Tag Archives: oats

Can Oat Growing Make A Comeback!

Mostly  i’m posting this article because it is particular interest to me as a grower – although we are also consumers of oats, not only to eat for ourselves, but also because it is hands down the best grain, along with barley, for livestock and poultry.   Growing small grains can be an important soil amendment as long as livestock integration is part of the rotation.

Thanks to Successful Farming magazine for this great article.

Oats Find A Fit

 

OATS FIND A FIT

Back in 2018,Wayne Koehler’s golden-hue oats just north of his house were rapidly nearing harvest.

“It was along the highway, so they were very visible,” says the Charles City, Iowa, farmer. “I had some people stop and ask if I wanted to sell my oats to them. I’ve never had anyone stop and ask about buying corn and soybeans. It was clear that there was a demand that was not being met.”

OAT BENEFITS 

At one time, oat fields were as common as the corn and soybean fields that now dominate the Midwestern landscape. In 1950, Iowa farmers grew 6.619 million acres of oats. In 2019, though, Iowa-intended oat plantings limped along at a paltry 135,000 acres.

Still, oats have a number of benefits in complementing a rotation of corn and soybeans.

 Disrupting weed cycles. “It can enable farmers to get ahead of problem weeds that can develop herbicide resistance,” says Alisha Bower, Practical Farmers of Iowa strategic initiatives manager.

 Scavenging nitrates. The fibrous root system of oats can soak up unused nitrates from nitrogen (N) applications. “This keeps nitrates from flowing into tile lines and eventually into the Gulf of Mexico,” says Bower.

 Spreading labor. Since farmers plant and harvest small grains earlier than corn and soybeans, they can better spread their labor over the growing season, says Bower.

 Complementing yields of other rotational crops. A long-term USDA-ARS trial at the North Central Agricultural Research Laboratory in Brookings, South Dakota, showed a 24% yield spike for corn when no-tilled in a four-year diverse rotation vs. a corn-soybean rotation.

Koehler grew up with oats on his family’s farm. In the 1980s, though, oats exited many crop rotations. One reason was the 1980s farm crisis, Koehler believes. Some farmers also phased out livestock, and those who stayed built confinement housing that did not use as much oat straw for bedding, he says.

Still, oats surfaced on Koehler’s farm in the early 2000s, when he used oats as a nurse crop for hay. Nurse crops help suppress weeds and protect the soil as the forage crop establishes itself.

Several years later in 2009, Koehler aimed to tile 50 acres of his farm. “Getting a tile contractor in the fall is a challenge, because everyone wants them then,” he says. Planting oats on that field enabled him to access a tiling contractor after August harvest, when tiling contractors are less busy.

He also sells straw to dairy farmers out of the field at harvest. He stores the balance of his oat crop and sells in the fall and winter to various buyers.

MANAGEMENT 

“If you look at the cost of inputs for oats, it is completely different from corn,” says Koehler. Iowa State University crop budgets for 2019 peg variable costs for corn yielding 218 bushels per acre following soybeans at $379.44 per acre. Variable costs for oats are much less at $150.75 per acre if seeded with alfalfa.

Still, it’s not a plant-it-and-forget-it crop, Koehler says. Wet and humid conditions help trigger crown rust. This fungal disease can be dodged somewhat by selecting tolerant varieties, says Koehler. Timely applications of fungicides can help farmers manage crown rust.

Koehler considers a field’s weed seed bank when selecting oat fields. “Giant ragweed and Canada thistle are usually the most troublesome weeds,” he says. If necessary, he spot-sprays 2,4-D amine or MCPA herbicide early postemergence. Adequate seeding rates also help deter weeds. “Don’t cheat on the seeding rate if you are growing oats for grain,” he says.

Lodging concerns also exist. “If you apply too much nitrogen, the stalks will not support the oats,” he says. “So, I’m pretty conservative on N, adding about 50 pounds per acre.”

MACHINERY

“The equipment issue is certainly a challenge, but one that can be solved without too much effort,” says Bower. A booming cover crop seed market has created more availability of drills that farmers can rent if they just want to test oats on a few acres, she adds.

Swathers are another story. Oats go through a sweating period following harvest when they shed moisture. Swathing enables this process to occur in the field, rather than risking spoilage if it occurs in a bin.

“Swathers in good working order are few and far between,” she says.

