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 eighth 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!
It’s a month of anticipation and preparation for the upcoming harvest season. While there’s still a few things going on with the current year’s crop, there’s also a mind shift into harvest and post-harvest plans. This can also be a busy time of year for off-farm meetings and events – like the state fair!
This year’s crop:
- Finish Spraying Fungicide – Depending on the growth stage of the corn, there may still be some fungicide application to do in August.
- Apply Cover Crops –Terminal cover crop varieties like tillage radishes and oats can be aerially applied to standing corn and beans once the canopy has shrunk some and enough light can get to the ground. Cover Crops can provide soil benefits to the fields in both “regular” areas as well as high erosion areas. Their roots help to hold the soil in place and reduce nutrient run-off as well as aiding in weed control. This best management practice is getting more and more popular in recent years as farmers have witnessed its benefits.
- Prepare equipment for Harvest – It’s time to get the combine out and fire it up for its pre-harvest maintenance inspection and setting calibrations. Same goes for the grain trucks, semis, tractors, grain carts and gravity wagons.
- Mowing and Odd Jobs – There’s always ditches and waterways to mow and, depending on the farm, this could be baled into hay to either sell or feed to livestock. It’s also probably time for another alfalfa cutting which would be baled for the same purposes. Finally, August is when corn silage is made. To cut corn silage you need a special machine called a silage chopper and wagon that go through the corn like a combine and basically mow off the entire plant: stalk, leaves, corn cobs and all. Everything gets shot into the wagon and taken to the storage area and put away to cure in long white bags, individually packed round bales or for larger quantities, bunkers or vertical storage bins. Corn silage is primarily fed to cattle – especially dairy cows.
Next year’s crop:
- Planning ahead –Farmers are looking ahead to contract fall fertilizer, and considering what changes they’d like to make next year. There’s post-harvest projects to be thinking about as well such as tiling projects and dirt work to redirect water flow in problem areas. There are countless other projects on the back burner – these are just a couple examples.
Off Farm Commitments:
- Meetings – August is basically the last month to get farmers together for organizational and informational meetings. Many farm organizations have their last group meeting in August and wait until harvest is over to have their next one, because they know it’s not likely anyone will show up when they could be picking corn! Lots of seed dealers are also having informational meetings to discuss the benefits of their brand of seed in preparation for next year’s planting season.
- Fair Season – Finally, it’s County and State Fair time meaning town kids and country kids alike will be showing their 4-H projects. For many farm kids, this is the livestock they’ve been working with all summer long. They may be spending anywhere from three to seven days at the fair. Mom and Dad play a big role in the projects as well- transporting the livestock, tack, grooming chutes and feed, not to mention supporting their kids as they show. Adults can show livestock as well in the “Open Show”. This is a great chance to market your breeding stock and meet potential buyers.
ICGA/ICMB Membership Assistant