Friday Farm Flicks 3/27/15

it’s been quite a while since I have posted, since December 5th actually. But just as spring brings change to our environment it brings change to The Farmers Story too!  As spring arrives so does the planting season, aka #plant15 on social media.   With that I thought I would share some photos from the winter and beyond to get the season started off right!

Let’s first go back to this fall, #harvest14.  This pic was taken on the last day of harvest and is very special to me.  This is a pic of 3 generations of Boucher Farms working together for the first time harvesting corn.  In the pic, my oldest child (BF generation #5) takes the wheel of our combine (with me sitting beside her) harvesting corn while simultaneously unloading corn “on the go” into the auger cart and tractor driven by her grandfather (BF generation #3)  while I (BF generation #4) take the pic.  While it wasn’t the first time she drove the combine under my watchful eye, it was her first time unloading while combining which was a big step for her, making for a proud Dad and Grandpa!  I mean, how many 10yr olds can handle a combine in stride?   I was grinning ear to ear for a few days straight!  Great Job Miss H.!!

The next picture brings us to post harvest plowing.  This pic shows our John Deere 9510R 4 wheel drive tractor pulling our Case IH 870 disk chisel/ripper. This tool allows us to mechanically till and loosen the soils in preparation for the following year.  

 This pic shows an alternative method of tilling to the mechanical one above.  These plants are called Tilliage Radishes.  They are a type of cover crop that allows farmers to loosen the soil, help prevent soil erosion, help needed nutrients remain in the soils and also help deter weeds and other pests in our fields. These radishes were flown on as seeds over top of our growing soybean field before harvest.  I dug these up to see how they were progressing and many of them were already about 12″ long, which is around the same depth that we mechanically till the soil, and having similar effects.

   

Christmas came and went but not without a first for our family. This year we spent part of Christmas Day on a Florida beach, near my inlaws winter home.  While Christmas isn’t the same without the cold and snow, we didn’t miss it either!

  On our way home from FL we stopped in Nashville TN.  Upon a visit to downtown Nashville we found a cowboy boot store with the most boots we have ever seen in one place! 

January brought us back to reality and the cold and snow of IL.  The pic below shows us unloading soybeans we grew for a seed company, who will clean them, check them for top quality, package them and sell them to other farmers to grow in 2015.  We will be growing more seed beans for them again this season, so more farmers can utilize the seeds we grow in 2016!  

This is a pic of the sweep auger inside the grain bin where the seed beans were stored.  The sweep augers its atop the bins floor and helps bring the beans from threshes of the bin to the center where there is a hole in the floor where another auger catches them and draws them outside of the bin and eventually into a truck.

What good is a Friday Farm Flick post without some country sunrise and sunset  pics from our farm?  Enjoy!

 

  

   

  

In closing I’ll leave you with a little St. Patrick’s Day Ag Humor.   

  Have a great weekend and check back often! As spring arrives and the farming seasons gets busier, I’ll post more blog entries to keep you up to date on what’s going on in the country!  

Farming 101: How Do Farmers Determine If Their Crop Is Dry Enough To Harvest, Store, or Sell?

Every year as fall arrives farmers need to determine when their fields will be ready for harvest.  Many factors go into making that determination such as standability, plant maturity, plant health and grain moisture content just to name a few.  For the purposes of this post, lets talk about moisture content in field corn and how that plays into a farmers harvest plan.

First off, lets start with a little background information.

There are many types of corn grown throughout the United States, including Sweet Corn, which you buy at the store or farm stand in the summer, and #2 yellow dent field corn, which is most commonly grown by farmers throughout the Midwestern ares of the nation.  Sweet Corn is most commonly harvested by farmers as a produce type product in mid summer at a very high moisture content, when the kernels are tender and full of sugars, which is what makes it one of my favorite summertime foods!  #2 Yellow Dent Field Corn is quite the opposite.  Field Corn is harvested by farmers as a grain product in the fall months when the kernels are dry, hard, and full of starches.  While Sweet Corn goes directly into the food chain as canned corn or consumed directly off the cob, field corn has thousands of uses including Livestock Feed, Corn Flours, Corn Syrups, Ethanol to fuel your cars and much much more.

