Monday, September 30, 2013

cover crop

The cattle are now grazing the sorghum-sudan regrowth.  We planted the crop instead of a few extra acres of corn and hayed it in mid August.  It is now back to knee high and the critters relish it.  We also seeded about a half rate of red clover under the oats/peas and that gave a nearly complete cover.  The thought was that we would interseed rape and oat/pea into the clover for a late season grazing crop.  I don't know if that idea works.  The red clover stood still for about a month after grain harvest due to the dry conditions.  We did get the rape seed out there, and now since the rain has started it is filling in the gaps nicely.  Still, in the areas where the red clover took hold, the stand will be predominately red clover.  It won't work well for grazing until after a very hard frost to kill the clover.  As it stands now, the clover would kill the cattle.

Also the Sorghum-sudan as a clear stand has its drawbacks.  It will not fix N for the next crop.  It will also  quit and turn poisonous as it turns to straw at the first nighttime mid thirties temp.  We need to diversify more.


Sunday, September 22, 2013


We are recently returned from Europe.  Besides becoming reacquainted with an excellent small hog farm in Germany, where we visited our first exchange student for the first time in 2007, we had a chance to see a Norwegian grain farm, the hog farm across the road and a dairy farm in Iceland.  Now the climate in Iceland and Norway is forbidding enough for agriculture that there are going to need to be differences with government structure if the farms are to survive.  Also, there is the matter of Norway's oil money.  As our German host said to me on our 2007 visit:  "Ja, those Norwegians with all their oil money, they think nothing of blasting a hole through a mountain so they can get a truck through to pick up the milk from three cows!"

In Norway, the hog farm was a seventy sow farrow to finish operation that featured everything in one building, part of which was the original barn, perhaps three or four centuries old.  Everything was maintained in excellent shape.  The gestating sows were fed by computer each in their own stall, which they were free to come into and leave at will, thus using much space per sow to get away from the problem with American electronic feeders which give the sows an excuse to savage each other while they wait their turn. 

Farrowing was done in large pens, and the sows fed again by computer.  When the litter is about five weeks old, they are weaned by removing the sow and then fed to market in the same pen, also by computer.  The computer also controls heat (by wood burning) and ventilation.  The animals are all cleaned and bedded with wood shavings each day.  The cleaning is done by scraping down to a slatted area where the manure is then moved to outside holding.  This takes two people about two hours each morning and is when the animals are observed for health and problems.

The dairy in Iceland was where I first saw a robotic milker.  The herd of 65 Icelandic cows (no other genetics is allowed in Iceland for cows, horses and sheep, all of which are very distinctive in their characteristics.)  The farmer there also used a round baler (Claas) with built in capacity for plastic wrapping each individual bale for baling grass, which is the only thing that grows there, other than a bit of rape for finishing the year's lamb crop on.  The 500 ewes, then grazing for the three month summer up on the heaps of volcanic rock that pass for mountains, are the farm's other business.  This farm supports two families.

These technologically advanced farms would not be possible here in the U S.  They are simply too small to afford their technology in our system.  But tragically, it is increasingly impossible to bring about here the kind of husbandry and pride so evident there.  The farms shone, they used the facilities available and used them well, the junk was picked up, the livestock was comfortable and the farmer seemed happy.  That is much more critical than the presence or absence of technology and we ignore it here at our peril.       


Monday, September 9, 2013

late summer

Late summer is dry.  And since the spring/early summer was wet and cold, the corn crop is still thirty days from mature.  Warm weather all the way to mid October with no frost is a long shot, but such is farming.  Our parents/grandparents lost their entire corn crop in 1974 due to a Labor Day weekend freeze.  And no crop insurance to speak of at that time.  Such is farming!

On the plus side, though, the animals look prosperous around here, even after coping with the excessive heat in late August.  That may have taken more out of the farmers, which were Josh and Cindy at the time, as LeeAnn and I were vacationing.  Thankful for a partnership!