Tag Archives: tractor

A Busy Day!

Typical farm day – nothing exciting – but each activity was successful and that makes for a rewarding, yet exhausting day.  I’ll be sore tomorrow, but Panadol and Pukka tea will help me relax for a good night’s sleep.  Rain forecasted for all day tomorrow, so inside work.

img_8133

img_8132
Using a tractor, front end load, and bucket is not a handy way to accomplish this job, especially in tight quarters and having a bale unroller on the back end.

img_8134

Son, Dallas, expertly maneuvered the tractor to level previously hauled dirt in the corral, then we laid large sheets of geotextile fabric i had previously cut, then the 1 1/2 inch gravel was piled and leveled on top.  All this is in preparation for my new cattle working tub which we hope can be installed next week after these rains.

While he was finishing up (and i kept supervising), i had time to walk my weaned calves 1/2 mile from their 5 acre paddock to pasture.  Grass isn’t growing very fast yet, so i hauled two square bales of hay – one good brome and one alfalfa to supplement.  However, the calves are still very much more interested in grazing the bit of green.  It’s a bit of work to feed the square bales since they have to be pushed off a flake at a time.  Each bale weighs 700 lbs.

img_8135
Walked my weaned calves to pasture this morning a half mile. Nice and quiet even without a nanny cow. One escapee figured her back around and now she was hurrying to catch up.

Back home, i spent the remainder of the afternoon and evening shoveling soil in a wheelbarrow and moving it to some containers and low spots in my garden.  Then loaded about 30 4 ft old hedge posts onto the flatbed pickup to haul to a neighbour to use as firewood.

How was your day?!

Cheers

tauna

 

Hay Challenges

I had planned to talk about the challenges of feeding hay in the winter in north Missouri last year, but never got around to it.  As it turns out, there are a different set of challenges this year, so i’ll roll them in to one blog.

Winter of 2017-2018 was really long, cold, bitter, but it was too long ago and though i know it was a challenge, i can’t remember.  So, starting with winter 2018-2019, which was the second consecutive long winter following a drought made for a very tough feeding season despite selling about 30% of my cows/calves.

My plan was to set out hay for bale grazing in July while it was dry, leaving the Netwrap on for protection of the hay, then using electric polybraid to ration it out to the cows in the hopes of minimizing waste.  Sounds like a plan, but you what happens to best laid plans.  I did set it all out – about 70 bales spaced appropriately on about 5 acres, then set up the tape.  then came the bitter winter early on along with deep, deep snow.  Of course, then with no way of removing the Netwrap because of snow and ice and snow and wind took down and buried the polybraid.  Cows and calves had their way with the hay.

img_5653

img_5594

Unfortunately, the amount of mud and trampling destroyed the 1/4 mile roll of polybraid and the Netwrap from 70 bales is buried.  I needed to remove it before grass grows but it was impossible even with Dallas using the harrow to try and pull it up a bit.  Sadly, most of it is still out in the pasture even now February, 2020.  But the resultant organic matter definitely improved forage production!

This year (2019-2020) blessedly has been mild by comparison of the past two winter.  Though we had an early cold snap, it didn’t really dig in cold until Jan 11 when a blizzard rolled in (the day i arrived from Fundo Panguilemu) with 1/4 inch of ice by the time i got to my pickup in the economy parking at airport.

I had started feeding hay way back in August to allow as much forage to grow for winter grazing as possible.  Thankfully, we had an excellent growing season though a late start in 2019.  However, the two previous years of drought has set back our typical production.  But haying while it’s dry only works if your growing paddocks are out of reach for the cows – otherwise, they will practically refuse to eat hay if they see green growing grass.

The freezing spell which lasted until the 31st of January allowed us to unroll hay on frozen ground, but couldn’t take off the netwrap very often because it was frozen to the bale.  We cut it across the bale so we could at least unroll it, but that leaves the netwrap under the hay.

img_7779img_7781

Today (2 Feb 20), it was warm enough for me to survive outside for a while (actually spent 3 hours outside because it was 55F!), yet though thawed enough that i could pull up some of the netwrap from underneath the hay that the cows had left behind.