As you may already know, Sweet Corn has a short shelf life.  Ears left in the refrigerator or left out on the counter do not last very long.  However, Field Corn has a much longer shelf life if managed correctly.  The shelf life of Field Corn is largely determined by how much moisture is in the kernels themselves.  The higher the moisture content is there is a greater chance of the Corn spoiling in storage. The ideal moisture content for stored Field Corn is around 14-15%.  Click here to view a chart on Field Corn’s Shelf Life

So How do farmers determine if their crop is dry enough to harvest, store, or sell?  

The picture below shows 2 devices we use on our farm for determining the moisture content of our grain.  They work for multiple crops but for this post we will concentrate on Field Corn.  For reference the moisture tester on the left is around 4 years old while the tester on the right is around 25 years old.  Both are very accurate but the newer tester has a few other useful features we can discuss later.

Ears ready to be tested

Ears ready to be tested

To determine if a field is ready to harvest, we first must determine the moisture content of the grain in the field.  To do so, we walk out into the field, walk down a row of corn for a few hundred feet and pick a few ears at random.  For example, if the field is 80 acres in size, we will walk into around 3-4 areas in the field and pick 1-2 representative ears from each area.  In the picture above, we picked 5 ears to test.

Shelled Kernels ready to be put into the tester

Shelled Kernels ready to be put into the tester

Now that we have our ears picked and the husks are removed, we break the ears in half and begin to remove the kernels, by hand, into a bucket.  While the entire ears kernels will be harvested, we normally test the kernels from the middle of the ear.

The filled tester cup, ready to be tested.

The filled tester cup, ready to be tested.

After the majority of the kernels have been removed from each ear, we blend them in the bucket and remove a measured sample for our older tester to test.

Dumping in the corn

Dumping in the corn

Next we slowly dump the corn into the tester.  This has to be done slowly to be accurate.

The tester filled with corn

The tester filled with corn

After we dump the corn into the tester, we wait 15 seconds then press the button in the lower right hand corner of the tester, and it gives us an accurate reading of the kernels moisture content.  This test reads 15.6%.  This means the field is ready to be harvested and stored directly into one of our grain bins.

IMG_6536

The newer tester operates on the same principles as the older one does, but is a little different.

IMG_6537

With this tester, we fill the clear container with corn and place it atop the tester before we dump it in.  This clear container has a special black slide gate on the bottom of it which helps slow the amount of kernels going into the tester when opened.  Much like the older tester, it has to be filled slowly to provide accurate results.

IMG_6539When filled, we remove the clear container and run the test.  The corn we tested here has a 29.2% moisture content which was too wet to harvest at the time of this test.  As you may notice, this tester also provides us with other information including test weight (how much a bushel of this corn would weigh) and what the temperature of the grain is.

To store the grain in our grain bins, we need the moisture content to be at or under 15% as a rule of thumb.  Some farmers like it a little higher and some lower, but 15% is our target.  There are many times we harvest corn that is above 15% moisture and have to dry the corn artificially before we can store it in our bins.  Check back for an upcoming post: Farming 101: How Farmers Dry Their Corn For Storage for more information on how we dry our corn.

 

Do you have any Questions or Comments?  

Feel free to post them in the comment section below.  I will gladly do my best to answer them asap!

 

Keeping it Cool

A short and sweet post for you this morning. I found this pic on its corresponding Facebook Page this morning and I have to say, with all the recent events we hear about on the news, the admins behind it just won the internet.

IMG_7127.JPG

May we all take this advice to heart. In the end, Our race shouldn’t matter, our Sexual preference shouldn’t matter, our Religious beliefs shouldn’t matter, in fact none of our differences should matter. Only LOVE & RESPECT for each other matters in the end.

As we go throughout our day today, may we put our differences aside and decide to move forward, together.

The Pro Farmer Tour, When Corn And Soybean Yield Estimates Count

THE PRO FARMER TOUR RESULTS:

This week is a big week for Grain Farmers all across the Nation.  This week brings an annual tradition, the annual Pro Farmer Midwest Crop Tour.  This tour has one simple goal in mind, to evaluate the potential yields of the corn and soybean crops on a state by state basis across the Midwest.  Why is this important?  Their findings can set the tone for the rest of the season  going into harvest (follow #harvest14 on twitter) and has an effect on the prices which farmers receive for their crops.  To sum it up, if the Pro Farmer Tour finds an above average crop, then the market prices would theoretically go down, if they find a below average crop, then the market prices would theoretically go up.  Keep in mind, I said THEORETICALLY, as the grain market is never that simple.

