Beginning to thaw out – The Crain Family

Teaching a parent how to clip a goat.

Teaching a parent how to clip a goat.

Welcome to March! Well kind of just a little late. Since our last post it has been wild and crazy without a lot of extra time. In mid-February we attended the National YF&R conference in Virginia Beach. We had a lot of fun and enjoyed getting to meet other farmers from across the country as well as Canada.

With Derek being a past agricultural education instructor, we have been helping some former students with spring livestock projects.

The worst part of winter weather coming in meant getting cattle ready and making sure water was available; not to mention most of the calving occurring when temperatures are at their lowest. We think a couple of the calves’ ears may have gotten too cold as they seem to look a little stunted, but they will all be okay and we did not lose anyone to the cold temperatures.

Clearing off the roads so that drivers can make it to their destinations safely

Clearing off the roads so that drivers can make it to their destinations safely

To go along with all of that with snow storms, Derek has had to work strange, long hours clearing roads while working for ODOT.

As pastures begin to green up the cows are beginning to be happier, and we are trying to prevent some mowing of weeds in the farmyard by spraying early in the season. Till next time we make it back, enjoy your spring!



Springtime and shearing time – The Bolen Family

This past month has really been its normal busy time for us.  Photo opportunities have been afterthoughts, and I apologize.

We have sent off another flock of birds for processing and have already placed a new batch this past week.  We did a complete clean-out of the litter of all our houses.  Most went straight to the pastures or hay fields, and we stored some in the barn for future use.

We have been blessed with about four inches of rain in the past week that will really get the summer grasses going.  We also got our 70 yearling heifers artificially inseminated the past couple of weeks.  We also turned all our bulls out for the sixty- to ninety-day breeding season for our older cows.  Our next project with the cows will be to get them all wormed and the calves processed with vaccines and castration of the bull calves.

Also, all our hay fields are ready to be baled.  On any given day between now and frost we will be tending to our normal chores in the poultry houses and baling hay.  I really enjoy the haying season, though.  I love the challenge of making superior quality hay for livestock consumption.

The girls have finished school and will be deciding which lambs they will show this summer and fall.  I missed a photo of the sheep shearing processes, which happened about two weeks ago.  We hire a contractor to shear the wool off all our sheep annually.  It is a very labor intensive, back-breaking job, but the guy we use does it like a pro.  He gathers the wool in large sacks and sends to a processor for us to sell.  The wool brings a little less than what it cost to have them sheared, but the ewes really need the wool removed before the really hot part of summer.

Hopefully over the coming weeks I will do a better job of slowing down and getting some more photos to share.  In the meantime, I would encourage you to Google YouTube videos of folks shearing sheep.  It amazes me how fast some of these folks can shear a sheep.

Adapting and overcoming – The Webb Family

We plan our work, and work our plan, but in a business in which we rely so much on the weather we have to be willing and ready to adapt our plan to overcome the obstacles that are placed in front of us at times.  I tell the boys that everything we do is on purpose, even though at times it seems like we’re flying by the seat of our pants.

The Webb family’s water truck.

The boys and I bought some hose and fittings to make our nurse truck capable of fighting fire.  We put together a 50 foot hose with a firemen’s nozzle that hooks to our transfer pump.  We can carry 3,200 gallons of water and thought it would be wise to keep it full of water and in the barn to be ready at a moments notice.  Fires are becoming much too common this summer.  Clayton was able to take our truck to a couple of different fires Friday to help keep the tankers full that provide water for the fire fighter crews that were fighting fires close to a couple of places we farm.  He and one of his cousins have provided water, moved hay, drug off cedars, and have helped out where they could these last few weeks.  One of our local firemen said that when some slots came open that maybe he and his cousin might be interested in joining our volunteer fire department.  I told him I think that would be a great way to serve our community.  My hat’s off to the firefighters who so selflessly give of their time and energy to help keep us all safe.

Cattle are the backbone of our operation so this summer definitely has us on edge.  It is August 5th and the drought here in northwest Oklahoma is sure taking its toll.  We continue to pray for rain.  Our pastures are “crunchy” when walked upon.  We still have a little green but brown is the more prevalent color.  It looks like January when looking out of the kitchen window but definitely doesn’t feel like it when we step outside.

Feeding hay to a set of cows.

We began pulling calves off of our winter calving cows July 23rd.  We weaned about 90% of the calves and took about 10% back to their mothers, we’ll leave them on until October.  They were a little too young to wean at this point.  Most of the calves we are weaning were born in December, January, and February.  They’ll average 6 ½ months old and weigh around 550 lbs.  Yesterday we weaned 2 out of 3 sets of our first calf heifers.  Their calves average 5 months old and weigh about 400 lbs.  Normally we don’t wean calves until the first of October but leaving them would take too much condition off their mothers, especially the first calf heifers.  They only have 2 front teeth and are still maturing themselves. We generally always wean their calves a little early because of this.

To compensate taking the calves off the cows, we ordered 4 loads of 14% protein medicated pellets from A&M Feeds in Stillwater.  Clayton went and trucked them home last week and put them in overhead bins.  We got enough to last through the end of September at which point we’ll assess our fall pasture outlook and either carry the calves over or sell them.  At that point, they will be 60 days weaned and will bring at the top of where the market is then.  I hope to have rye up 6 inches tall and all the wheat in the ground by then.  If we do, we’ll plan to keep the calves and run them until January.

Cows enjoying the hay put out for them.

