View From the Cab

Put Safety First

Pam Smith
By  Pam Smith , Crops Technology Editor
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Farmers Genny Haun, of Kenton, Ohio, and Kyle Krier, of 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. (DTN photos by Pamela Smith)

DECATUR, Illinois (DTN) -- Safety isn't always the most stimulating of topics, but there's nothing like a close call to serve as a reminder that nothing is worth life or limb.

Genny Haun was rushing to do her normal morning activities of dropping children off to school and daycare and heading to work at Layman Farms this week when a deer ran in front of her car. "It was probably a good thing I didn't have time to react and just hit it," said Haun. The Kenton, Ohio, farmer is expecting her third child in January. "The air bags didn't deploy and I'm fine. But it sure puts life into perspective in a hurry."

Haun is one of the two farmers DTN has been following throughout the 2018 crop season as part of the View from the Cab series. Her story makes the other correspondent, Kyle Krier, cringe. His wife, Melanie, is due to deliver their second child the end of this month. "Our roadways are littered with dead deer right now as they are on the move and crazy," said Krier, of Claflin, Kansas. As a precaution, he's been making his wife drive his truck, which is outfitted with grill guards.

Krier admitted that he's nearly fanatical about safety around the farm. He holds safety drills for employees on how to work around PTO (power take-off) shafts. "Everything from how we park our trucks and tractors in the sheds so they don't need to be backed up, to making sure front-end loaders are lowered to the ground, to properly winding and storing cords and hoses is important. And more than one person around this farm gets pretty sick of me nagging about it," he said.

Safe phone usage is another thing he harps on with employees. The addiction to technology is obviously part of the modern age, but devices and farm machinery can be a hazardous mix.

Allowing children on and around the farm is another topic Krier thinks about a lot. Toddlers are attracted to tractors and other equipment.

And there's plenty of equipment moving in farm country this time of year as harvest has geared up.

Here's what's happening in their areas of the farming world this week:

KYLE KRIER -- CLAFLIN, KANSAS

For Krier, another safety concern are the long work hours and sleepless nights he has experienced this season.

"Weather forecasts for 4 to 6 inches of rain aren't helping my peace of mind right now -- I have possibly the best soybean crop I've ever raised is sitting in the field," he said.

His big concern is not getting into the field after the rains. Rather, it is the worry that constant wetting and swelling of large beans in the pod will eventually take a toll and lead to shattering losses. News reports of soybeans sprouting in the pod are also a concern.

"I'm determined to cut some soybeans before this line of rain settles in. If we go in and they are 16%, then I can pull out. But if they are sitting at 14%, you better believe I'm going to do some 1,000-bushel test cuts. I'll take the dock if I can find some place that will dump them. The long-range forecasts indicate more rain, and I can't afford to wait," he added.

Meanwhile, Krier was back in the sprayer this week trying to tackle any remaining volunteer wheat. Wheat curl mite can infest volunteers and lead to wheat streak mosaic in the subsequent crop. He's also on the hunt for any pesky late-season Palmer amaranth.

Consistent rains have made weed control a challenge on stubble fields. Krier said some stubble has been sprayed as many as five times since wheat harvest. Juggling chemistries to avoid herbicide resistance is top of mind but so is profitability. He has incurred a bit more than $50 per acre in burndown costs to keep weeds under control on stubble fields.

"Don't even think of calling wheat poverty grass around me," he said. "Good yields require management and that means inputs." Covering those input costs takes a combination of high yields and attentive marketing. He has found pricing opportunities that allowed him to lock in wheat profits based on average yield of 50 bushels per acre.

The good news is wheat drilling is nearly complete with the exception of what will follow soybeans. "I'm thinking of rolling all night (Tuesday) to finish up, so I can take advantage of any good soybean harvesting weather that comes along," he said.

A knee injury incurred while playing basketball last year had him on a physical fitness program earlier in the season. That meant getting up by 5 a.m. to get to the gym. But long days operating equipment have sidelined that activity and he's feeling it.

"All of a sudden, I got into crop insurance sign-on period, and we were running long hours," said Krier, who sells insurance. "I know life is pretty good for me, but I let myself get out of the habit of going to the gym. I've got to find the willpower to get back there because it really does help my body and my mind when I'm physically fit," he said.

GENNY HAUN -- KENTON, OHIO

It was an error message that was likely on Haun's mind when the doe darted in front of her vehicle this week. Several weeks ago, the software that runs the farm scales wouldn't boot.

Learning that the hard drive was fried and that the data logged on it wasn't able to be saved has made for some hectic moments around Layman Farms. While they have detailed handwritten records, everything used to track trucks must be rebuilt and re-entered into new computers. And of course, it also means learning how to use the new updated software as harvest begins.

So smacking a deer in a new car that she hadn't even made a payment on yet would seem to add to those miseries -- if she wasn't so giddy that she was not hurt.

"I'm not sure I would have seen her or could have avoided this accident -- it was just bad timing," Haun said.

"One thing we do know is that lots of things can happen in farm environments. We've always taken the attitude we can fix or replace trucks and equipment -- not people."

Harvest has just begun for the family. Haun farms with her parents, Jan and Cindy Layman, as well as her husband, Matt.

"We haven't done any yield calculations yet, but what I do know is the trucks are having a hard time keeping up.

"We've been talking all year about these exponential yields and it appears we are going to have a good year," she added.

"I still have the feeling it is going to be a long fall. With a bigger crop comes other challenges of finding enough labor to help us truck and find storage for all of it."

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

Follow her on Twitter @PamSmithDTN

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Pam Smith