Storing oats in a grain bin with an aeration floor and adequate fan and vents can also remove moisture when straight-combining oats, Koehler says.

Oats aren’t for everyone, Koehler says. Still, they may fit certain farms.

“Oats can work on farms that have the equipment and the markets,” he says.

OAT MARKETS

Finding markets can be a challenge for oats, but several outlets exist, says Alisha Bower, strategic initiatives manager for Practical Farmers of Iowa.

  • Food-grade oats. These markets aim at human consumption products like oatmeal. Bower says processing plants like Grain Millers at St. Ansgar, Iowa, exist to buy food-grade oats from Minnesota and Iowa farmers.

Buyers pay a premium for food-grade oats. There’s a hitch, though, since farmers have to meet test weight and protein levels.

“In Iowa, there’s no problem with hitting protein specifications  due to its rich soils,” says Bower. “But meeting test weight standards of 38 pounds per bushel is a challenge.”

Hot weather during head fill can crimp test weight. That’s why oat farmers plant early in order to dodge summer heat. Last year, Wayne Koehler, a Charles City, Iowa, farmer drilled no-till oats on April 9.

“Even if the soil is a little on the sticky side, you want to push the envelope by planting early,” he says.

  • Livestock feed markets. Oats that don’t meet human consumption standards can make livestock feed. Although prices paid are less, protein and test weight standards are lower. Outlets include smaller livestock producers and ones as large as Smithfield, which is buying oats and wheat at its Allerton and Davis City locations in southern Iowa in 2020, says Bower.
  • Cover crop seed markets. This market can be more lucrative than livestock feed, though there are many regulations to meet, Bower says. High germination is key, she adds.
  • Commodity grain markets. Granted, unit trains for elevators to fill with oats don’t exist as they do for corn or soybeans. Still, some elevators will accept oats, even if they don’t advertise it or put out bids, says Bower. They use it for markets like creep feed for cattle, she adds.

VARIETAL INVESTMENT 

Seed and chemical companies have poured billions of dollars into corn hybrids and soybean varieties. Oats? Not so much.

“Oats and other small grains could really benefit from additional investment in research and development,” says Alisha Bower, Practical Farmers of Iowa (PFI) strategic initiatives manager.

PFI, supported by General Mills, Grain Millers, Inc., and Albert Lea Seed, is conducting oat varietal performance trials. Meanwhile, public breeding programs still exist across the Upper Midwest.

PFI is working with public breeding programs to create a varietal selection tool for farmers. “Farmers could put in their ZIP code, and the program would predict what variety would perform best in their area,” Bower says.

This tool will be beta tested in 2020. If you’d like to get involved, contact info@practicalfarmers.org.

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Granola Clusters

During this time of sudden hoarding of foodstuffs, my family has not been privy to their Great Grains Crunchy Pecan cereal.  Which is fine – they won’t die.  However, this gave me incentive to see if i could make pecan clusters similar to the commercial cereal.

Right off the bat, i found this awesome recipe in a web search.  Click through for Karlynn’s original recipe.

How to Make Your Own Granola Clusters by Karlynn Johnston

Crunchy Pecan Granola Clusters

  • 3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 3 tablespoons brown sugar (coconut sugar worked fine)
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg (optional)
  • 1/3 cup of  honey
  • 1/4 cup grapeseed oil or liquid coconut oil
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans

DIRECTIONS

  1. Preheat the oven to 300°F .
  2. In a large bowl, mix together the oats, sugar, salt, cinnamon (or preferred spices), and optional pecans or other nuts/seeds.
  3. In a smaller bowl combine honey, oil, and vanilla.
  4. Once thoroughly mixed, pour the liquid mixture over the oat mixture and using your hands mix the ingredients forming clusters of your desired size.
  5. Scoop the clusters onto a 12″ by 15″ by 1″ stone pan and spread out.
  6. Bake for 20 minutes until clusters are light golden.  be careful not to overcook!
  7. Set pan on raised cookie rack and allow to cool completely BEFORE touching the granola.
  8. Once cool, break apart and place in an airtight bag or jar.

Be creative for granola uses – it’s way more than cereal!

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Crunchy Granola clusters can be used for toppings on homemade applesauce, whole apple slices (or any fruit), ice cream, chocolate cake.  

 

 

 

Everything Cover Crops

Love or hate Facebook – depends on your perspective – maybe both.  But there is real opportunity for farmers to share and learn from one another about cropping and ranching methods they’ve tried – what has been successful and what was a colossal failure.