As some of you may recall, yesterday I wrote about how we conduct yield estimates on our own corn fields.  You can view it by clicking here.  The numbers we estimated in our own fields are great information for us to use for our own purposes, but in order to get a handle on what the nations farmers will produce for the year, we need to broaden our testing area.  The Pro Farmer Tour does just that!

A 100 acre Corn Test Plot Comparing Various Varieties of Corn in IL

A 100 acre Corn Test Plot Comparing Various Varieties of Corn in IL

About the tour:

To sum it up, the Pro Farmer tour is conducted by a group of crop scouts who are hands on in the fields of the Midwest.  These scouts have one job to do, scout the fields and report what they find.  Good, bad, or indifferent.  These scouts go from area to area, stopping in fields along the way checking corn and soybeans for what their potential yield may be come harvest.

Determining Corn Yields:

The renowned Agricultural web site, AgWeb.com may have said it best:

“…scouts count the number of ears that will make grain on two 30-foot rows, then pull the fifth, eighth and 11th ear from one row (three total ears).  On those sample ears, scouts count (and average) the number of kernel rows around and measure (and average) the length of grain on each ear in inches. The final piece of data for the yield calculation is row spacing.”

Determining Soybean Yields:  

Again, AgWeb.com did a great job explaining how the tour scouts come up with the figures:

“In each soybean field, scouts go to a “representative” area of the field and lay out a 3-foot plot. All the plants are counted in the plot, then three plants are pulled at random. All the pods on the three plants are counted and an average number of pods per plant is calculated. To determine the total number of pods in 3-foot of row, multiply the average number of pods per plant by the total number of plants in 3-foot of row.”

Soybeans are a hard nut to crack so to speak.  Their final yield can vary greatly depending on the size of the soybean, which wont be determined for quite some time yet.  So rather than estimate the yield completely, the Tour Scouts count the number of soybean pods on each plant and compare that figure to those of other tested areas and states.  While this doesn’t translate directly to bushels per acre, its safe to say that the more pods there are, the greater chance there is of having a good soybean crop.

Soybeans Growing on my Farm in IL, Taken in June 2014

Soybeans Growing on my Farm in IL, Taken in June 2014

The Results of the 2014 Pro Farmer Crop Tour:

Back in 2012, the majority of the nation was in a major drought.  Crops were barely hanging on, and were in dire need of water, sacrificing yield along the way.  2013 brought a glimmer of hope for those same farmers bringing in a good corn crop and many farmers had the opportunity to harvest the best crop of soybeans they’ve seen in their entire careers.  In 2014 however, due to the abundant harvest of 2013, the market prices are down (supply vs demand) and farmers NEED a great corn and soybean crop to make ends meet.  In some areas, that just may happen, however others may not be as fortunate.  Lets dig into the tour results to see where those good and not as good areas are.

Since our farm is based in IL, lets start with the Tours Results for IL, which can be found directly by clicking on the headings below.

Pro Farmer 2014 Tour Illinois Results:

Corn: 196.6 bushels per acre average over 190 trials   vs a 149.36 bushel/ac average over 3 years (including the drought year)

Soybeans: 1299.17 pod count average in 177 trials vs a 1085.35 average pod count over 3 years (including the drought year)

Pro Farmer 2014 Tour Nebraska Results:

Corn: 163.77 bu/ac average over 273 trials vs a 146.81 bushel/ac average over 3 years (including the drought year)

Soybeans: 1103.26 pod count average in 265 trials vs a 1106.62 average pod count over 3 years (including the drought year)

Pro Farmer 2014 Tour Indiana Results:

Corn: 185.03 bu/ac average over 168 trials vs a 141.24 bushel/ac average over 3 years (including the drought year)

Soybeans: 1220.79 pod count average in 165 trials vs a 1118.65 average pod count over 3 years (including the drought year)

 

So what do all these numbers mean?  

