Out like a lion – The Wilcox Family

A #Felfie (Farm Selfie) with Ichi Mav

A #Felfie (Farm Selfie) with Ichi Mav

I think it’s safe to say March is leaving like a lion! Remember back to grade school when they told us that if March came in like a lamb it would go out like a lion? I think my first grade teacher Mrs. Rose was on to something there!

We have been very busy with our crop insurance business this month getting our farmers spring and summer planted crops insured, and short rating any acres of wheat or rye that they want to hay or graze out (harvest on the hoof). All the farmers I talked to out here in Western Oklahoma said the same thing; please send rain! I can definitely sympathize with them.

Farmers, ranchers (and their animals are ready for green grass again!

Farmers, ranchers (and their animals are ready for green grass again!

I checked the Mesonet on 3/19/14 before I spoke at the Dewey County Conservation Districts Annual Meeting/Banquet – it’s been 119 days since we have seen over .25” of rain in a single rain event here in Fairview! As bad as that sounds, it’s been 150+ days in many other places across Western OK. No wonder our wheat price is up… As the wheat has started to break dormancy and grow, more and more blue tint is showing up in fields. This is not a good sign – it means that the moisture needed to grow the plants is in short supply. The fields of Canola that escaped this brutally cold winter are also starting to really green up. Canola seems to do a little better job finding the moisture in the subsoil than wheat does, but it could use a drink too.

Spring calves on the Wilcox farm.

Spring calves on the Wilcox farm.

We are over halfway done with our spring heifers calving. It’s been a mostly uneventful calving season so far – and that’s just fine with us! I can attest to the fact that there really isn’t much in life cuter than calves.

We are hopeful that rain will soon start falling on our farms and fields, but if it doesn’t we know that it isn’t in our control and it’s just another bump in the road of farm life. Happy Spring y’all!

Heifers to AI and poultry going to market – The Bolen Family

Brent Bolen gathers heifers to get ready for artificial insemination.

Brent Bolen gathers heifers to get ready for artificial insemination.

This is a picture of some of our heifers that we have recently processed to get ready for artificial insemination. We have never used artificial insemination on our farm before and are very excited to use this technology.  We think it will be a great opportunity to use proven sires for low birth weights and maternal traits for future replacements cows.

Also, we have been busy with our poultry that will be going to market in a week or so. When they start getting bigger, the demand for keeping everything perfect in the houses starts to increase as well. We are also getting the cleanout equipment serviced in case we decide on a complete cleanout after this flock.

I am also getting hay equipment serviced and maintained because it looks as though we could start on the alfalfa in the next couple of weeks if the weather permits.

On the personal side, softball, choir, art, FFA activities and schools functions are happening almost on a daily basis. I even made a trip to Iowa to buy some bulls and did a little sheep shopping while I was there. Our ewes are finished having babies and the early born will get weaned this week. Even though we raise our own we still like to buy a few really good ewes to show and then put back in our flock to breed.

The return of the feed grinder – The Bolen Family

Probably like a lot of folks, our feed grinder got brought out of retirement this past year. We had gotten lazy with somewhat cheap feed and just bought it already ground and mixed. With the high price of corn and all the added cost at the feed store, we went back to making our own ewe and lamb creep feed. We mainly dry-lot our ewes because if we allow them to graze it seems we struggle too much with internal parasites (worms).

Grinding sheep feed on the Bolen farm.

Grinding sheep feed on the Bolen farm.

We also received a new flock of baby chickens in the four houses close to our home place. We have the other four houses set a week apart, so we have the work spread over a little more time.

We are still in full-blown calving season. We have close to 60 on the ground now. In fact, I’m sitting in my pickup writing this on my iPhone waiting on and watching a first-calf heifer.

We have been blessed with rain and mild weather compared to the rest of the state. One thing that keeps concerning me is how quickly it dries out after these rains. We are normally knee-deep in mud this time of year. We will see what this next spring and summer has in store. None of our ponds are completely full. They are, however, in way better shape now than they were last fall.

Next week is our county livestock show, so I hope we are reporting success from the competition.

Repairs, cattle and meetings – The Leonard Family

My dad, a neighbor, and I baled 125 bales of hay for us on our 1st cutting of prairie hay and 2nd of bermudagrass hay. I mowed the meadows with the help of dad on our neighbor’s tractor.

We also worked on the combine changing the concaves from our small wires for wheat to round bars for corn and soybeans. Also we did some minor repairs like taking a half link out of the feeder house chain and sealing come cracks.

We have been working on getting the planter ready for corn planting next year. Also, we have put new blades on it so that we can get a clean cut through the ground.

Recently we worked the rest of our fall cows and weaned the calves. We sold the steers and kept the heifers to grow out and decide which ones to keep for replacements. Then we ground feed to put in the creep feeder to grow the heifers out.

Dad has been at meetings, he was appointed to chairman of the county excise board, which sets the county budget. Katy left for FFA Alumni Camp Sunday and gets back Wednesday.