I coped a young farmer’s (from central Iowa) method here, so i can come back to it as a reference for what i may try in the future.  This is copied and pasted from a Facebook page by the same name, so it reads clunky out of context of responses, but i wanted his words.

Drilled a 4 way mix of oats, annual rye grass, rape seed and soybeans about a month ago (late August/early September) following rye harvest. Very pleased with the amount of forage and soil structure that we have gained. Planning to let cows out later this week if the weather cooperates. Located in north central Iowa.

30 lbs (annual) ryegrass  (10# is enough, but farmer was using up what he had on hand)
20 lbs oats
8 lbs rape seed
Roughly 20 lbs of soybeans ( some seed was 2 years old)

we hauled cattle manure then chisel plowed and field cultivated to work it in before we drilled it.  I agree that tillage will break down some of the soil structure but I sleep better at night when I can work the manure in. I also don’t have access to a no till drill.

I chose annual rye grass over cereal rye so it would winter kill and everything else I planted will winter kill and I am planning to plant corn in that field next spring. If I was going to plant soybeans I would have used winter rye.

the winter rye that was growing previously we combined for seed. The four way mix that is growing now will be grazed and the corn that we plant next year will be combined.

Master Gardener

Perhaps Jessica was 8 or 9 when she enrolled in the University of Missouri’s Master Gardener program.  That was nearly 20 years ago!  She really got a lot out of it (though i think her favorite lesson was flower arranging) by learning a lot about companion cropping, planting and caring for flowers, trees, and community involvement.  One of the requirements for finishing the program was to do a community service/beautification project.  Contact your local county extension agent for information about Master Gardener and other education programs available in your area.

Anyway,  October Gardening Tips from Garden Talk! for the Heartland garden enthusiast, a 4 page newsletter available online including past editions.

The ones which i will use are:

  1. Transplant deciduous trees after they have dropped their leaves.  We found a few redbud trees saplings we’d like to enjoy closer to our house.
  2. Persimmons start to ripen, especially after frost.  Well this year, no frost yet, but the persimmons are already ripe, picked up, processed, and in the freezer!
  3. Place wire guards around trunks of young fruit trees for protection against mice and rabbits.  Last year, i lost nearly all my new fruit trees during the winter.  i did have protection around them that was about 18 inches tall, but the snow drifted taller than that and the critters girdled them above the protective sleeves by walking on top the snow!!! Grrrrr…..
  4. Continue harvesting produce.
  5. Sow oats as a cover crop (i’m also chopping down the Sunn Hemp and laying it flat on the soil)
  6. Winterize lawn mower.  We send ours to John Deere for complete maintenance then remove the battery and store it inside so it doesn’t freeze.

 

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Mixed Grain Bread – Scottish

I have discovered my favourite bread to make!

MIXED GRAIN BREAD – SCOTLAND

Modified from Scottish Cookery Cookbook, 2010

INGREDIENTS:

  • 12 oz (about 3 cups) strong white flour
  • 2 teaspoon salt
  • 8 oz (about 2 cups) whole wheat flour
  • 8 oz (about 2 cups) Einkorn flour
  • 1 oz butter, diced
  • 2 teaspoon yeast
  • 1 oz (1/3 cup) rolled oats
  • 2 tablespoon sunflower seeds
  • 1 tablespoon molasses
  • ¾ pint warm water
  • 1 medium egg

DIRECTIONS:

Sift white flour and salt into a large bowl.  Stir in the wheat and Einkorn flours then rub in the butter until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.  Stir in the yeast, oats, and seeds then make a well in the centre.

Stir the molasses into the warm water until dissolved.  Add the molasses water to the dry ingredients.  Mix to a soft dough. (I used paddle hook on KitchenAid mixer)

Using a dough hook, knead the dough for 10 minutes until smooth and elastic.  Put in an oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap and leave to rise in a warm place for 1 ½ hours, or until double in size.

Preheat the oven to 425°F, 15 minutes before baking.  (I start the oven now, then do the below and leave the loaf and pan on top the stove – the warmth from the oven helps with rising, especially in winter.)

Using dough hook, knead again for a minute or two to knock out the air.  Shape into an oval loaf about 12 inches long and place on a well-oiled baking sheet.  Cover with oiled (important) plastic wrap and leave to rise for 40 minutes or until doubled in size.

