Pioneer forage specialist, Ian Williams on how farmers can manage feed and animals as they move into winter.
A proverb written 3000 years ago says something like ‘He who watches the wind will not sow and he who looks at the clouds will not reap’.
In other words, if you are the kind of person who always looks for the perfect scenario before you act then you will likely never get anything done. This is especially true of farming.
It is very rare, given our variable climate, to get the timing perfect to do a particular task perfectly. What makes the chance of getting things most right, more often, is planning. And part of planning is communicating.
As I have written before, my wife and I grow maize silage each year which we sell to a local dairy farmer. Our soil type can be challenging. It is wet in winter and dry in summer. Our planting window is relatively short and so we need to be well planned. We also need to communicate with everyone else in the process to make sure they do their bit when they need to do it.
Here are the steps we take now to ensure we plan for planting as well as we can:
Step 1. Decide the area to be planted. Ideally this will already have been done, but if not work it out now. If you have hard-to-kill weeds, get your merchant out and talk to him about what spray to use.
If the ground still needs to be drained, perhaps choose another area to plant your maize and do the drainage next autumn to get the area ready for planting next spring.
Also, get the maize contractor to come and look at the area you want to plant. He will tell you whether he can plant it and whether he can get through gates, cart material down races, stack it where you want it, etc.
Step 2. Have a realistic expectation of yields. This is important because it drives things like what hybrid you use, what seeding rate you plant at and how much fertiliser you use.
If you are unsure of what your area is likely to yield, contact your local merchant. If he is experienced he will have a good idea. If he is inexperienced he will be able to get someone who is to come and have a look for you.
Seeding rate and fertiliser rate are very dependent on soil and environment. Generally, the lower the yield potential of your soil, the less seed and less fertiliser you want to use.
Step 4. Order the seed. We have already done this as part of Pioneer’s early order programme, but if you haven’t, call your seed seller now and get your order in to ensure you get your seed on time.
Step 5. Communicate with your contractors and let them know when you want your cultivation, spraying and fertiliser spreading done. We are talking to our contractor now to make sure we are in the queue and they can put our farm into their work programme.
Step 6. Do a soil test to make sure you apply the right amount of fertiliser to your crop. Regulations on nutrient loss from farms are tightening. Applying the right amount of fertiliser to get a good crop of maize silage, while at the same time reducing the risk of nutrient loss, is a no brainer. Wasted nutrients mean lost income and a damaged environment -- something no-one wants.
Step 7. Organise the stock rotation to ensure that any feed is removed with enough time left for the paddock to freshen up before it is sprayed out.
While it is true that life happens, we have found scheduling and communicating our plans with all affected parties ensure that despite the weather we tend to get our crop in the ground within our desired planting window. This gives us the best opportunity to ensure we optimise our yields.