Some people think that the only busy times of the year are planting and harvest and the rest of the year farmers spend their glorious amounts of free time vacationing or tinkering with antique tractors. This may be true for some, but not the majority. Today is the seventh post in my one-year series which will give you an idea of a farmer’s workload throughout the year. Keep in mind that all farms operate differently and I am just providing one example of a year in the life of a grain farmer. There are several factors that contribute to the seasonality of the farm such as size and scale of the operation, crops grown, location, livestock, management style and general upbringing or personal work ethic! I hope this provides some insight to what versatile businessman farmers are.
Start at the beginning!
The saying “Knee high by the 4th of July” is no longer accurate this day and age. These days, the corn is likely shoulder height or taller by the 4th of July, but has probably not tasseled yet. July is a bit of a slower month for corn farmers. Somewhat of a breather where they can watch their corn grow in between prayers for rain and heat. That’s not to say there isn’t work going on at the farm – especially if they’ve got other crops and livestock to manage.
This year’s crop:
- Monitor crop for weeds, pests, and diseases – The corn and beans are getting too tall to go through with equipment at this point, but many farmers won’t hesitate to walk into their fields…or use the latest technology – like a UAV – to monitor growth progress. There are certain telltale signs that indicate insect activity, fungal disease, heat stress, lack of or too much water, etc… and there are still measures that can be taken to prevent these from destroying the crop.
- Spray Fungicide – If you’ve ever seen a small, low flying airplane “dive bombing” the corn fields, they might be applying fungicide. A fungicide controls or prevents fungal diseases such as rust, mildew and blights.
- Harvest Wheat – In central and southern Illinois, where wheat is more prevalent, it’s typically ready to harvest around the 4th of July. In some climate zones, the farmer can even double crop soybeans into his wheat field. This means he or she can plant a late crop of soybeans into the wheat field that was just harvested. It will be ready to harvest a bit later than the rest of their crops, and won’t yield as many bushels per acre, but in most cases, is still a profitable practice.
- Cover Crop Consideration – It really takes more coordination than a month or two’s notice, but toward the end of July or early August is when cover crop seed purchase and application should be put in place.
- Clean out bins – It’s time to make room for the 2016 harvest by cleaning out storage bins. This may require hauling loads to the elevator or climbing inside to scoop out old corn.
- Mow ditches and waterways
- Schedule fuel deliveries – fill up on farm diesel and propane when the price is right and before the rush of harvest begins. Also, catch any tank maintenance issues before harvest!
- The “Machine Shed Shuffle” – rearrange equipment to easily access the pieces you’ll need for Fall. (Hint: cultivators, planters, and sprayers can be put in the back)
Next year’s crop:
- Planning ahead – It’s hard to believe that it’s already time to make arrangements for NEXT YEAR’S crop, when there’s still no tangible measurement of how THIS crop is doing. Many farmers are looking ahead to contract fall fertilizer, and considering what changes they’d like to make next year. It won’t be long before seed salesmen start coming around to take orders.
If a farmer has livestock there’s a lot more going on for them this month. Aside from daily chores and care, there’s hay-making (cut hay, rake hay, bale hay, and move/store hay) and in many cases getting show livestock ready for 4-H shows at summer fairs.
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