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Cold September rain

Agriculture.com Staff 09/28/2007 @ 11:37am

Harvest is in full swing in the Treasure Valley and all of the hours of labor and worry are now paying off. Better markets for most crops and good yields are helping brighten up the farm economy.

Now with that glowing outlook for farm incomes, I have to ask one question. Couldn't that weekend rain storm have held off just a few more days? Our final cutting of hay and pasture grass were getting close to making it unscathed when the rains arrived. With our dry summer and sketchy water outlook I had better not complain too loudly.

Here at Sunrise Acres, the final harvest is getting off to a soggy start. Even though our livelihood no longer depends solely on farm income, this fall weather reminds me of how tenuous a farmers' income outlook is. Our alfalfa hay will probably be ok if the baling schedule stays on track. Jeff Trotter will use his windrow turner to lift the flattened rows of hay over to dry before baling.

This process goes fairly quickly and hopefully with a favorable breeze and warm temperatures the hay will be baled and stacked by the time your are reading this. Since our water will be turned out of the canals this weekend, our irrigation season is over. I am sure Carol is looking forward to parking her shovel for the year. Another round of gopher trapping, an application of fertilizer, re-corrugating the furrows, and the hay will be ready for a winter's rest.

Our new pasture has really taken off with the cooler fall temperatures. Our decision to cut it again instead of renting it out for grazing may have been a mistake. The lush growth made it very difficult to do an even job of windrowing and the grass is very slow to dry. With an inch of rain on top of it, these shorter days are not conducive to getting it in condition to bale. If we can dodge rain for another week, it may be okay.

Otherwise, the cattle may have to harvest it after all! Carol has done a great job of keeping the weeds at bay around the edges. The gophers however are using the dense growth to their advantage and are making a real mess. Their mounds are part of the reason the windrowing was so difficult. The piles of dirt they leave behind cause the cutter bar to plug. Then the operator has to back up, clean out the wad, and start again. This can lead to the use of a very colorful vocabulary and frustration.

The corn fields have almost completely turned yellow and are quickly drying. Our crop will be harvested for dry corn which has to be below 15% moisture to store. Most of what you see being harvested now is for "high moisture" feed which can be harvested earlier but must be specially stored in sealed bags or pits to keep from spoiling. Once our corn is combined it can be put directly into dry storage without molding. After the corn is safely in the bin, I hope to spend some time "harvesting" pheasants, ducks and geese!

With the large increase in corn acres planted across the U.S. prices are still very volatile.

Early reports are that harvest is ahead of schedule in the corn belt and yields are good. With the boom in ethanol production and strong exports, prices have held fairly steady.

At Agri-Lines Irrigation the harvest season has brought an end to the slower days of summer in our business. Now concrete pads will be poured for new center pivot systems. Miles of trenches will be excavated for plastic pipe and wire installations to supply water and power to these new pivots. Our shop crew will be busy constructing and installing water control structures, pump stations and "bubblers" on farms all over our valley and the surrounding region.

All of us will be working from dawn to dark to beat the wet and cold of winter. With today's advances in irrigation technology and efficiency, concrete ditches and siphon tubes are being replaced with systems that allow one person to irrigate farms that used to require endless hours of checking dry rows and tapping tubes to get the rate "just right." It is an exciting time to be in the irrigation business.

The cooler nights and days are a welcome change from the long hot days of this past summer. The smell of rain on the ripening corn plants bring back a flood of memories from past harvests at Sunrise Acres. I can remember Carol bringing supper out to the field in our old blue Ford pickup accompanied by our little crew of helpers.

When the kids were small they enjoyed coming to the field to share Dad's chips and pop. After the sun had set, there was the day's last truck load of corn to deliver to Crookham Company at Caldwell. At the peak of harvest there might be two long rows of trucks lined up to dump their loads. This meant the trip back home would be in the early hours of the next day.

These long lines gave farmers a chance to swap stories of breakdowns and optimistic harvest forecasts. If the weather was turning cold, everyone was anxious to get finished before a frost could spoil the crop. Crookhams were always good about leaving the break room open to let us get a late night cup of coffee. Our old single axle trucks and two row corn pickers have given way to semi trucks and trailers and massive four-row pickers that get the crop in much more quickly and efficiently. But, while it lasted, it was a good time to be seed corn farmer.

Well that's about it for September. Time to clean out the wood stove, put on a good movie and pop some popcorn. Have a great Fall and watch out for corn trucks!

From Sunrise Acres,

Fred, Carol and Katie Butler

Harvest is in full swing in the Treasure Valley and all of the hours of labor and worry are now paying off. Better markets for most crops and good yields are helping brighten up the farm economy.

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