The truck with liquid fertilizer used in top-dressing
Well it seems like only yesterday we were planting wheat, hoping for a rain, disastering cotton, experiencing our first semester of homeschool, and navigating our way through the Thanksgiving and Christmas seasons while traveling to all the family gatherings. As we begin this new season of the Harvest Watch Blog, I feel that we need to re-introduce ourselves. We are the Harris Family. I’m Zac and am married to Amy. She was raised where it still rains in Northeast Oklahoma. We farm with my grandfather and father in the Hobart area in Southwest Oklahoma. We farm wheat, cotton and alfalfa – and when it rains, we also get to harvest them. We also run a cow/calf operation with about 300 momma cows, and when we are blessed, we get to sell a few as show calves. We have three beautiful children. Kenda, our oldest, is 8 and has her own set of farming goals beginning with a miniature Hereford show steer. Rylan, our only boy, is 6 but thinks he can OPERATE any piece of machinery on the farm. He is usually easily spotted, despite his mother’s constant pleas, because he tucks his jeans in his boots similar to his Pappaw, Amy’s dad. The last of the crew is Trale’ who is almost 3, and she believes she rules the world – often we tell her she can’t boss us around.
The sprayer the Harris family uses to apply fertilizer.
Well now that we have the introductions out of the way, let’s get to the real reason you are reading this blog: what is going on in agriculture here in our beautiful state! God seems to be blessing us with rains just at the right time … amazing of His goodness. We are about 6 years into a major drought; I can get really technical in this, but basically a typical weather cycle lasts around 20 years, give or take, but the last wet cycle lasted closer to 30. The climatologists are basically preparing us to dig deep because they suggest it could be a long road before we are in another wet cycle. However, the wheat looks really good for the marginal moisture we have received. We were blessed early last week with a decent rain and snow to give us around 1 inch of precipitation. The week before the rain, I had “top dressed” or sprayed fertilizer on our wheat. Just about makes that timing perfect. Fertilizing simply is giving added nutrition to the crop at a specific time; if we had put it on too early, it would only grow the plant instead of adding income-producing grain to the crop. If we would have fertilized too late, we would put protein in the grain versus grain in the bin (money in our pockets). Protein is a great thing, but there is no income incentive in producing less grain with higher protein.
This past week with cattle I have had to set up more solar pumps on wells. Almost all the ponds are dry, or if the ponds have water there is little to no forage in the pasture for the cattle, it’s a catch-22. One of the good things about a drought is we get the opportunity to clean out all of our ponds from the years of silting in. We will start pregnancy-checking fall calving cows on Thursday and move them off what wheat pasture we grazed and back to small, dry pastures that will require more maintenance; water being the most critical.
We traded sprayers a few weeks ago, so this last fertilization in early February was its last on Harris Farms. We will hopefully get the new sprayer with 120’ aluminum booms this next week. That way, if I decide to top-dress a little more when we get more precipitation, it will be with the new rig! It was delivered without a “buddy seat” in it, and Rylan said that won’t do, dad – “Where will I sit?” Once it gets to the barn, I will add our radios and few personalized touches.
The Shelbourne Stripper header, waiting for wheat harvest.
Oh, I almost forgot something. I just purchased a Shelbourne header. It will run on the John Deere combine – whichever one is around here at harvest. I trade combines about as often as the wind changes directions in Oklahoma. For those of you who don’t know, this header is a stripper header, meaning that it strips just the grain off the plant and leaves the straw and everything else still standing. This is in an effort to help conserve as much moisture as possible. I can’t wait to get in the field with it and to post pictures to share!
We have the privilege of sitting on the state Young Farmers and Ranchers board, and with that comes planning, working with some great people, and going to the National YF&R convention. This year it was hosted in Phoenix, Arizona. Our kids enjoy these trips, too. We learned some neat things, like cactus can live to be more than 300 years old. They are very heavy, and when the monsoon season comes, they may fall because the weight of the cactus is too much for the shallow root system to bear. One day during convention we had the opportunity to go on tours. We toured an olive oil mill, citrus farm and a 9000-acre vegetable farm that employs around 800 people. As you can tell, their agriculture is different from Oklahoma, but just as diverse!
Photos from the Young Farmers & Ranchers conference:
The cacti-filled Arizona landscape.
Touring a citrus farm in Arizona.
The Young Farmers and Ranchers group had a great time learning about agriculture and leadership in Arizona.
As a farm owner-operator, you consistently have to be planning for the “what if’s.” What if it all plays out as you originally planned, or what if it doesn’t. We have planted cotton on Harris Farms every year that I can recall, and I will be 32 this spring. On a few fields, thewheat didn’t receive adequate moisture around planting so the seed never germinated. Typically we would disaster the wheat and plant an early cotton crop. I grew up a cotton farmer, but this year it looks as though we might temporarily abandon cotton for the first time in 50 years. I am toying with the idea of having an earlier-planted and -harvested milo crop. For example, we could plant milo in the middle of March and have the crop harvested around the middle of July, instead of planting cotton May 10 and harvesting in October or November when I also need to be planting wheat.
Seems like we have covered the basics … if you ever have questions, don’t hesitate to ask. We would enjoy hearing them.
Until next time – Zac