April snow showers bring May flowers? – The Wilcox Family

A late snowstorm on April 14 and subsequent freeze raises questions about canola and wheat in 2014.

A late snowstorm on April 14 and subsequent freeze raises questions about canola and wheat in 2014.

This is the scene in one of our canola fields this morning. We had a skiff of snow fall last night and this morning (April 14, 2014). While this is surprising, it’s not too unusual for us to have a little snow in April (last year it snowed a little on the 1st or 3rd of May). What makes this year’s late freeze so brutal is that our wheat has not had significant moisture since September of 2013 and the drought has stressed the wheat so much that it has literally went from a month behind to right on schedule in ONE WEEK! The canola is drought stressed also, but it seems to handle late freezes better than wheat does, generally speaking.

Getting the planter prepared to plant milo (grain sorghum) on failed canola.

Getting the planter prepared to plant milo (grain sorghum) on failed canola.

On a more optimistic note, Clint has been getting our planter geared up and ready to plant milo on the acres of canola that froze out earlier this winter. Hopefully the weather will permit us to grow a good crop of milo. We were planning on planting Milo (also called grain sorghum) early this year, but with no moisture in the soil profile and a not-so-promising weather outlook we are probably going to push our planting itinerary back and pray for the El Nino they keep talking about this fall.

We did a little prescribed burning on a Bermuda grass field early this month. Burning off the old growth and “thatch” accumulation will help control weeds, allow the new growth to take off sooner, and allow us to harrow the field to make it smoother for us to cut, rake, and bale more efficiently.

When I started talking to Clint about what to write about this month I didn’t think I had much to write about, but looking back we’ve been pretty busy. I think we are just getting ready for the craziness that is May!

Prescribed burning of bermuda grass mimics natural cycles.

Prescribed burning of bermuda grass mimics natural cycles.

From one busy month to the next – The Emerson Family

Part of the Emerson's efforts goes toward raising show cattle.

Part of the Emerson’s efforts goes toward raising show cattle.

The month of March was long, cold and busy for us on the ranch. The first week we received nearly six inches of sleet and ice, which was extremely tough on the cattle and made for long days feeding and breaking ice. No matter the weather, farmers and ranchers know taking care of our animals comes first.

Kim and I make numerous livestock shows during the month from our local show in Checotah to our Regional Show held in Muskogee, which Kim serves as the beef superintendent and on the Board of Directors. Kim spends a week there helping with all facets of the show. We believe the 4-H and the FFA students are the future of agriculture and we try to support them as much as possible. During the Oklahoma Youth Expo, two heifers we raised made the champion percentage Simmental drive.

Two heifers the Emersons raised made it into the champion percentage Simmental drive.

Two heifers the Emersons raised made it into the champion percentage Simmental drive.

As I am writing this, the grass is getting greener and we are making plans on getting the cattle de-wormed, vaccinated and moved to spring pastures during the first weeks of April. The brightest spot this month has been being able to announce that Kim and I are expecting our first child in October and the excitement of sharing that with everyone. Till next time may your grass be green and your cattle fat!

 

Josh and Kim are expecting their first child in October!

Josh and Kim are expecting their first child in October!

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!

 

 

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.

Everything needs water

 – The Harris Family

Zac and the kids chopping ice as cows wait for a drink.

Zac and the kids chopping ice as cows wait for a drink.

All living things must have water. Humans can live up to 10 days without food, but only 3 days without water!  Early in February, we struggled with extreme cold temperatures and as good stewards of God’s creation (farmers and ranchers), we must under any condition care for the animals.

When water troughs and ponds freeze up we must do whatever is necessary to get our animals water.  Most of the time this just includes “chopping ice” with an axe until we reach water.  This is a daily occurrence.

Because of the extreme drought western Oklahoma has faced, we are using solar pumps to pump water from 50-year-old wells into troughs.  The big concern with that is when it gets so cold outside the water in the wells freeze up.  Then our only option is to “haul water” in trailers to cattle.  So far we have been blessed to either move cattle to different pastures that had deeper wells or the ponds on a few places still had some water.  

Hope you enjoy the pictures of our family “chopping ice”.  The kids really enjoy this time with dad!

Video feature: Feeding cattle in the snow: The Emerson Family

We took a morning and rode along in Josh Emerson’s feed truck as he fed and checked cattle near Checotah, Oklahoma. Josh took the time to explain how winter storms complicate the task of animal care and why ranchers make animal care a top priority, even in sub-freezing temperatures.