To sum it up, there is a really good potential for a good corn and soybean crop for #harvest14.  Are the numbers above written in stone?  No, of course not.  The final harvested bushels per acre will be different, as they are influenced by timely rains, lack of rain, or damaging storms that affect both the corn and soybean crops.  Right now, these numbers are good estimates of what the grain traders can expect U.S. farmers to produce for the year.

How Farmers Benefit from the Tour:

The running joke is: When a farmer goes into a coffee shop, sits down with his neighbor farmers, the discussion will eventually turn to how well the cops are doing.  (Let the fish stories begin)  In this situation, the first BS’er is always dead in the water.  If he says he/she has 180 bushels per acre in the field, the next guy will surely have a field estimated at 185 and so on.

The Pro Farmers Tour helps get around that scenario, presenting “Just the Facts”.  As a farmer, knowing these figures helps us better market our own individual crops.  If we think the estimated numbers are low, and more bushels per acre will be harvested than the Tour shows, we may sell some of our growing crops early to avoid a decline in market prices when the added supply hits the market.  If we think the estimated numbers are high, we may hold on to our grain for a longer period of time in hopes that the market prices will rise when the expected supply doesn’t materialize.

At the end of the day, although we may not always agree with the results, we know the results are fairly accurate estimates based on a large data set,  and we as farmers, greatly appreciate everything the people at the Pro Farmer Tour do.

 

Sources: Pro Farmers Tour and AgWeb

 

Farming 101: How do farmers estimate their corn yields before harvest?

If you drive around the countryside this time of the year (mid August) you will find number of farms with their shed doors open, some farm machinery sitting around the yard, and farmers busily prepping for the coming harvest.  Our farm is no different.  For the last few weeks we have been taking steps to prep for this years harvest.  (You can follow many farmers harvest on twitter with the #harvest14 hashtag.)

One of the most important things we do this time of the year is to create yield estimations of our corn fields.  This is very important, and gives us a good idea about what yields to expect in our fields at harvest.  By having the estimates we can develop a “Plan A” for #harvest14 which will determine how many acres worth of corn we can store in our bins, how many acres of corn we will need to haul to the grain elevator straight from the fields and how much LP (liquid propane) we will have to purchase to dry the corn we store in our bins.  While the estimates are just that, estimates, they help provide us with a pretty accurate guess as to how many bushels per acre in our fields.

 

Corn picked and labeled from various fields

Corn picked and labeled from various fields

Here is how we do a corn yield estimate:

Conducting a corn yield estimate is actually fairly simple, and if you have any sweetcorn handy, you can do this too!   We start by picking a handful of sample ears from a few fields, label them by field name with a marker to keep them separate from the other fields corn.  Yields can vary from field to field and corn hybrid to corn hybrid, so we try to be as thorough as we can when picking the sample ears and keeping them separate.

 When we go into a field to grab ears, naturally we are drawn to the large ears.  Its hard not to pick the best looking ears out there, but that’s not what we are after.  We want to pick ears that are a good representative of the field.  To do so we choose the ears at “random” from at least 2 different areas in the field.

We first choose an area of the field  that looks “average” meaning it’s not the best spot in the field, but it’s not the worst either.  After choosing those areas, we enter the fields, walk at least 100 feet into the fields and find a row or two that again, qualify to be considered “average”.    Now comes the hard part, avoiding picking those nice LARGE ears that you naturally get drawn to.  To avoid doing so, we literally close our eyes and take a few steps forward, feeling for an ear.  When we touch an ear, we pick it, then take a few more steps and pick another, then another.  Generally speaking, we take 2-3 ears from each area we walk into.  This “random” picking of a few ears in multiple areas in the field gives us a decent representation of what the entire fields ears may look like.

While in the same area, we also need to determine now many ears per acre there are.  To do so, we measure 17.5′ long (1/1000th of an acre using 30″ wide rows) and count every ear in that length.  While picking these areas, we found the average number of ears to be 32.  So we multiply 32 by 1000 to get, 32000,  the overall ear population in one acre. (this is important for later)

Ears picked from a 100 ac field of 105 day #2 Yellow Field Corn

Ears picked from a 100 ac field of 105 day #2 Yellow Field Corn

After we pick and label the corn, we take it to the shop to be husked and counted using a simple formula to estimate their potential yield.

