Top 10 Ways Warrior Dash and Farming Are Alike.

This weekend We ran in our 4th Warrior Dash with our group appropriately named “Just A Little Dirty!”

  For those of you unfamiliar with Warrior Dash, it is a 5k run (or jog in our case) with obstacles and a lot of mud mixed throughout, especially this year.

  
This month (June/15) we have had abnormal amounts of rain, rain and more rain.  This made the parking areas (a hay field) for the event a muddy mess (to no fault of the promoter or venue).  Now it wasn’t that we and other participants weren’t warned of this and told by the promoters to “carpool and drive 4×4 vehicles” there leaving small cars at home, but for some a Prius may be all they have.  At any rate, it wasnt a good place for “grocery getters” to be. 

As for the race itself, it was a blast and one of the most challenging to date. There were new obstacles, plenty of mud, huge and fast water slides, cargo nets to climb over, walls to climb to test your skills, and plenty of mud to crawl over and swim through.  Oh and barbed wire and fire…yes, real barbed wire and fire. 

(Play the video to see the water slide part of an obstacle named Goliath.)   

       While these obstacles may be considered extreme for most, I got to thinking about the barbed wire, getting stuck, the obstacles, the hard work and life skills it takes to complete the race, and of course the mud, and how it relates to the farm.  So here are the top 10 ways the Warrior Dash and Farming are Alike!  

 Top 10 Ways That Warrior Dash and Farming Are Alike:
1. The Early Bird Gets the Worm, usually has a better experience, and doesn’t get stuck in the mud.  
2. 4×4’s are a necessity, small cars belong on concrete.

3. You pay a lot of money to play in the /dirt mud. Quit complaining.  
4. It’s always going to be too wet, too cold, too hot, etc. Suck it up buttercup and enjoy it!

 5. Mother Nature can be a cruel cruel creature, learn to adjust to her. She is in charge at all times. 
6. Large amounts of rain and repeated rains aren’t your friend.

7. Weather it be a tractor or a car, every vehicle has its limit on how much mud it can handle, and so does its drivers. Mud is real.

8. No matter how hard the task, Never Give Up.  
9. Roll with the punches. You and those in charge can do everything right and still have everything go horribly wrong. 

10. (last but not least) Help others in need. When your neighbor is stuck, get out and help them. Karma is real.

Big thank yous out to Warrior Dash and all those who made this event possible.  It continues to challenge us and bring our group together by creating life long memories!  
I’ll leave you with a few more pics and one more way Warrior Dash and Farming are alike.

11.  After a hard days work, stop, sit back, enjoy what you have accomplished and have a beverage of choice,  you earned it! 

 
Extra pics:

   

  

  

  

  
  

  

  

  

  

  

  

    

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.

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

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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!

 

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