Rainin’ and Rollin’

 – The Harris Family

May has sure had a “boat” load of surprises. Hobart has seen the most amount if rain  consecutively since probably 2008. We received 5 inches over 5 days – it couldn’t have more perfectly timed.

Summer crops were in the ground and are shooting upwards with the big drink they received.

Today, the last day of May, the first combines are rolling in the Hobart area. More pics to come. Praying everyone is blessed and has a safe harvest and summer.

Ranching come snow or shine – The Mitchell Family

River Mitchell on the family ranch in southwest Oklahoma.

River Mitchell on the family ranch in southwest Oklahoma.

Hello, My name is River Mitchell and I am a fifth generation Rancher from Southwest Oklahoma. (That’s me in the picture with green grass wearing the green shirt)  I’m your “at large” State Young Farmers & Ranchers representative for district 8.

I have grown up and still live on my parents’ ranch about 25 miles northeast of Lawton, Oklahoma. I am a full-time college student at Cameron University working on my senior year, and I commute daily in order to continue helping on the ranch. The ranch is operated by my dad and brothers. I am the oldest of four boys (one of which is my twin, but I was born first, as I have been know to remind people).

Our operation consist of a starter/grow yard along with summer and winter grazing for yearlings and a commercial cow herd. Right now our biggest project is growing replacement heifers for a 2000-cow dairy farm at Fredrick, Oklahoma. So we have about 700 holstein heifers around at a time. It takes about a year for the heifers to grow from 325lbs, when we receive them, to the size for re-breeding at about 800 pounds when they leave.

As the pictures show, we use everything from dogs and horses to fourwheelers when moving cattle around. We don’t complain much about the snow or bad weather because we need the moisture. The saying goes, “There are only two things for sure in life, death and taxes,” but I would like to add “cows are always hungry”. It doesn’t matter the weather or the holiday or if you’re under the weather yourself, somebody has to feed, and most of the time, if you’re like me, that’s you. God Bless.

Praise the Lord, it’s raining – The Harris Family

Finally - real, actual rain in southwest Oklahoma!

Finally – real, actual rain in southwest Oklahoma!

Yes folks, that is RAIN in southwest Oklahoma. We are so blessed to be seeing true precipitation falling from the sky. Looks like in the 10-day we have some chances for some more. The wheat is starting to come out of dormancy and had plenty of subsoil moisture because of our no-till farming practices, but the crop needs top soil moisture for maximum yield potential.

Like any good meteorologist-stay tuned we’ll keep you posted.

Making it through the snow with happy cows – The Wilcox Family

The good news about black cows and white snow? It’s easier to count the cows!

The good news about black cows and white snow? It’s easier to count the cows!

We have finally seen the last of the recent snow melt up here! Moisture is always welcome in our part of Major County, but we were really getting tired of constantly checking tank heaters, draining hoses, and drudging through the snow!

Isn’t it funny how our perspectives change as we grow older? As a child, snow meant no school & a play day with friends; nowadays it just means a longer (& colder) day of doing the everyday chores on our farm. Still, I always look forward to the first significant snowfall of the year – it’s just the second and third that get a little rough.

Cow “Cake” or Cubes

Cow “Cake” or Cubes

We always feed plenty of extra hay to our cattle before a forecasted snow storm, but we still need to check for new calves (this time of year) daily and break ice on ponds in the few pastures that don’t have rural water and tank heaters (These also can burn out/quit so they also need to be checked daily). When the temperature drops, it is important that the cattle get some additional protein in the form of “cake” or “cubes” to help them combat the cold and keep their energy up.

The good news is that the moisture brought by this snow combined with the warmer temperatures should help bring on the cheat & ryegrass. Green grass = happy cows! “Happy cows” come from more than just California! They are found in pastures just like ours all across Oklahoma.

See you next month!
Clint and Jessica Wilcox

What a difference a year makes – The Leonard Family

Greetings from the Leonard house. This is Katy writing this week. Who would have thought that a month ago we would be sitting and waiting for it to dry out after approximately 15 inches of rain in the last two weeks? Two weeks ago my dad had surgery on his elbow and wrist. So he has become the one arm bandit and the drill sergeant. We, as in Kody, mom, and I, decided that we were going to take him on vacation to Palm Coast, Florida, for a week.