Brush the loaf with beaten egg and bake in the preheated oven 35-45 minutes (mine was 35 minutes) or until the bread is well risen, browned, and sounds hollow when the base is tapped.  Leave to cool on a wire rack.

Here’s the original recipe:

Recipe - Mixed Grain Bread

Raising Buff Orpingtons & Associated Costs

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Arrived this morning (2 October 17). Okay, right, so I’m a bit bored and succumbed to buying chickies. But just 25. Buff Orpington. Gives me opportunity to redesign another egg mobile (this will be my 11th model). Oh brother’
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3 week old chicks having fun with scooped gourd goo and seeds. still in their ugly stage.
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Happy chooks. Good grief; I’m growing sprouts for my little flock. This forage mix is the same as the pasture mix drilled on my farm this summer.
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One month old – tired of these sweeties in the basement – nice weather and i finished up the ‘pullet grower station’ – they are still a bit freaked out by the move, but won’t be long before they’ll be running around like they are free! went from 11 square feet to 39 square feet!
Busted old plastic water tank and scraps – had to buy heat lamps, clamp aluminum bases, and 10 feet of 1/2 inch hardware cloth – oh, and bolts, nuts, and washers. Of course it was an excellent excuse to buy a new DeWalt battery powered jigsaw, too. 😉
Chicken feed
This was taken 4 February 2018 – it’s been bitterly cold this winter and although the hens are quite big by now and still in their brooder, they are still immature.  I’m probably spoiling them, but they surely do prefer these sprouted grains vs dry grains.  I was even warming them a bit in the oven during the most brutal cold.
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These 23 big girls (plus a couple roosters that will be lunch someday) did well this winter in their brooder.  (Here they are at 3 1/2 months old) from Cackle Hatchery.  Feed is sunflower seed, millet, oats, peas  from Welter Seed & Honey with occasional soaked alfalfa pellets.  Minerals provided by Thorvin kelp also available from Welter Seed & Honey.
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Work on the chicken tractor has been continually hampered by brutally cold temps and wind.  Slowly getting it done, but seems like i build a thing twice since i typically have to start by undoing what i did the day before. 😦  But, that is not unusual when flying by the seat of the pants projects: each basically a prototype.  I’ve built several different sizes and types of eggmobiles and chicken tractors over the years and each one is a new design and always using as much scrap material as possible to keep down costs.

Should be enjoying fresh pullet sized eggs in about 3 months.

From delivery of chicks to first pullet eggs is typically about 6 months.

25 female chicks (26 actually, but 2 were roosters and one hen is deformed) – $100

Starter feed – 3 bags each 30 lbs at  $90

Mixed feed about 1 gallon (or 4 lbs) per day:  $2.20 per day times 120 days – $396

Labor for 180 days varies, but averages about 20 minutes a day at $15/hr – $900

So before 25 hens are even laying or producing anything at all, your backyard laying hen project has invested a total of $1486.  That’s a lot of eggs you could have bought at $4/dozen.  But now that they are laying, there should be about 1 1/2 years of good laying, but of course the feed and labor expenses continue.  Labor will slightly increase because I’ll be moving the chicken tractor to fresh grass everyday and collecting, sorting, washing (if needed), and packaging the eggs EVERYDAY.

Total costs (not including building the brooder and chicken tractor):  $1486

So figuring forward:

Feed for 1.5 years (540 days @ $2.20) – $1188

Labor at $15/hr for 30 minutes a day  – $2025

Egg cartons if you buy them are at least 50 cents (281 cartons) each:  $140

Assuming a lay rate of 1 egg per two days (this is an average including a harsh winter where costs will continue but few eggs will be laid) per hen (times 25 hens) – 3375 eggs

(270 days/2 = 135 times 25 hens – 3375 eggs)

Total costs during laying period of 1 1/2 years – $3353

Final costs of raising 25 chicks to laying age plus production for 1 1/2 years:  $4839

Cost per potential dozen (281 dozens):  $17.22

Value of spent hens is negated completely by labor costs associated with butchering.

All this assuming that in one night along any part of this route, a fox, raccoon, neighbour’s dog or coyote doesn’t come in an annihilate all your hens.

Now winter laying could be increased somewhat by keeping heat and light on the hens.

