View From the Cab

Harvest Moving Along in Oklahoma; Wintry Weather Doesn't Slow Iowa Harvest

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) -- In sloping fields where meandering terraces control runoff, farmers harvest the longest rows first, finishing with the shorter rows in between. That's the way it is for View From the Cab farmer Zack Rendel of Miami, Oklahoma, where he and his family are into the short rows of harvest.

Wheat, canola, milo and now corn are all out of the field. Zack and his family finished corn last Tuesday with late-June replant in part of a field damaged by a misapplication of glyphosate. "(Due to an insurance settlement) there was no money out of our pockets to try it (late planting). It was kind of a learning experience," Zack told DTN on Monday. The field yielded about half what the undamaged side of the field made -- 140 versus 72 bushels per acre -- with weak stalks, small kernels and test weights in the low 50s. "When corn grows really fast, it makes a weak stalk. Grain moisture started out at 15%. By the time we were done, it was down to 12.5%," he explained.

That leaves 930 acres of soybeans, less than half this year's soybean acreage after another 650 acres were taken out last week. Autumn's first killing frost arrived last week with lows of 28 degrees Fahrenheit. Later-planted green soybeans are a thing of the past. That should speed the conclusion of harvest. "It'll be full-bore ahead now," Zack said.

Machinery breakdowns took up part of the week. A feeder house power shaft universal joint failed after what started out as a funny noise became something more serious. And the recently acquired Peterbilt truck lost air pressure when a brake actuator blew. A local NAPA stocked the part that the John Deere parts delivery man picked up on his way to the farm with combine parts. Then the Chevrolet Kodiak 10-wheeler truck clutch throw-out bearing failed. "That one is parked in the barn. We decided to use an older one with a short 16-foot bed. Everything went fine until the first trip to the grain elevator when it lost spark. Brent (Zack's uncle) was dead in the water," Zack said.

With two trucks down, one more well-used '71 Chevy 10-Wheeler used to haul fertilizer is all that remains. "It's so rusted out, it would take a whole roll of duct tape to fill all the holes," Zack observed.

Zack told DTN that with reduced profitability of wheat, it's almost considered a cover crop on the Rendel farm where winter canola offers better profits. That's even more apparent now after harvesting soybeans planted into alternating strips of previously harvested wheat and canola have shown as much as a 15-bushel yield advantage on canola strips over wheat. Zack said the difference was "plain as day," making canola seem even more desirable.

According to Zack, with canola yields of 35 bpa to 40 bpa valued at $8.50 to $9 per bushel, 42 bpa to 45 bpa wheat would need to be worth $5.80 to $6.50 to compare favorably with canola on the Rendel farm. Making canola even better, the 850-mile haul to a Goodland, Kansas, processor has been replaced by an 80-mile haul to a Tyson Foods mill where they make feed for their flocks, and canola is part of their ration.

Zack took time off on Friday to visit his daughter Charlie's second grade class career day. The props he used to explain his job included a soybean plant, a bag of corn chips, a loaf of bread and a bottle of canola oil. He also explained to them that the workbooks they were using had been printed with soy ink.

"One little girl asked me, 'What does it feel like to wake up every morning knowing that I am helping to feed the world?' It kind of blew my mind that she would think of that question. It made me proud," he said.

Outside Cedar Falls in northeastern Iowa where View From the Cab Farmers Brent and Lisa Judisch fight world hunger by growing corn and soybeans, harvest continued in spite of freezing weekend temperatures, rain and snow showers. "We're on the downhill slide," Brent told DTN late Monday.

Brent and Lisa have a 110-foot by 60-foot heated shop. It's large enough to hold 24-row planters, semi-trucks or combines. That came in handy when a cold rain moved in on Sunday after one of the grain carts caught the boot of Lisa's combine unloading auger. "It was 34 degrees, raining and snowing. That morning I had just replaced batteries in the (shop heater) thermostat and turned on the heat. It was 55 degrees in the shop. We had her back on the road in 15 minutes," Brent explained.

Area harvest is 90% done on soybeans, half done with corn. "Corn has been real good, beans average." As of Monday evening, the Judisches had one more day of soybean harvesting. Yields have been steady with earlier reports, respectable but not as good as last year's soybean crop. Moisture levels have been "just about perfect" around 12% to 13%. The Judisches' corn harvest is about 70% finished. Test weights are 59 to 60 pounds per bushel. Moisture levels are generally 17% to 18% with dry spots nearer 16%. One field harvested last week tested 20%. Most corn is standing well, with some lodging in at least one field due to wind. "We've been able to run the head low enough to get most of it. I had two brands of corn in that field, 24 rows of brand "x" and 24 rows of brand "y." It didn't matter. It was planted north to south and the wind came from the west," Brent said.

Brent sets goals he hopes to accomplish for each day's work, like the number of acres or fields harvested, or where he hopes to be by the end of the day. Another goal is to load 30 semi-trucks per day. Iowa's Department of Transportation weight limits have been expanded by 12.5% per axle up to a gross weight of 90,000 pounds. Electronic scales on his grain carts allow him to load precisely to that limit. "Our carts hold up to 66,000 pounds. We usually put 31,000 pounds in each of two hoppers on the grain trailers. That's gives us about 88,000 to 90,000 pounds (gross weight)," he said. It's been too damp for fall tillage. That means Brent and Lisa are able to focus on harvest for an early November finish. Brent hopes to finish ahead of his neighbors, because with only two empty bins left at the farm, the rest of their corn must go to town. He's not sure how much storage will be available to the second half of this year's big crop.

"Once we get past this week, there'll be a lot of corn. Nobody can hold their whole crop. We're a little bit concerned about that," he said.

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Richard Oswald