Spring is an exciting, yet anxious time for many farmers. For us down at the J&K Dairy, plans are being made for the harvest of the winter forage, in addition to the planting of the spring crops. We have to try to plan a date to begin harvest—consistently checking how the crops are progressing to match the quality with the quantity of the triticale and alfalfa so that we can get the best balance of the two—all the while realizing that the harvest date is different every year. Quality generally declines as quantity increases, so picking the “sweet spot” of the two can be difficult. A few days of warm weather can push a crop to mature quickly. When it is time to harvest, it all seems to happen at once. This year we were harvesting alfalfa haylage with our crew, plus had a custom crew harvesting triticale, both for silage to feed our herd of dairy cows. It was all hands on deck, and quite a group to keep in harmony. And of course, Mother Nature throws a little rain in to change the schedule as we go. Instead of starting harvest at 8 am, some days we start at 4 pm and work well into the night. The crops need to be harvested when they are ready, and that’s not always on our schedule.
As soon as the triticale and alfalfa are harvested, the work begins to apply manure as fertilizer and quickly plant the corn to get the full benefit of more growing days. Every day counts this time of year, so we work long hours to plant the crop efficiently. Our practices continue to change as technology allows us to do more with less.
Most of our crops are planted with reduced or no till. As little as one pass with a corn planter is all it takes to plant corn and apply fertilizer to the young crop. Technology like GPS autosteer and electronic monitors keep the operator constantly in the know of what is happening with the corn planter.
Even with the added workload of harvest and planting, we are still caring for our herd of dairy cows daily. They require feed and three milkings per day, every day. The ultimate goal of the harvest is to provide the highest quality feed to allow the cows to reach their potential and provide us with quality milk. As my grandpa always said, “take care of the cows, and they will take care of you.”
Thank you Jason Sheehan, for sharing you insights and amazing photos with rooted!