While i was gone to Chile (first of January), it was dry enough that Dallas was able to unroll about 22 bales on another location that needed more organic matter, so that is set for later to be eaten.  And in December, Brett had set out about 30 bales with netwrap removed on a section that needs soil building with organic matter before breaking through the barely frozen mud.  So once the cows run out of grazing (hopefully there is enough to last ’til first of March), then they’ll back track to these areas where hay is already set out.

img_7783

I set up the polybraid around the remaining bales hoping they won’t need to be fed this winter.  Time will tell.  But unless it freezes hard again, it may not dry out until July or August.

Welcome to north Missouri – always 2 weeks from a drought in the summer and  cow killing mud under sometimes deep snow and ice in the winter.  It’s been said there are 3 good days a year in north Missouri.

img_7782
It’s muddy!  Back to grazing.

 

 

Hauling Hay With Ease!

Last winter was a nightmare of feeding hay.  We knew that winter stockpile for grazing was in short supply because we’d had two years of drought followed by wet weather AFTER the growing season in the fall.  We sold about 30% of our cows and had a normal supply of hay yet that wasn’t enough because winter began much earlier and wouldn’t let up until late May.  This was the second severe and harsh winter in a row.  Cows came out of it this spring in pretty rough condition.  Not wanting to ever get in that spot again, we researched inline hay trailers to help us haul hay home from local purchases.  After watching a lot of Youtube videos and learning about the various brands and what to look for, we decided on a Missouri built model Freedom Hay Trailers that we purchased from a Raymer Farms Sales & Service near Green City, MO.  (Actually just accidentally found them on Craigslist whilst searching for more hay this past spring (2019))

Allen purchased another 270 bales here just a couple weeks ago and the weather was perfect for hauling on gravel roads and dumping into pastures, so i got crackin’ and ended up pulling 11 loads to my farm about 13 miles from the hay field to my farm and includes mostly narrow, uneven, hilly, bumpy paved roads followed by 2 miles of steep single lane gravel/dirt roads then pulled into the pasture.  Except for loading, i handled the pulling, net removal, and dumping by myself.  Allen had hauled several loads from another location earlier this year.  I don’t know how we got along now without it!  Very convenient time saver.

img_7285
I’m sitting in the pickup watching Dallas load 7 bales on the 36 foot hay trailer.  My first couple loads on such rough and narrow roads with a trailer that is 12 feet longer than i’m used to, i tended to be pretty cautious.  After that, seeing how the trailer is reliable and able to handle the conditions (and i got used to how differently the longer trailer took corners and handled), it was business as usual – roll on!

 

img_7320
When loading and hauling by yourself, you’ll need to cut a length of 2×4 to hold down the foot brake; the parking brake will not hold when the tractor is shoving the bales on from behind.
img_7286
With the board holding down the brake, I can jump out and snap a photo of Dallas loading the last bale.  It takes Dallas 6 minutes to load this trailer with 7 count 1400 lb bales.
img_7288
Upon arrival at the dump site, I cut off the net wrap because i’m going to put this straight out for cattle to eat.  Slice through the net wrap on the side opposite of the dump mechanism.
img_7289
Once cut, then go to the other side and pull the net wrap over and down from the bale.
img_7290
Remove the red safety bar, then it’s ready to dump the bales.  We purchased the hydraulic mechanism.  Yeah, it’s a bit more money- just get it.  I took Dallas on this trip so i could take photos.

 

 

img_7292
Remove the net wrap and ball it up on the pickup.   Never leave nylon strings or net wrap out in the pasture.  Here the cradle is reset and red safety bar back in place.

Unexpected “Treasures”

For some reason, farmers of old (and, sadly, probably some still) thought that throwing old metal farm implements, myriads of rolls of barbed wire or woven wire in ditches, along with old hedge posts would somehow magically make the ditch stop washing.  Nothing could be further from the truth!  However, it could be said that throwing trash in the ditch answers men’s idea of ‘cleaning’ sort of the ‘out of sight, out of mind’ that women simply cannot fathom.  It’s still there for goodness sake!