The Leonard Family visiting the Daytona International Speedway.

The Leonard Family visiting the Daytona International Speedway.

While we were in Florida we visited St. Augustine which just happens to be the oldest town in the U.S. We also visited Daytona Beach and with the NASCAR fanatics that are in my family, we had to go to the Daytona International Speedway and go on an hour and a half tour of the speedway.

Also, while we were in Daytona Beach we visited Bubba Gump’s. While we were there we saw several people fishing on the shore at the beach. We asked one of the guys fishing if they caught very many and he said one day he caught 16 baby sharks. He said if people really knew what was swimming in the water they might think twice before going in the water. Mom and I enjoyed searching for shells each day. We returned early Saturday morning after dad had got lost in Kansas City, Missouri.

Okay, now it’s time for dad’s views.  It’s so amazing how a year can be so different from the one before it.  This year started off very dry then got very wet from March through the first of June and then no rain for 60 days and now it has rained over 20 inches in the last three weeks.  From a crop producing viewpoint, crops don’t grow well in either extreme too wet or too dry.  That being said, here is this year’s crop report so far.

Water standing in a field at the Leonard home.

Water standing in a field at the Leonard farm.

Wheat was very good but about a week later than normal in harvesting.  Corn was a disaster from start to finish. It was too wet which caused us to be working the ground too wet which caused compaction on what ground we were able to get planted. Then it got hot and dry in June and July which made the ground get very hard. The roots of the plants hadn’t gone very deep because of the early wet ground and then when it did try to pollinate we had near 100 degree temperatures and very dry conditions.  Now with the 20 inches of rain in the last three weeks, the corn has suckered out and greened up and is even growing new ears but with no pollen left they are only blank ears.  So corn harvest, when it does ever come about, will be late and short as we only got less than half the acres planted that we wanted to.

Milo that got planted late when the corn didn’t get planted looks good now and is heading out.  I have never seen milo this tall but then again I have never seen this much rainfall in the first of August either.  Soybeans that got a stand in the dry soils of July now are dealing with the third week of water standing on top of the ground and not enough oxygen in the root zone in the soil. So they are very yellow looking but still growing.  The biggest issue with the soybeans now is the Roundup resistant weeds and the fact that we can’t get across the ground to spray the weeds.

To add to this, the local crop duster and his three planes went to Iowa to spray corn fungicides the last two weeks so our weeds have been growing fast with all this rain.  Now the beans are starting to bloom and that greatly reduces our options on what we can use to kill the weeds out of our beans when it does stop raining. (Boy I never thought I would ever say those words in the first week of August about wanting it to stop raining!)

We are all busy getting ready for school and the county fair, going to workshops and preparing for the new year of seed sales.

What a difference a couple months make – The Leonard Family

Hello all from what is now very wet northeast Oklahoma. As a farmer and rancher, and as a seed dealer, it is very hard to explain the attitude changes that the farm and ranch families go through in dealing with the weather and Mother Nature, but I will try.

Hail from a storm on  March 30.

Hail from a storm on March 30.

Two months ago at every supper table and church across this part of the state, a prayer was being said that went thing like this: “Lord, please let it rain.” Yesterday, I would bet that most were saying something more like this: “Thank you Lord for the rainfall. Please let it warm up so the grass will grow and I can plant some corn before it’s too late.”

On the seed side of our farm two months ago, I was thinking I might not even plant corn this year unless it rains so I can send the corn seed back. Now it has rained too much and it’s going to be past the crop insurance coverage date before it even dries up!  From our side of the seed business it sure makes planning inventories very hard, and now we must move the corn seed north to farmers who are still able to plant corn. Then we will find more soybean and milo seed for our customers to plant later in the year.  It has also hailed and froze the wheat crop at least two or three times in the last month. So far it appears that we haven’t had a lot of freeze damage to our wheat, although we’ve seen some. We once again have freezing temps in the forecast this week. Our wheat is a good three weeks later in development than it was last year at this time, so I guess we won’t see a May wheat harvest this year like we had last year.

Muddy fields have hampered springtime field work.

Muddy fields have hampered springtime field work.