Even though they are turning brown, we have pretty good growth on some of our pastures but some are getting pretty short. We have started feeding a little wheat hay to the cows on the short pastures. We also have some late spring calving cows that we won’t plan to wean calves from until November and we will also feed them some additional hay along with their protein supplement.  There is already a big demand for feed with the drought being so widespread.  We took delivery on 2 loads of 20% protein cubes to feed our cows on the dry pastures, we had a little over a load in the bin but I don’t want to get behind.  Last year the feed mills got about a month out on their feed.  We might offer some liquid supplement on some of our pastures with good growth to keep the cows spread out.  At this point, I have no absolutes.

With optimism in the forefront, we started applying lime on about 500 acres of wheat ground.  The ph in these fields was beginning to dip below 5.  We are utilizing the grid sampling we did after harvest and are using variable rate application to shoot for a target of 6 in these fields.  We applied lime on about 500 of our acres a year ago spring in front of some milo.  On one of those fields, about 100 acres in size, we had the opportunity to run a grid sample for ph and variable rated the lime application which kind of helped nudge us over the hump to start grid sampling everything.  On the other fields we just applied a general 1.75 to 2 tons of lime per acre field wide.   We more than saved enough money putting the lime where we needed it to pay for the grid sampling cost on the mentioned field.  I’m hoping by embracing the technologies and resources we have at our disposal that we will be able to be much more profitable in the end by better utilizing our nutrient inputs more efficiently.

Our seed cleaner came and cleaned our seed wheat a couple of weeks ago.  We have Duster and Bullet wheat varieties on hand to plant this fall.  We’ll plant a couple more varieties to see how they’ll perform for us.  We generally have 2 varieties on most of our acres and like to introduce 1 or 2 new varieties each year on limited acres to keep our options open.  I’ve got a couple loads of Maton rye to plant on our rye acres.

Fires have become too common.

It’s hard to believe August is already here.  Wade starts school Wednesday which is as early as I remember school starting.  He has been lifting weights most of the summer for football and is anxious to begin practices.  Clayton passed his written test a couple weeks ago and is now waiting to take his “check ride” to obtain his private helicopter license.  He has worked hard and is ready to get this step behind him.  He will then continue on with his commercial training.   We bought a helicopter from a farmer in Kansas.  It is identical to the 2-seater he has been training in.  We crunched the numbers and decided it would be more cost effective in our case to own a machine instead of leasing one as he logs in hours of flight time towards his commercial license.  We are converting a lean-to on one of our barns into a hanger to store the helicopter in.  Cari continues to haul water to the trees around the house we planted last year.  We decided on a drip system for the flower beds last year which has kept the flowers alive and beautiful during the hot, dry days.

I hope the next couple of weeks finds all of us enjoying some much-needed rain.  September’s getting closer so we know cooler temps should be on the way.  So until next time, make every day a good day.

Deja Vu – The Harris Family

Seems like we have lived through high temperatures and drought conditions with high fire dangers before!  Almost seems like last summer never ended.  It is easy to forget the blessing God gave us here in Southwest Oklahoma for the rain and conditions through the winter that promoted our blessing of a wheat crop.  So easily we can forget what He has done for us; instead, we just complain about what we need from Him.  I am confident He will continue to grow us and change us through this season as well…

The seed cleaner at work at one of our wheat bins.

With that being said, life on the farm is never ending – come rain, shine or drought!  We have cleaned seed wheat recently.  We have enough on-farm storage to almost plant our wheat acres twice.  It takes about 3 days to clean the wheat in 2 locations and in several different bins.   Jarrett Orrell is a college graduate who is trying to find his fit back in the ag sector.  He does a great job and has cleaned our wheat the last 3 years.

We have been running the no-till ripper like crazy.  We try to rip about 1/3 of our acres every year.  It takes about 2 weeks about 14 hours a day to get over about 2000 acres.  Ripping takes a lot of time at just 19 feet per pass.

The whole 19′ of ripper!  The ground is getting awfully tough and tight, but so far we have been able to continue to stick it in the ground

We still have water at all the pastures, but we are having to shift some cattle around for grass.  I take that back –  I put out the first solar pump this morning.   The grass seems to be going backwards quickly.  The pastures that were sprayed for weeds and received some “rest” seem to still be holding well.  The pastures that have been grazed hard or didn’t get sprayed are just plain weedy!  I know feed prices are getting high and several of our friends especially in the eastern side of the state are scrambling for hay and reasonable feed sources for the winter.  A farmer/rancher’s job is almost half predictions of the future.  It seems like if you plan right you can hit a home run on prices and be protected for several years, but if you don’t, it seems like you struggle for a couple just to make up what you lost that one year.

The hay barn was full enough that the equipment had to be parked outside. We are blessed – especially after all the hay we had to buy last year because of the extent of the drought

Speaking of prices – with the global drought conditions, crop prices are climbing higher and higher.  I am not really complaining of that.  I have only sold minimal wheat so far and looking like I will be holding the wheat for a while longer.  With corn and wheat climbing and the world surplus stocks getting smaller, it should also increase our grocery bills.  What happens in the agriculture sector affects all aspects of life across the world!

Our church is in vacation Bible school this week.  Amy and I are teaching the soon-to-be 5th graders. Every day we watch a video about a missionary somewhere in the world.  Last night we watched a video about the missionaries in Madagascar and about some of the remote villages that have NOTHING.  We watched as some planted by hand and some were fortunate enough with some sponsorship to have 2 cows to pull a plow behind.  Showing that most kids start working in the fields with heavy labor at around age five!  Although my kids are farm kids and have their own responsibilities to pull their weight on the farm, they are blessed enough to also have time to be carefree kids.  It’s just amazing watching the families and villages trying to farm with 1920’s technology when I am running large tractors that drive themselves thanks to current agriculture technology.  God has blessed us on where we live.  I could have easily have been born in much poorer country without the knowledge or means to farm like we do.