Blessed with incredibly fine weather and a wee bit of time and some great help last week and after owning this property for about 26 years, this 50 foot stretch of ditch had the metal pulled out.  Because of the junk, the water simply pools and won’t allow healing.  Once I graze the pasture down this winter with my cows, I’ll burn all the wood trash and cut down as many rubbish trees as necessary to allow this ditch/draw to grass over and heal, so erosion will STOP!

What a surprise to find these fine implements stacked alongside the ditch – most are in decent working order, though too antiquated to be useful except as yard ornaments.

24058768_10210394360197735_1747040217847092528_n
Numerous heavy rolls of woven wire with farm implements loaded on the back.  It took the three of us with pickup, machinery mover, tractor and loader about 3 hours to clean it out of the ditch.  Environmentally, it’s the right thing to do, but putting a pencil reveals high costs and no income side to this type farm improvement project.
24058835_10210394034269587_4258980173226047786_n
Son, Dallas, loads the old horse drawn seated one bottom plough.

 

24174323_10210394033989580_1160985985887138622_n
Two antique harrow sections; one of them is in excellent condition.
24067995_10210394033709573_553188037477869460_n
Cute horse drawn cultivator.
24174313_10210394033189560_1887523017081602607_n
This is likely a walk behind one bottom plough.  It’s missing the wooden handles.
24623652_10210428715616599_1053315583_o
One of at least 20 big rolls of woven wire buried in the mud and muck, this one even had small trees and multiflora rose grown up through.
24623548_10210428715576598_1332236272_o
Brett and I worked together to wrap log chains through the center of each roll, Dallas pulled them out with the tractor, then smashed them flat with the front end loader.  Later, we would pack two or three of them in the loader and Dallas would load them onto the machinery mover (trailer).

 

 

Second Pass & Broadcast

With the first pass May 15, 16, and 17 behind me, several very light rain showers, and a few days of drying out, I was ready to get to that second tillage pass and get the annual seeds in the dirt!.  Thursday,  May 25, 2017, I spent 4 hours with the Howard Rotavator 600 and was pleasantly surprised that, for the most part, the John Deere 4250 tractor worked along nicely at A2 speed vs A1.  This effectively increased my speed from 2.1 mph to 2.6 mph.  And it showed up in the final tally for sure!  The second pass on the same 18 acres, instead of taking 12 hours as before, only rang up 7 1/2 hours.  Nice.  Admittedly, i could never make a farmer (row cropper); how do those guys run those things for hours on end, daylight to dark, day after day.  I was thankful, i could distract myself for a while, at least on the long rows, by chatting (private message) with my son, who was at a cafe in Spain, and texting about soil conditions with a friend who was farming another part of my farm with 120 acres for organic soybean production.  I finished up with the second pass on the 26th.  It was also seeded on the 26th.

When i was about 2/3 rds completed, Allen came with a huge bag of premixed annual seed to fill the hopper on the Einbock power seeder and harrow.  He finished all 18 acres in about 4 hours, counting a couple stoppages due to hoses plugging.

So, time spent so far:

Mixing seeds – 1 hour

Tractor – first pass – 12 hours

Tractor – second pass – 7 1/2 hours

Tractor/Seeding  – 4 hours

A couple of ways to figure the cost of establishment.

One is to figure my actual costs and assign an hourly rate for our time plus wear/tear/depreciation on the tractor and implements.  And the other is to use custom rental rates which are figured by the acre.

  1. Total man hours spent – 24.5 hours at $??/hr
  2. Tractor costs for 23.5 hours at $??/hr
  3. Seed cost
  4. Fuel costs – 23.5 times 7.7 gph = 181 gallons @

Or using machinery rental rates (which is what i’m going to do since i don’t know the above costs!)

  1. tractor and rotavator – 36 acres times $20/acre = $720.00
  2. tractor and seeder/harrow – 18 acres times $15/acre = $270.00
  3. Seed costs – $31.56 per acre is what i ordered – HOWEVER, i am informed that Allen actually put on about half again as much, so i will multiply that amount by 1.5 for a per acre cost of $47.34.  The additional seed will hopefully pay off in increased forage yields.  So total seed costs are $$852.12.