Rewarding weeks – The Webb family

Well it’s been a long but rewarding two weeks.  We started laying down hay April 15th and finished baling April 28th.  I’ve never cut hay this early but everything worked out just fine.  To make things even better, we received a nice two-inch rain the night we finished baling.  Our custom wicking is just about to wind up.  We’ve had a good run this spring.

Clayton and I went to a “precision farming” meeting in Enid last week.  It was put together by our John Deere dealer.  We use GPS guidance on all of our equipment and actually “documented” our yield for the first time during last year’s wheat harvest.  Due to the drought, we only cut half a crop on the half of our grain acres that didn’t completely burn up but still, it got us started in yield documentation.  I have spent the last several years moving in this direction.  We plan to utilize grid sampling and harvest information to implement variable rate fertilizer, lime, and seeding rate prescriptions on our grain acres.  We still have a ways to go but we’re heading in that direction.

I serve on the Blaine County Conservation District Board of Directors. We have sponsored and organized a farm safety day for all the 4thgraders in Blaine County for about six years now.  Fourth graders from Canton, Watonga, Okeene, and Geary come to the Blaine

Brandon teaching animal safety to 4th graders during our annual farm safety day.

County fairgrounds for a day of learning.  Cari and I address “animal safety” for the day.  We had this year’s farm safety day last Wednesday.  It is always quite interesting interacting with so many kids.  I think we had about 100 kids this year.

This week we will get back to working our cattle. We’ve got several more groups to get through.  This past week we pregnancy checked 108 home raised replacement heifers.  We exposed them to bulls for 70 days for an October-November calving period.  Our heifers are usually 13-14 months old when we expose them to the bulls.  Typically, we leave the bulls with them for 60 days, but like everything else, the drought caused us to do things early,  so we exposed this set of heifers when they were 11-12 months old.  We left the bulls an extra 10 days to try to compensate for the younger heifers.  We ended up with 89 bred out of the 108 or 82%.   I think that is great.  Our older heifers usually hit somewhere between 85-88% bred at 60 days.  So maybe the extra 10 days helped make a difference.  I’ll know this fall when they calve.

We also have a lot of hay to get hauled in from the fields this week.  We haven’t moved any of it yet.  We round bale all of our hay and use a plastic netting called “surface wrap.”  It protects the hay quite well from rain damage, so once it’s baled we’re pretty safe.  We’ll let the wheat fields we cut for hay leaf back out and spray them with a chemical “burndown” using glyphosate.  We’ll also spray the wheat fields we grazed out at that time too.  We rotate hay crops and grazing out wheat fields to help keep the feral rye in check.  Therefore, we want to be sure and kill everything left in the field to clean them up.

Wade gets out of school May 11.  That’s about a week earlier than we’re used to but we’re glad, I know he’s ready for summer to be here.  If everything stays on this early schedule, we might be cutting wheat by May 21st.  We’ll see.

A formal introduction – The Webb Family

Brandon checking a winter wheat field.

I failed to introduce our family last week. I’m Brandon Webb. My wife is Cari and we have two sons, Clayton, 19, and Wade, 16.  We live about 9 miles southeast of Canton, OK where we farm and raise cattle. I work full time here on the farm. Cari works part-time at Wheeler Brothers Grain Company in Watonga and on the farm keeping books and performs any other tasks where her help is needed. Clayton graduated from Canton High School last spring and is currently working on the farm while also pursuing a helicopter pilot’s license. He has 3 days of helicopter school this week. Wade is a sophomore at Canton High School. He works on the farm as well and is also very active in school activities. He has 4 baseball games this week. He pitches and plays first base.

Our operation consists of about 8,500 acres, with 3,000 acres in cultivation, and 5,500 acres of pasture. We grow mostly wheat and rye on our farm along with a

Holly Berry playing in the wheat.

little milo and hay-grazer each year. Our grass pastures are predominately native but we also have quite a few acres of Bermuda. We do quite a bit of seasonal custom work throughout the year. We put up hay, wick rye, sow wheat, clip cedars and do various other custom jobs where we can utilize our equipment to create additional income. This week we will start applying fertilizer and weed killer on our Bermuda grass pastures. We’ve been checking wheat fields this past week and it looks like it may be about 2 weeks ahead of schedule right now which might mean hay season will start a little early too. We’ll go ahead and start running our hay equipment through the shop this week getting it ready to go.

We have a 700 head commercial cow/calf operation. We generally sell our calves

Fall-calving replacement heifers on wheat pasture.

as yearling feeder cattle but sometimes sell them as stockers if we need to. Our cow herd is comprised of 500 Angus and 200 Charolais cross cows. We use registered Angus and registered Horned Hereford bulls on our cows to produce crossbred calves. Our spring heifers are still calving. We are down to 16 head now. We also have a set of fall calving replacement heifers that will start calving in October.

We were blessed with 2 inches of rain last week. So far spring has started out quite nice.

Photo gallery: A new calf on the Webb farm