Getting through winter, planning for the future – The Emerson Family

As we are nearing the end of January, we realize how time truly does fly. We hope to give you a look at our operation each month for the next 12 months. The agriculture way of life is one that changes not only every month, but every day. Dealing with freezing temperatures, highs and lows of cattle prices, and drought conditions are just a few that we are facing every day. We are honored to be involved in the greatest industry, an industry that puts the clothes on your back and food on the dinner table. It is awesome opportunity to serve on the YF&R State Committee. It is a true enjoyment to look back and reflect on our operation, we hope you enjoy our “snapshot”.

The stockyards at the National Western Stock Show in Denver.

The stockyards at the National Western Stock Show in Denver.

Hi, we are Josh & Kim Emerson from Checotah, which is located in McIntosh County in Eastern Oklahoma. We are serving as the Oklahoma Farm Bureau Young Farmers & Ranchers District six committee members. We have operated a diversified cattle, hay and order-buying operation since 1998. Our cattle consist of registered Angus, Simmental, Maine-Anjou, club calves and commercial cow/calf. January has been a whirlwind with battling cold temperatures, chopping ice and getting cattle fed. We just finished up our FFA/4-H Trophy Auction and Chili feed and now are preparing for the upcoming stock shows.

Kim is the Vice President for Armstrong Bank in Checotah and serves on many community and livestock boards so January tends to get crazy in trying to prepare for upcoming spring stock shows. We just returned from a trip to the National Western Livestock Show with Zac & Amy Harris, the district two committee members to check out the up-and-coming genetics that breeders across the nation have to offer.

The vertical feed mixer that allows the Emersons to create custom feed mixes.

The vertical feed mixer that allows the Emersons to create custom feed mixes.

Due to the cold weather most every day this month, after feeding and checking cows I spend time in the barn getting equipment ready for spring. During the drought we purchased a vertical mixer that allows us to produce a total mix ration that helps the cattle produce more pounds of beef while lowering our input cost by allowing us to feed by-products and lower cost commodities.  We just this week started getting semi loads of chicken litter that will be spread on the pastures for fertilizer. This weekend we will be working and moving spring AI calving cows in and fall calvers out, our calving season starts February 15th. The majority of our spring calving cows are bred to bulls with maternal traits; our goal is to keep the best heifers out of our spring herd for replacements. Kim and I hope you enjoyed this snapshot of our operation, let’s see what happens next month!

 

Same song, different dance – The Harris Family

Spraying a wheat field in southwest Oklahoma.

Spraying a wheat field in southwest Oklahoma.

Well its very cold and dry STILL in Southwest Oklahoma.  We are working on several projects and planning for this year’s crops. Zac has began micromanaging each of the fields to try to maximize production.  We began this last year, instead of putting all the fertilizer on the wheat at one time, but rather applying it in a timely fashion before a rain, etc.  This way we can split the fertilizer over a 2-month span and hopefully gain maximum benefit by the crop having ample nutrition at all stages.  Not only does this add time covering 6000 acres twice, but also our overhead costs of engine hours on equipment, diesel and the opportunity for break downs.  We feel like last year it improved our yields despite the four late freezes that caused significant damage; providing more of a safe product for the world.

Chopping ice is a necessity to ensure livestock have water during cold spells.

Chopping ice is a necessity to ensure livestock have water during cold spells.

With weather all over the place it makes it really hard on all life, including livestock.  One of my chickens died; the kids have had them since last spring and they had just began laying eggs consistently.  Really warm days followed by harsh cold fronts and polar vortices give opportunity for cattle to be sick quickly.

Zac has bought 2 wheat trucks that needed complete overhauling- in fact one of them was a wrecked truck.  Apparently, the driver had gotten too far in the ditch to allow a vehicle to travel along the same road and the wheat in the box shifted and caused the truck to flip on its side.  So he has spent a lot of time straightening and tweaking the bent iron to make this a useable truck for the years to come.  Over a year ago, he also bought a very similar truck that needed a motor overhaul.  So this is the year of the trucks at the Harris Farms.

Kenda's horse and 4-H steer get to know each other across the fence.

Kenda’s horse and 4-H steer get to know each other across the fence.

Kenda has been busy washing and working hair on her Oklahoma Youth Expo steer project.  She has shown mini Herefords before but this is her first official 4-H project.  Her brother and sister have been very helpful! Trale’ feels like she needs a “widdle steer” herself!

