork, Fieldwork and Breakdowns

Richard Oswald
By  Richard Oswald , DTN Special Correspondent
Zack Rendel of Miami, Oklahoma, (left) and Brent and Lisa Judisch of Cedar Falls, Iowa, are this year's featured DTN View From the Cab farmers. (Courtesy photo of Zack Rendel; DTN photo of Brent and Lisa Judisch by Pamela Smith)

LANGDON, Mo. (DTN) -- All across America, family farm work can be summarized simply as "teamwork." That's the way it was last week for DTN View From the Cab farmers Brent and Lisa Judisch at their place outside Cedar Fall, Iowa.

Brent attended a crop tour of the Western Corn Belt last week. "It's amazing how fast five days goes by," he told DTN late Sunday. In the meantime, Lisa was back home, setting up a new Deere information management system. "We're trying Apex on All our data, fields, farms, and maps had to be moved over to that. Lisa worked on that Monday and Tuesday."

The transition from summer to fall continues as seasonal equipment rotates from field to storage. On Wednesday, Brent and Lisa's partner Harold washed the sprayer inside and out before putting it away.

There's not much new equipment on the Judisch farm -- only newer equipment. Brent's philosophy is that there are a lot of good hours left in today's used machines. Someone needs to harvest that. That is why hired helper Rusty Zey spent Wednesday replacing poly wear plates on a 2006 soybean head originally purchased in 2014, prior to placing it up for sale. It is being replaced by a newer model.

On Thursday, Brent's dad, Duane, and Harold were hauling old-crop corn to town when the truck tractor they were using broke down. That meant a trip to the shop where a suspension arm and airbag were replaced on Friday. On Saturday, two cornheads were brought home to the shop where ear savers, gathering chains, and gearboxes will be given the once over.

Sunday is yardwork day. With Labor Day almost here, it was time to put garden hoses away in preparation for fall. Brent and Lisa took the rest of the day to ride part of Cedar Falls' extensive bike trails.

About seven-tenths of an inch of rain fell on Monday. It was welcome. "Our corn is holding up good. Ten miles to the south, it's amazing how close it is, they only had 15-hundredths." On Saturday night, Brent's place got another 12-hundredths. "Ten miles south of us they're chopping silage. Ninety minutes west of us around Fort Dodge -- it's pretty tough over there," he said.

After seeing much of the Western Corn Belt last week, Brent told DTN he thinks USDA yield estimates are on the high side. Corn appeared variable, no surprise there. But soybeans were a different matter. "Beans seemed to be affected more. There were only two to three pods per node." One other surprise in Nebraska soybean fields, "northeast of Grand Island I saw waterhemp seven feet tall."

Brent has seen tweets on Twitter of cold temperatures and a possibly game-changing September frost. He told DTN his dent stage corn would be fine with that. "It's been a strange year. I think my beans will be alright too, but a lot of fields would be hurt," he said.

Meanwhile, outside Miami, Oklahoma, where View From the Cab farmer Zack Rendel teams up with his family, it's been a corn crop for the record books. "Yields have been a complete surprise. I didn't fathom they would be this good," he told DTN Monday afternoon.

Three fields where the Rendels have completed harvest averaged 155, 130 and 140 bpa. Yield monitor highs have ranged from 180 to 250 bpa. Neighbors are seeing similar yields. Even one field of conventional corn over-sprayed with glyphosate in June by a neighbor has exceeded expectations. "The part we didn't replant made 80 bushels. We didn't expect 40," Zack said.

Grain moisture was consistent with No. 2 corn requirements of 15.5%, or less, until a 3/4 inch rain on Tuesday pushed moisture readings up to 16%. Minor breakdowns, like a hydraulic O-ring failure and a stuck gathering chain tensioner have slowed progress, but only briefly. Then, on Thursday, the pride of the Rendel truck fleet, a late-model Peterbilt, quit cold on the road. "It acted like it was out of fuel. I called a buddy of mine who is a diesel mechanic. First thing he did was plug his computer in to it. The ECM (electronic control module) didn't have power. On that truck the main power harness plugs into the battery. The ECM power plug had come apart. We plugged that thing in and the truck started right up. With this newer equipment, the first thing you have to do is plug a computer in and see what's going on," Zack explained.

Oklahoma weather has been great for crops this year. "I think there were only five days in August with temperatures in the 90s. That is unheard of in Oklahoma." Soybeans are podding and filling well, grain sorghum has blacklayered and nearing the time when Zack would like to kill plants with a glyphosate application to reduce green matter at harvest. But that could weaken stalks and cause lodging if harvest is delayed. He'll wait awhile. Preparation ahead of winter canola planting has begun. Zack's cousin Job has been chiseling those fields after school.

Twitter talk of frost has gotten Zack's attention. Not even Oklahoma would be safe.

"Normal first frost here is Oct. 18. Our latest frost was last year on Dec. 13. Dad (Greg) remembered 25th of September was the 2000 frost date. Brent (Zack's uncle) looked it up and the earliest before that was Sept. 21 in 1983. I was just a kid, but I remember Dad came home in 2000 not in a cheerful mood and said, 'I don't know what's going to happen but things are going to be short.'"

Grain elevators wouldn't buy stunted green soybeans that year. Eventually, they sold for a reduced price to a goat feed manufacturer.

The year 2000's frost aside, other predictions never came to pass.

"That was Y2K. A guy here started building outhouses because people thought their plumbing was going to quit. I think he sold 25 or 30 of them," Zack said.

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Richard Oswald