Here is how:

Take an ear of corn and simply count how many kernels it has on it.  Simple right?  That may take a while.  Instead of counting every kernel, we simply count how many rows of kernels (Around)  there are on the ear and write that number down.

AG FACT:  A ear of corn will ALWAYS have an even number of rows around on it.  Usually ranging from 14-18.

After you have the number of rows around, we now need to count the number of kernels long.  Starting at the bottom end of the ear, and omitting the last few kernels on the bottom and top, count the number of kernels in one row long.  These numbers usually range from 28-42.  We do this for each ear, then average them all together.

 

Here is an example of how the estimates work.

Lets say you have 5 ears, after counting them all up, you come up with:

36 kernels long on average

16 rows around on average

and had the 32000 ear population stated above.

So: 36 x 18 x 32000 = 18,432,000 kernels of corn in one acre

From here we need to turn those kernels into bushels.  Normally, a bushel of corn weighs around 56lb and can contain anywhere from 75,000 to 90,000 kernels.  In order to keep our yield estimates on the conservative side, we will use the 90,000 figure, keeping our estimates lower.

18,432,000 / 90000 =  204.8 bushels per acre

Here is an example from our fields taken yesterday:  NOTE:  This particular variety has larger kernels than normal so we also conducted an estimate using a 80000 kernels per bushel figure.

Ears picked, and estimated from our field on 8/19/14

Ears picked from our field on 8/19/14.  This field has some wind damage causing the ears to be smaller than normal.

This group of ears averaged 36.3 long x 15.3333333333 around x 32000 ear population = 17,811,200

17,811,200 / 90,000 = 197.90 bushels per acre

17,811,200 / 80,000 = 222.64 bushels per acre

Although the combine will tell us what the yields really are, now that we have some basic yield estimates we can make a plan to haul the correct amount of bushels to our bin sites or the grain elevator for storage during harvest.   

The next time you have corn on the cob for dinner, you can do the exact same yield estimate on your ear as we did here to see what it could have yielded if harvested like field corn would be.

Have any questions or comments?  I would like to hear from you!  Please comment below!  I look forward to talking with you!

8 THINGS TEACHERS NEED TO KNOW ABOUT AGRICULTURE

Matt Boucher:

What are the top things to understand about Farming, Grain Farming in Particular? This is a great read on just that!  This is a “REBLOG” from http://www.corncorps.com.

Originally posted on :

1. Hormones in Poultry

They do NOT exist! Farmers do not inject hormones into poultry (chicken or turkey) to increase production because it is illegal! Could you imagine a poultry farmer trying to inject each of his animals with hormones?! The farmers would be the ones that would be running around with their head cut off!

2. 4 Popular Types of Corn

Dent- This corn is used to feed for animals and is the base product in some of the foods we eat like corn flakes for example.

Sweet-This is the type people can buy and eat right off the corn cob or buy in in the grocery store.

Popcorn- Americans favorite pastime snack!

Indian- Traditionally used as decoration pieces

types of corn

3. Corn planting, harvesting, storage

Corn is planted between April-May and then harvested between September-November, God willing. When corn is harvested it is either stored in grain bins or taken…

View original 328 more words

Friday Farm Flicks #plant14 style 5/16/14

You may have noticed quite a bit of dust stirring across the country side in the last few weeks.  Planters have been rolling for hours on end, precisely planting the 2014 Corn and Soybean crops across the Midwest.  Overall, the 2014 planting season got off to slow start a few weeks ago but then was quickly stalled out with rains and constant cold throughout most of the Midwest.  Our farm was no exception to this rule. We began planting Corn this “spring” about 3 weeks later than we would normally like to, but that is ok.  Why? you may ask?  Because 5 out of the last 6 growing seasons where we have planted late, have resulted in above trendline yields on Midwestern grain farms!  Most notably for us was 2009 and 2013.  Both years served up difficult and late planting seasons but also offered 2 of the best harvests we have ever had.