We have been able to get three fields of corn planted so far – 165 acres out of the 1200 acres we had planned to plant. I have been trying to stick to my strip-tillage plans because of the great benefit it provides in managing soil erosion along with precise placement of the fertilizer. However, it has been so wet that we have had to go around standing water in places and work the ground wetter than I like to. I usually try to avoid fieldwork in wet conditions because of the compaction that is caused by rolling across the wet fields with the heavy equipment.  So far it has been a tough year on the no-till and strip-till farmers because we have to wait a little longer for our soils to dry out because of all the residue that we leave on the soil to act as cover, which helps reduce soil erosion when it rains.

With all the wetness, we have been able to get our spring cattle working done earlier this year, and our herd health program is in place.  I hope that we feed our last hay this week and that the cattle are all out on grass by the end of the week.  For some of us it has been the longest feeding season we have ever had, starting with haying last September because of the drought and now haying here into late April because it has just been too cold for the grass to take off and grow.  We were just lucky to have enough carryover and new-crop hay to last this long.

Katy stuck on the forklift trying to put the new doghouse into place.

Katy stuck on the forklift trying to put the new doghouse into place.

We have also been able to get our new office in the seed barn almost done with just the cabinets left to go.  We also have gotten to some of the projects that always take the back burner, like hauling off the scrap iron pile to the recycler, completing the last of the winter maintenance on the harvest equipment, the spring cleaning of our shop (the kids love that project) and even the kids finding time to build the dogs a new house out of the leftover lumber from the new seed barn.  Be sure to ask Katy how wet it is as you see from the picture of her stuck on the forklift trying to place her new doghouse in the back yard!

We hope all is going well for everyone, and at least for this week, farmers around here won’t be saying that they need rain. After the last two years, I almost find myself feeling guilty about that!

When life gives you lemons
 – The Harris Family

The past few weeks have been full of surprises: weather and big decisions.  You know Newton’s theory “for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction” applies to agriculture too. This wheat crop has seen lots of different stages. From a slow start due to drought, through the winter months and some late winter rains, then warmer weather brought the wheat out of dormancy and it started looking exceptional. But then come the lemons, or better yet, the freezes and harsh conditions.

When wheat advances to the boot stage (the stage before the seed heads fill with grain), it is a critical part of the maturing of the plant. At this stage, wheat can only stand freezing temperatures of 28°F for up to 2 hours without having at least partial damage to the wheat. Hobart, OK, saw temperatures drop to 27°F twice in the two weeks. And better yet we saw 16°F in late March. It wasn’t in the boot yet, but still the crop was advanced enough to sustain damage from the cold weather. Although the more recent temperature drops have been preceded by moisture pushing the warm air from the ground, hopefully giving a little protection. In addition, the temperature is taken at 5 feet above the soil level. When you consider that information, and the possibility of warm air from the ground, we were perhaps spared a lot of damage from that area of insulation. Time will tell whether we received a significant damage or only partial. Also, with the added moisture, it makes rust (a disease in wheat) a much bigger factor when considering a million-dollar crop. Do we need to spray to fight against the disease or has the freeze already committed all the damage for us? Those answers will be answered in God’s timing. In fact, the Daily Oklahoman came out and wanted to do an article about the wheat freeze. It came out on Sunday the 21 in the business section.  As I cut open the stem of the wheat plant to find the head, I was amazingly surprised at the length of head that is there. We are looking at a good crop if the good Lord is willing. Science will never be able to explain the mercies of His grace.

In the midst of all these decisions, Oklahoma Farm Bureau Young Farmers and Ranchers hosted its annual conference in Yukon, OK, April 4-7.  We visited Producers Cooperative Oil Mill.  They process canola and cottonseed oil. We learned about the entire process from seed to oil.  Among many interesting facts, we learned that when orange juice companies want to add pulp to their juice, they use the fibers processed from the cotton seed to “bulk” it up.  We also were privileged to visit Express Ranches’ cattle operation and their Clydesdale barn. What an operation! We finished our tours at Devon Tower.  The building is such a piece of artwork! The views are breathtaking! Look for YF&R at the state FFA convention and the OFB Legal Foundation’s Golf Tournament on May 3.
On this Earth Day, celebrate ways we can be good stewards of what the Creator has given us.  Every farmer and rancher around the world were the very first environmentalists because by protecting the environment it sustains our way of life. Living off the land and what He gives us is the best way of life for our family.

I believe Martin Williams’ Facebook status said it best: “When life gives you lemons make wheat hay and plant milo!”