View From the Cab

Auction Fever

Pam Smith
By  Pam Smith , Crops Technology Editor
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Farmers Genny Haun, Kenton, Ohio, and Kyle Krier, Claflin, Kansas, are reporting on crop conditions and agricultural topics throughout the 2018 growing season as part of DTN's View From the Cab series.

DECATUR, Ill. (DTN) -- Auctions were generating some excitement for DTN's View From the Cab farmers this week. Kyle Krier found himself on the bidding side of the equation at a land sale in Kansas. Ohioan Genny Haun will be busy this week recording bids from the junior livestock sale at the county fair.

Beyond the hue and crying of auctioneers, keeping dry was also becoming a challenge -- whether it was soaring September temperatures soaking shirts with sweat in the Eastern Corn Belt or buckets of late-season rainfall flooding into central Kansas.

"I haven't pulled this many near all-nighters since college," said Kyle Krier, who reports in from Claflin, Kansas. "The weather models were giving us notice that we needed to keep moving to get important jobs done before the rains hit. Having your livelihood exposed to the elements is a motivator and I ran on only a few hours of sleep for several nights in a row."

DTN Senior Ag Meteorologist Bryce Anderson said the juxtaposition of the two farming regions being featured shows how different Midwest conditions have been this past week.

"The Eastern Corn Belt has been under a strong late-season upper-atmosphere ridge of high pressure," said Anderson. "It's kept a very warm to hot and dry pattern in place. The last month had daytime highs mostly 3 to 5 degrees Fahrenheit above normal and overnight lows 4 to 7 degrees above normal. The last week has been even hotter, with highs from 8 to 12 Fahrenheit above normal and the overnight lows 8 to 14 F above normal.

"In central Kansas, a combination of revived monsoon flow from the southwestern U.S. along with circulation on the edge of the hot ridge that has kept Ohio warm and dry brought in a lot of moisture from the Gulf of Mexico, and led to the setup for some very heavy rains. In the last three weeks, central Kansas has had from three to six inches of rain. That amounts to 200% to 300% of normal precipitation -- rainfall that is either two or three times the normal for this time period," he added.

Anderson said the pattern is showing some change over the next week. A round of cooler to colder air is pooling over the Canadian Prairies and heading southeast, while the hot southeastern U.S. ridge is weakening. This combination means Kansas will be drier, with the Eastern Corn Belt -- including Ohio -- becoming the target area for heavy rain potential.

Krier and Haun report details of crop conditions and farm life weekly as part of DTN's "View From the Cab" series. Here's what's happening in their parts of the farming world.

GENNY HAUN -- KENTON, OHIO

Fairs are contagious and Genny Haun has never quite shaken her love of the Hardin County Fair where she'll be volunteering this week. Her father, Jan Layman, is one of the auctioneers of the Junior Fair Livestock Sale. Her mother, Cindy, is the official clerk of the livestock auction, but is passing the job to Haun, who has also been inputting computer data as various livestock entries are weighed in this week.

Involvement with this activity stems back to her 11 years of showing pigs. Although the family didn't raise swine as a farm enterprise, she would buy stock from a neighboring farmer each year. Caring for the animals throughout the summer and ultimately exhibiting them, taught her valuable lessons in responsibility, she said.

In recent years, entries in some of the large-animal categories have been declining at the county show, particularly the beef steer classes, Haun said. "I think because some of those classes have become so competitive and tend to be more show-cattle oriented.

"Adding classes for market beef feeders and dairy beef feeders is causing an uptick in entries. Small animals such as poultry have also become very popular.

"So it seems to me we're going back to more about what this show used to be about -- learning animal husbandry and what it means to be responsible for an enterprise," she said.

"My mom and dad opened a bank account when I started my pig project, and that's where I learned to balance a checking account and how to pay for feed and budget for bedding. The balance of what I earned from the project went into my college fund," Haun said.

With two young boys (ages 5 and 2) and another baby on the way, Haun is fairly certain she and her farming husband, Matt, will soon be using livestock to teach those same life lessons. Until then, she enjoys watching the continuation of the agriculture tradition and her role in helping it along each year.

Marching band competitions, crowning kings and queens, country music, truck pulls, corn dogs and catching up with neighbors are good old-fashioned fun.

"I'm just hoping these hot temperatures don't sap the pleasure out of it," Haun added. She said crops are starting to dry down and harvest preparations are underway. "We think it will be an earlier harvest this year, but it will be mid-to-late September before we get started and we'll run beans first."

KYLE KRIER -- CLAFLIN, KANSAS

One thing Kyle Krier doesn't have this week is buyer's remorse. The 80-acre tract of farmland he'd hoped to snag during a land auction this week went to a higher bidder.

He doesn't really have bidder's remorse either -- he'd crunched the numbers and went in to the public auction with a firm number on what it would take to make the acreage pay out in a 15- to 18-year timeframe based on average yields. "I'd probably have two plantings of alfalfa in that time with some wheat in between and I figured by the second turn of alfalfa, it could pay for itself.

"That auction adrenaline can get going and it's hard to ignore and I'm very aware of that," Krier said. "I did go about $200 past what I initially penciled, but I try hard to stick to what makes financial sense. It's hard not to want it though," he said.

Krier said land values in the area are probably off by 35% to 40% compared to five years ago, but that prices have rebounded slightly over the past year. The 80 acres offered this week were attractive, especially for a young farmer getting started because the soils were good, still had mineral rights and it was a smaller tract than the quarter to half sections normally offered.

Every time he looks at buying a piece of land, he learns something about the evaluation process and himself, Krier said. Opportunities to secure land are becoming more frequent as current landholders pass to the next generation, who in many cases have moved away from the farm and are not interested in ownership.

"I think there will be more opportunities coming and I don't want to over-leverage myself either. There is land that we currently lease that we've put a lot of effort into making improvements to the ground," Krier said. "I'd like to be in the position to consider those if it ever becomes available."

Tile lines, or maybe moats, might become important improvements if the rains continue. "I've never seen anything like it -- we've had from 3.5 to 8.0 inches over the past week across our farms. And there's a chance of more coming."

He worked 17 hours Friday and 22.5 hours on Saturday, but was able to get all the alfalfa and sorghum-sudan baled. He also baled some grass, sprayed 200 acres, burned wheat stubble and planted some new alfalfa stands.

"Wow, I was tired, but it feels good to know that we were almost caught up before those rains hit," he said.

Pests have been especially pesky this year. Krier said he ran an insecticide treatment over every soybean acre, and it's easy to distinguish soybean fields that were not sprayed.

"In untreated fields, all that's left is the skeleton of the leaf. Loopers and armyworms have done some damage, but woolly bears have been the big feeder," he said. "Some of those fields look as though they've been through a horrible hail storm."

How much yield toll this feeding is taking at this late stage of development is a question he's been trying to research since he has later-maturing (Group 4.0) beans still relatively green.

Pamela Smith can be reached at Pamela.smith@dtn.com

Follow her on Twitter @PamSmithDTN

(CZ/AG)

Pam Smith