Just staying busy. If you come SW give us a shout we’d love to buy your dinner!

Zac and Amy

 

Kicking off 2014 – The Williams Family

Editor’s Note: This year’s Harvest Watch blog will feature posts from Oklahoma Farm Buraeu’s Young Farmers and Ranchers Committee members. These young agriculturalists live across our state and will share their views on agriculture as they tell their personal stories.

For more information about the Williams family, visit the Meet the Families page. Information about this year’s participants will be added with their first blog post.

The Williams Family

The Williams Family

The fire is lit, the cattle are fed, the wheat is fertilized, and the holiday season has come to a close. Here on the Williams’ Farm it is time to prepare and plan for the year ahead. This year our family has been elected to serve the state YF&R in the position as Chairman.  For the New Year, our committee of young agriculturists wanted to allow readers the opportunity to experience our daily lives…basically giving agriculture a face and a story. Each member of our committee has different interests and operations that contribute to the 2nd largest economy in Oklahoma.

Morgan and Ava.

Morgan and Ava.

Our farming operation is located near Red Rock, Oklahoma, established in 2004.  In ten years we have gone through many changes and growing pains, and feel very blessed to be the operation we are today. I, Martin Williams, and my wife, Crystal, daughter Ava, and son Morgan are an integral part of this farm.   For this month’s blog, Crystal and I will each contribute so you will see through the lens of a 6th + generation farmer and a young farm wife who grew up in town with no ag background. We currently raise winter wheat, winter canola, corn, soybeans, barley, grain sorghum, alfalfa, pecans, cattle, and a little hay.  We also sell commercial soybean, corn, and sorghum seed, and have a small business of controlling algae in lagoons at the Phillips 66 oil refinery in Ponca City, OK.  Sounds like a lot, and it is, but with three exceptional employees and other part-time help, it is a very enjoyable way of life.

In the ten years we have farmed, every year has brought significant changes, which we hope to share in a later post. Generally at this time, all of the crops have typically been harvested and the winter crops planted. This year we harvest various crops from May-November. January is typically a slower time for us. Last year at this time we were harvesting pecans…this year we haven’t started yet.

Spring seed orders slowly trickle in, but for the most part we are maintaining equipment and feeding cattle.

Feeding in the snow presents many challenges.

Feeding in the snow presents many challenges.

This past weekend we had record-low temps. Monday morning the outside temperature as many of you know, was -7 degrees. Feeding cows was a challenge, as Marty’s pickup had trouble starting due to the temperature causing the diesel to turn to gel. Therefore, plans changed as far as getting different vehicles out to feed and break ice.

The guys are also hard at work in the shop finishing up re-building portions of a worn-out no-till drill (John Deere 1850, 30ft with 48 rows). It’s taken about 2 weeks, about 40 man hours to complete this particular job.

There are mechanic jobs that the guys can do themselves, depending on the time of year, and other jobs that we depend on other mechanics to complete. For instance our John Deere 4020 sat outside for 23 years and needed the motor rebuilt. We just picked it up today from a John Deere dealership in Blackwell. They rebuilt the engine, hydraulic pump, and injection pump along with the new injectors. Previous to that we had stripped the tractor down to engine and frame, and converted the starting system from the old 24-volt system to a new 12-volt system. As you can see there is still work to be done. The plans are to repaint the tractor along with a new instrument cluster in the dash, new seat, tires, and rims, and don’t forget of course a new diesel tank, lights, and new decals.  

Wintertime brings with it opportunities for maintenance.

Wintertime brings with it opportunities for maintenance.

It all makes sense if you know Marty, who happens to love antique tractors and basically enjoys taking tractors out of the graveyard to the shop to resurrect in a sense. It’s not just a tractor to him, but instead the consideration of the history and life of each tractor, instilling a high sentiment. Usually he can re-tell the full history of each tractor (who owned it, how many acres it plowed or disced – it’s “medical” history).  I have learned that it has actually been cost-effective for him to take on this kind of project at times, when instead of purchasing a “new” tractor, we can find something like this that can be rebuilt for cheaper and seems to be as trusty and dependable as a new piece of equipment. This tractor will be used to mow waterways, auger grain, unroll bales for the barley modules, as well as harvest pecans. All work for this project should be completed by the end of March.

The John Deere 4020 Marty is bringing back to life.

The John Deere 4020 Marty is bringing back to life.

Trash day on the farm.

Trash day on the farm.