To prep for #plant14 we first have to prep the ground using our 4 wheel drive tractor and soil finisher.  The finisher slices up the remaining stubble from the previous year, levels the ground and uproots any weeds that may be present all in a matter of seconds.  With the soil finisher we can travel at around 8.5mph across the field, pulling 3 or so inches deep and 39’9″ wide, averaging around 38 acres per hour.  As you may imagine, doing so requires a good tractor to pull it.  Our tractor is a John Deere 9510,weighing in at 44,000 lb,  touting 510hp with a fuel capacity of 300 (give or take) gallons of Diesel Fuel.  When pulling the soil finisher we burn around 0.7 gallons of fuel per acre, or 26 gallons per hour.  Learn more about our tractor by clicking here.

cropped-20140505_194945000_ios-1.jpgI made a short video of this tractor and finisher in action using my UAS Drone and GoPro Camera.

Click here to watch!

 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8lTNRrxx0pE

As the ground began to slowly dry out, we decided to plant our first field of corn.  Mother nature wasn’t exactly cooperating though, as it was and still is much colder than what we would like it to be for this time of the year.

#plant14 begins!

#plant14 begins!

 

 

This year is my first year as a GoPro Camera owner.  I have one for my UAS and 2 other older GoPros to play around with.  So, I put them to work while planting our first field this spring.

20140425_214010642_iOS

Click here to see the Spring Planting video!

THE most important thing on our Family Farm is, you guessed it, Family!  While the Spring Season brings the time to plant with it, it also brings things like Tball, Baseball, and Softball for us.  On the day this pic was taken, we could have been out in the field planting corn, however we were right where we needed to be, watching our little mans first ever Pinto Baseball game!

20140424_000154093_iOS

This Spring I had a great opportunity to talk about what we do to many many people when I was invited to bring our tractor up to our towns “SpringFest” which included a “Touch A Truck” section.  There were Fire Trucks, Police Cars, a Garbage Truck and a Semi truck there as well as our tractor for kids of all ages to explore.  I was more than happy to answer the questions of the (my estimate) of 300-500 people who visited the tractor in the 5 hours I was there.

20140503_165146849_iOS

While the rain delays of the spring season continued, I was honored to be asked to do a presentation on Agricultural UAS (Drones) for an Agricultural Technology Class at Joliet Jr College.    After a 30 minute presentation indoors, the weather cooperated (just barely enough) to take the class outside and give a live demonstration.  Mr. Johnson in the schools Ag Department even piloted the UAS for a bit.  The schools Ag Department hopes to purchase their own UAS in the coming months so they can better educate their students on the benefits of their use.

20140501_191829051_iOS

Soon after plant14 began to roll on once again, and things got back to normal.  So I thought.  After running out of seed one night in a nearby field, I drove back to the house, filled with seed, had a quick bite for dinner and drove back to the field.  There I found something I never thought I would find.  4 puppies who had obviously been dropped off.  Naturally I stopped and tried to coax them to come by me.  At first they were a bit shy, but once they realized I was there to help, we quickly became friends.  My wife brought out our portable dog kennel, and we loaded them up to keep them safe.  From there they spent a few nights in our shed, protected from the elements and predators that they would have been up against out there all on their own.  Within a few days time, we had them checked out at the vet, (all are in good health) and have found Furever homes for them.  Well, all except one, which we decided to keep!  Like many Pirates, he has one bad eye that will require surgery to fix, leading us to name him “Captain Jack” (Sparrow) from the Pirates of the Caribbean movie series.

20140513_000549277_iOS20140509_021938648_iOS 1

After all was settled with the pups that night, Plant14 rolled into the night.

Shortly thereafter we finished up Corn Planting for the season.

Click here to watch as we close up the #plant14 corn season around midnight.

cropped-20140507_031738532_ios-1.jpg

.

As the weather turned more favorable, we switched to planting soybeans.  In this picture, we are filling the planters large seed boxes with approximately 5.8 million soybeans taken from our seed wagon.  These soybeans will  be precisely planted at various populations over roughly 80 acres of land before I will have to fill up again. Check out my recent post about how farmers are using GPS and VRT Technologies to Plant Efficiently by clicking here 

cropped-20140508_192623095_ios.jpg

Last but not least:

20140510_174243020_iOS 20140510_131250952_iOS

Warmer weather and a nice warm rain have helped bring new life to the farm.

TOP: a soybean planted 2 days ago shows a future root emerging from the soybean seed as it begins to grow.

BOTTOM: Our first planted field of corn is emerging nicely.

Have a great weekend everyone and check out the latest “AgriNews” newspaper. You might just see some familiar faces on the front page!

20140516-013202.jpg