Buckwheat 6# @ $ .90/lb

Lespedeza 6# @ $1.00/lb

Pearl Millet 5# @ $1.05/lb

Oats 12# @ $ .28/lb

Cowpeas 6# @ $ .90/lb

Sunflower 5# @ $.45/lb

Red Clover  2# @ $1.95/lb

Total expenses then amount to $1842.12 or $102.34 per acre.  That’s a lot and does not include the 2 tons of lime i had applied in April at a cost of $66/acre.  It’s tough to say this all has to be recouped in one year or one grazing because the lime will be there for the rest of my life and the tillage will have long term effects in loosening the soil as well as eradicating the toxic endophyte infected fescue.  With so many variables, counting the cost, or rather, measuring the increase or lack thereof, in the short run, is very difficult in ranch renovation.

image
Greased up and ready to go!
image
Greased up and ready to go!
image
On the long rows, i can distract myself by chatting through Facebook with my son, who was in Spain, and texting my friend who is farming another portion of my land about soil conditions.  Lot of talk about the negative aspects of multitasking, but we all do it and it works.
image
Seen here the second pass.
image
Wasn’t just a plethora of big rocks this machine dug up.  Boy howdy, this made quite a clatter!  Thankfully, it did not do any damage and i was able to easily unwind this heavy chain from the shaft.
image
After the Einbock Pneumatic Seeder/Harrow passes.
image
Seeded 26 May, no rain, but took this photo this morning, the 1st of June, and it can already be rowed, but ya gotta hold your head just right to see it.
image
Close up of some of the forages emerging – very exciting!  Only 5 days in the ground.

The plan is to have something to graze in 60-75 days. This will depend large part on moisture.  We are getting pretty dry now already and need a rain.  I will post updates.

image
Here’s a shot of my seed mix in the machine.

By the way, you noticed i’m not including costs associated with photography and blogging.  It’s a good way to force me to sit down and keep a log of expenses, time, and results.  Hopefully, it will help others as well!

Managing soil, water, and animals properly and privately goes a lot further than politically motivated government regulations written by people who are far removed from soil and weather.

Cheers!

tauna

The Big Till

As a first step of my endophyte infected fescue eradication and pasture renovation project, today was the big day of tillage.  My husband had purchased a Howard Rotavator 600, which is 10 foot wide sod-cutting and chewing machine and the soil (actually just dirt, it’s in pathetic condition) it’s been through gave it a real workout.  Even the tractor couldn’t keep up and i had to sidle over and only take 2′-5′ bite of new sod at times, especially going up hill.  This first pass took place on May 17-18, 2017.

IMG_2667
Here my husband has been running the equipment to make sure everything was working.  I’m getting ready for my dual.  Operating new equipment is always an uneasy step for me!
IMG_2669
The ‘soil’ more like dirt because it’s so dead is very compacted and lots of clay making for a lot of overlapping.  I even killed the tractor a couple times because there was simply not enough power to pull the machine.  I quickly learnt how much ‘bite’ the machinery could take so the John Deere 4250 would not be overwhelmed.
IMG_2690
The Howard Rotavator 600.  Here’s a link to a video of the rotavator in operation.
IMG_2679
My soil hasn’t been tilled since at least the early 1960’s.  It’s compacted with little to no life in it.  Just dirt.  The  hope is to allow water and other nutrient infiltration to encourage forage growth.  This is an example of first pass.

IMG_2680

One pass tillage next to existing stand of grass.  Serious clay content.  Methinks some of this worked up harder than if i took down the gravel road!

18447365_10208951224400242_1733792195519459584_n
Plenty of big rocks (these are some of the smaller ones) to make the machine go ‘klunk’!
IMG_2695
My office for a total of 8 hours.  Allen ran it for about 4 hours. 

All in all, i mapped out about 18 acres actually tilled.  There are about 25 acres total in the area being renovated, however, because of the steep slopes, several acres are left alone to serve as grassy waterways.  I wonder, however, as hard as the ground is, if the tilled portions won’t actually hold and stop more water than the hard pan waterways.  Hmmm.

So far, 12 hours spent (1.5 acres per hour) tilling, but not counting time servicing tractor and machine or time spent getting to/from the farm.  Tractor uses about 7.7 gallons diesel fuel per hour, so 92.5 gallons there.  Second pass should take a bit less time, but we’ll see!