Certainly, i could be the typical farmer and say ‘well….if i don’t count my time….but that would be unfair, right?  He’s taken ALL the risk, done all the labor, built all the infrastructure, and cared for them every single day.  If i removed all the labor costs from the scenario, cost per dozen is $6.63/dozen.

Why am i doing this?  good question.  it’s ridiculous actually, except i cannot buy eggs from hens on pasture being fed non-gmo and mostly organic grains in our part of the world and they do taste better and have more nutrients (according to various tests).

Cheers!!!!

tauna

These are real costs to produce eggs from hens on pasture, not inflated or overpriced.  Lowering production costs is easy – stacked cages with 67 to 76 square inches of usable space per hen being fed well balanced diet of conventional grains and no chance of being eaten by predators.  Automated egg sorting, washing, and packaging.  Find employees who will work for minimum wage or less in dusty conditions.  Tightly confined conditions allows for fewer employees.   Hens will be allowed to lay for less than a year (until first moult) and then replaced to maintain high production year round.  This part can also be done on pasture raised as well and would be a good idea.  Production drops considerably after that first moult, so replacing them with younger, higher producing hens would reduce costs a little.

 

Permanent Ley Scheme

Horribly dry here and no chance of rain in the forecast!  However, it’s perfect for disk ploughing and rotatilling sod pastures so that they have ample opportunity for the grass that is turned up to die.  On the four paddocks i’ve selected this is mostly toxic endophyte infected fescue and other weeds.  Except for the 18 acres that i had tilled this spring and were involved in the annuals scheme, the remaining 32 acres is established pasture – pasture that has been grazed for at least 55 years.  Tilling it up created quite a clatter on my rotatiller.  Rocks, rocks, and more rocks.  There basically is no topsoil on my pastures except in the low spots along ditches.  Sad – very sad.

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Rainfall on 21 August 2017 – very nice and quickly absorbed by thirsty soil, but hot, dry, and often windy even until now 17 September 2017.

 

 

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Settings we used for a mixed sized seed batch on our John Deere 1590
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John Deere 7220 and John Deere 1590 planting permanent pasture mix.  I hope to never have to work the ground this much.  I’m no farmer!
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Seed ordered and mixed by Welter Seed & Honey.
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Note the difference sized seeds which makes how to set the no-till drill tricky.  At least for us; we are just learning.
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Dallas loading the no-till drill while Allen and Andy discuss what settings to use.

 

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Using the 7220 John Deere tractor which has front wheel assist to pull the JD 1590 no till drill.
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Here is the mix i ordered from Welter Seed & Honey, Onslow, IA.  Really appreciate their personal and quick discussion and advice.  Mixed and shipped very quickly.

 

So how in the world did i come up with this mix?  After reading Robert Elliot’s book The Clifton Park System of Farming and Laying Down Land to Grass, i’ve been interested in his trials and observations.  I used a permanent mix found from Cotswold Seeds and interestingly it is even labeled Clifton Park mix!  How weird is that?!  The link here describes it in depth;

‘LAMINS’ Drought Resistant Four Year Grazing Ley Dry, Light Land

Pulled into the first sod bound pasture land (Paddock 15) with the John Deere 4250 and the Howard Rotavator on 29 August 2017.  Granted, i know most recommendations are to have this seeding done and in no later than the 20th of August, but this year just wasn’t going to allow it.  And thankfully, i didn’t get in earlier; had i put these seeds in slightly moist soil, they may have germinated, sprouted, then dried up in this heat and dry weather.  As it is, the seeds are just resting in that super dry soil waiting for just the right conditions to grow and thrive.  The concern at planting late is that there won’t be good growth before freezing weather and a long winter.

 

(On the 1st of September, i mustered my bulls and hauled them (Allen and Dallas helped a lot), i spent too much time outside and became overcome with ragweed allergies.  This kept me sleeping and recovering in the house for two days.  Andy was able to take over for me so we kept on schedule.)

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16 September – RAIN!  Slow and gentle, but with damaging winds.  Total amount received two inches – perfect!  Yah is gracious.

 

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So to wrap it up with costs:

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Figures from 2016 Custom Rates for Farm Services in Missouri

That’s a lot of money!  and doesn’t even include the $60/acre spent earlier this year in lime spread.  Hope it all pays off – i don’t want to ever have to do it again and with managed grazing, it should last many lifetimes.

Shalom!

tauna