Friday, September 10, 2010

Wheat cropping systems 101

This is a little class on how wheat is used in our area. This is mostly for Aaron because we were talking about it last weekend. There are basically 3 or 4 different ways we can raise and utilize wheat in our area.

1: Wheat raised for grain only
Plant the wheat mid-fall (October) when the temperature cools off. But before really cold weather. Planting a little later helps conserve soil moisture that would otherwise be wasted by planting too early. You want the wheat to just grow a little and build "tillers" before it goes into dormancy in the winter. Tillers are the beginnings of stalks for the heads in the spring. Harvest the grain in June if it makes any. I'm guessing about 1/3 to 1/2 of our acres are raised for grain only. For different reasons. Farmers that raise wheat for grain only do not like running and taking care of cattle, or have had bad experiences in the past, or do not believe the revenue is worth the extra time and attention. All valid reasons in certain situations.

2: Wheat raised for grazing only
Plant wheat as early as possible (Late August early Sept) to maximize fall growth. Planting
two months before cold weather will allow the wheat to grow big and lush and build up a forage
reserve going into the winter. If moisture is favorable in the spring, plan to keep cattle on the
wheat all way up to maturity in May. It is a hard balance in the spring getting the right number
of cattle
on to efficiently utilize the forage without running short if the weather turns dry. In this system
all of the revenue comes from the growth of cattle. Buy little ones and sell big ones basically. I
would guess maybe a 1/4 of the acreage in our area is "grazed out" It is a good hedge against
low wheat prices or low yields to graze out wheat. About 90% of the years you can get good
forage, but less than 50% of the years you have above average yields.

3: Wheat raised for grain and gain
A very large percent of the wheat raised in our part of the world is used for pasture and grain.
Plant early again to maximize fall growth. You do lose valuable soil moisture planting early, it is
a trade-off for more forage. Stock the wheat just heavy enough to graze off the excess forage, and
remove the cattle before the heads start forming in the spring. This point is called 'first hollow stem'
in the wheat growth cycle. It usually occurs in late Feb. or early Mar. and studies have shown
very little yield lost if the cattle are removed before that time. Depending on how a producer is
set up and how much the gain is worth, it can be a very good way to add value to a crop with
not much expense. If it is a favorable spring you can still harvest a decent wheat crop in June.

4:Wheat for forage, but not just grazing
Wheat can also be raised for forage crops like silage and hay. A lot of the dairies do this.
Plant a wheat or other winter small grain crop, and either cut it for silage when it is still green,
or bale it for hay. Sometimes producers also graze the wheat then cut it for hay.

I plan to graze all our wheat and graze out some depending on the weather, and how much the
pasture is worth. You may have to click and open it, but that picture shows some of my wheat
coming up. Very warm and breezy here now. I think there is a chance of starting on some milo
harvest next week. That is pretty early.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Finished sowing wheat

I think I am through anyway. You never really know until it is all up and growing. Just a few pictures, and even a video!