And of course, along with working around the shops and office, comes the trash. So this week we had our much anticipated “Trash Day Parade”. This typically consists of our Uncle Steve’s blue pickup bed mounded over with trash, along with an old bed trailer attached and full…led by THE trash truck shown here. We are proud to represent the “Clampits” of Noble County. We take ours to the Davis Disposal, which is about 8 miles north of where we live. 

As far as the family, I am busy  homeschooling our soon-to-be 6-year-old daughter, Ava. She has started piano lessons with the new year, along with her other two music classes and gymnastics. Morgan, the two year old, is busy playing with new toys and waits for time in the shop with the guys. The big birthday party for both kids is in planning mode for the end of what has turned out to be a very busy month.

This weekend we head off to San Antonio for the National Farm Bureau Convention. Marty will be serving as a delegate, and both of us are also helping with the National Young Farmers and Ranchers Discussion Meet. Blogging is also on the list! We have much we would like to share, in hopes that readers without much agriculture background can gain insight and appreciation for what the young and seasoned American farmers do every day of the year.

Snow and all that goes with it – The Graves Family

We received a blizzard! Monday, February 25, was so bad that Gary and Jake were not able to get out. Once it stopped snowing they were able to feed and check the cattle the rest of the week. They said it was slow going. Jolena was able to stay home, because her office was closed due to the blizzard.

Xander and Keira at Magic Kingdom at Disney World

Xander and Keira at Magic Kingdom at Disney World

Matt, Xander, Keira, and I had left the countryside for a little city life. We had been planning this trip since November, and somehow it landed on the week of a blizzard. Our destination was Orlando, FL, and we enjoyed it a lot. We took the kids to Disney World Magic Kingdom, Gatorland, and Melbourne Beach. Our flight was early Monday morning from Wichita, Kansas, and it only drizzled a little. Tuesday we were under a tornado watch in Orlando, and we heard reports of Tampa receiving damage from that storm. It only rained on us, thankfully!

We came back to reality on Friday, March 1, and we were glad to see home. It was a great trip, but it made us very thankful for our country life!

Saturday, we jumped backed into it all and had two extra kids for the weekend. I was so thankful for the warm weather, even with the snow on the ground. It made it really fun for the kids to play and have snowball fights. Matt and Gary fought the mud all day, but got around to all the cattle to make sure they were doing well. Jake headed to the state basketball games to watch his brother.

We received 81 head of steers the first week of March. I pushed the cattle while Matt and Jake tagged and vaccinated them Thursday, March 7. Gary and Jolena headed for snow skiing in Red River, NM, with the rest of the family, which included their daughters, Jennifer, her husband Steve, and their children: Dalton, Ethan, and Ali; and Julie, and her two boys, Rustin and Tayte. They came back Sunday, March 1.

Xander and his first "tractor"

Xander and his first “tractor”

Xander got his first “tractor” this week. Matt bought an old lawnmower from our neighbor and took the deck off of it. Xander has been pulling a small disk around with it. The disk is the same one Matt used to pull around with a 4-wheeler when he was Xander’s age.

Keira and I went to Atwood’s in Woodward, OK, and bought some ducks! This will be fun! We have five and they all have been named: Mohawk, Rex, Cinderella, Stripes, and Baby. The names might be altered a little when we know if they are male or female.

Matt went to Stevens’ Bull Sale on March 9, at Carmen, OK, and bought new bulls. Gary sold our current bulls to a neighbor. He wasn’t able to bring them home because they had received rain the night before. Jake fed all the cattle that day with a little help from his brother, Trevor, and Chad, Matt’s brother-in-law. I spent the weekend visiting my parents in Ingalls, KS. The kids and I had not been to see them since Christmas. Keira and Xander were very excited about seeing Nana and Papa and had a blast playing with her cousins Carson, Brie, and Bradie.

New calf following it's momma

A New calf following it’s momma

Another 127 head of mixed bulls and steers came Tuesday, March 12, and they will get tagged and vaccinated before the week is out. Jake hauled two loads of big square corn stalk bales yesterday to Buffalo Feeders. Matt hauled two loads of corn to Ashland Feed and Seed yesterday. The guys worked some kinks out on the Rogator sprayer yesterday, and Gary started top-dressing the wheat today.

Xander had his spring program at Laverne School last night and did a great job! So did all of the elementary! Laverne is celebrating their 100th birthday this month and they are having some events on Saturday.

More calves have been born! I think there are over a dozen total. Thanks to the moisture, the wheat looks very good!