We received a big storm last night with about an inch of rain, so the second pass won’t happen for a few days – depending on weather.  Allen will be right behind the second rotatiller pass with the Einbach harrow/seeder and my selected annual grass mix.

Per acre healing forages:

  1.  6 lbs buckwheat
  2.  6 lbs lespedeza
  3.  3 lbs pearl millet
  4. 12 lbs oats
  5.  6 lbs cowpeas
  6.  5 lbs sunflower
  7.  2 lbs red clover

These were chosen for their prolification, adaptability to poor soils, nitrogen fixing, and low cost as well as providing excellent grazing in 60-75 days.

IMG_2706
Grass waterways left to slow water during rains until the rest has forage established.
IMG_2701
Not a clear photograph, but a better idea of leaving waterways.
IMG_2704
On the far slope, the rows would have been so short that a lot of time would have been spent just turning around, so i chose to strip till through and across low and high spots.  Time will tell if that was the right decision.
IMG_2698
View from my office. 😉

Getting Ready

One would think you could just pull in and start with tillage for planting crops as part of my fescue elimination project.  Alas, that isn’t true in my case.  Since i had subdivided the 120 acres into 6 paddocks with 2 wire hi-tensile electric wire, all this had to be wound up and stowed for replacement after 4 years as per my plan.  Old fence posts and wired had to be pulled up and stacked for burning when time allows and entrance gateway had to be widened.

 

img_1515
There’s been a 16 foot gate here for longer than i’ve been alive, although this is a new gate i had installed about 5 years ago.  But, 16 foot opening is far too narrow to pull in comfortably with big equipment, although you’d be amazed at what a skilled driver can get through!
img_1667
So, this is the new look – set two new corner posts and hung two 16 foot gates.  Very professionally done by Jim Fitzgerald.
14938328_10207321854307008_5029013314446856459_n
HUGE thank you and shout out to North Central Missouri Electric Coop for quickly removing, not only the lines from the transformer to the meter pole, but also my farm lines from the meter pole to windmill pump. About an 1/4 of a mile’s worth. While i did the ground work of chaining the pole to the front end loading, Dallas pulled the posts. Afterward, i dragged them to a burn pile with my Gator.
14632973_10207332682417704_231132201662114966_n
The electric company removed the wires from two tall poles which were on my property.  Our little tractor had to shove a bit on the pole, then really hunker down to get these poles pulled up.  As you can see, they are buried quite deep.  Instead of burning these poles, they were cut to length and used as the corner posts for my new gateways!
img_1528
Old fence left over from who knows when still across the pasture with wire buried and tangled.  What a mess but at last we prevailed.
img_1532
Here are half the posts from that fence.  These will all burnt in a pile.  Would make good firewood if they weren’t full of staples and wires.  The corner posts were too heavy for me to lift into the bucket, so we just used the tractor to pull them ’round to the burn pile – it wasn’t far.
14908253_10207350669107360_84636070790253992_n
An old home built load out chute we drug up out of the middle of the pasture.  
14611144_10207322731608940_4722262571231951822_n
With most posts pulled up, Dallas is building me a low water crossing while I pull the remaining posts to burn pile and roll up another half a quarter mile of hi-tensile wire.  Weather is perfect for working but I’m about out of steam!

 

14947424_10207333394955517_6370178927132908104_n
I bet you were wondering how I can roll up 12 gauge hi-tensile electric wire.  The key is this spinning jenny from Powerflex Fence.  Don’t do this without a spinning jenny  Notice the rolls of wire I stored nearby; ready to roll back out after the 4 year renovation.  All told, I rolled up a bit more than 2 miles of hi-tensile wire and pulled some 140 fiberglass posts.  Many were 1 inch and were easily pulled by hand.  I hauled them all home and have them stored on a pallet in the barn.
14680620_10207232846801876_3632544082976245856_n
Here you can see the old hand strung electric line from way up at the barn down to the electrified pump.  It used to be run only with the windmill, but there is not enough reliable wind to make that very viable.  Anyway, those were the posts Dallas and I pulled up.

Dallas and I did this in a couple days of remarkable weather in November!

Cheers

tauna