The Blomme'n Coop

Our Farm = Your Food

Month: April 2017

Off to the Races! Corn Planting 2017

If you drive across any Midwestern state right now, you’ll see machine shed doors opened up, planters stirring up dust in the fields and jumbo-sized coffee mugs in the farmers’ hands.  It’s planting time.  What a privilege it is to be able to provide food for the world.

What is corn used for?

corn use poster 1corn use poster 2

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The following diagrams are from the National Corn Growers Association 2016 publication, “World of Corn.”

components of corn

To see how corn is planted today, it’s hard to even imagine that it was once planted one row at a time or with a horse.  The screens you see in the cab below serve as a control center.  We can monitor just about everything happening with the planter – what the seed singulation is, the seed spacing, how much down pressure is being applied to each row, how much seed is left in each row, etc.  Auto-steer technology is driving the tractor which allows the operator to pay closer attention to all the details taking place behind them.  Automatic row shut-offs will shut the planter off once it has crossed over an already-planted area, saving on seed and improving yield in those areas.

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This picture is showing the seed trench where the corn kernel is dropped at about 2.25 inches deep.  IMG_2249

After the seed is dropped in the trench, these closing wheels will seal up the trench and the drag chains help to cover and level the trench.

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Good seed spacing is important, but even more so is proper seed depth.  It is critical to get every plant emerging at the same time so that they grow and develop consistently.  If a plant emerges later than its neighboring plants, it could become a runt (more like a weed) and will not be able to compete with its larger, neighboring plants which will rob it of essential nutrients and sunlight.

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It’s pretty difficult to get through the day without the use of products made possible by corn.  Whether it’s the food you eat, the soap you shower with, the fuel you put in your vehicle or the carpet you walk on, products made from corn are all around us.

The Grass IS Greener on the Other Side

We have some happy cows on the Blomme farm right now.  After a long winter, we turned some of our cow/calf pairs out to pasture last night.  This might be one of the coolest sights of the whole year.  After spending the last few months in barns to keep them protected and comfortable from Old Man Winter, they now can explore and enjoy the fresh green grass, sunshine and wide open spaces.


Before turning them out to pasture, we vaccinated these calves for respiratory diseases and pink eye.  We will monitor them closely to make sure they don’t break with something like pneumonia while out on pasture.  A big part of having cows and calves on pasture is checking fences and making sure that everything is in good shape to keep them where they’re supposed to be.

These calves will continue to nurse their moms until they are about four to five months old.  At that time we will wean them and they will consume grass hay, corn and protein pellets.  Prior to breeding, the cows on pasture will be supplemented with ground hay and silage to make sure they have adequate nutrition heading into pregnancy.  They will also be supplemented with salt and mineral to round out their nutrition program.

These calves will ultimately be fed out and harvested for meat.  If you pay attention to meat packaging, you will see labels that say things like “grass fed,” “grain fed” or “grain finished.”  These calves will be a combination of grass fed and grain fed.  They will consume grass while on pasture with their moms and then will be grain finished (along with rations of grass hay, silage and gluten) in our feedlots.

The video below has a special treat for you.  You will be serenaded by my 3-year-old’s rendition of “Let it go,” the famous soundtrack from the movie Frozen.  Seems quite fitting for this situation as I’m sure the cows are feeling a lot of freedom being turned out to pasture!


Picture perfect evening with these mamas and their babes.

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What’s Hoppin’ on the Farm

In the spirit of Easter, here is an update on what’s hoppin’ on the Blomme farm these days.

Planting

Spring planting is knocking on our door so there is a lot of excitement as well as nervousness in the air.  Depending on where you live, some farmers have started planting already.  Others are waiting for their fields to be “fit” or dry and warm enough to plant.  We have some rain in the forecast for the rest of this week so depending on what Mother Nature does, we will likely start within the next week.

It’s critical for good stand establishment and ultimately a successful crop to plant the seed when the soil is above 50 degrees and the forecast looks warm and dry.  Seedlings don’t like cold, wet conditions which can bring on disease, deformities and even death.  We only get one shot to get it right so planting is the most critical task of the year as far as crop production is concerned.  And the window of optimal planting conditions is only five to seven days on average so it’s very important to be ready to go when conditions are right.  It’s easy to see why this is a high-stress time of year for farmers!

Prior to planting, a lot of farmers are busy right now tilling the soil, applying anhydrous ammonia, shaping and seeding waterways and spraying weeds or cover crops.  We planted some cover crops (rye specifically) last fall on some acres where we chopped corn silage.  We did this because chopping corn silage uses every last bit of the plant and therefore leaves the ground very bare.  Since there was no residue on the ground, the rye helped to prevent soil erosion and also served as a great source of feed for our cows (they loved it!).  The rye is now about six to eight inches tall and lush green.  It’s time to spray and kill the rye so that we can plant a soybean crop into that field.

Seeding Alfalfa

A few weeks ago, we seeded some ground to alfalfa (a perennial flowering plant in the pea family) that was previously planted to corn.  We did this for a couple of reasons.  Most importantly, we need the alfalfa crop to feed our cattle.  But we also rotate crops on our fields that are very hilly in order to prevent soil erosion and maintain the integrity of that ground.  This particular field had been soybeans and then corn the last two years.  This alfalfa crop will grow for about four years and then we will put this field back into a corn/soybean rotation.

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Filling the drill to seed alfalfa.

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This is one of the many conservation practices that farmers utilize to minimize soil erosion and therefore minimize the amount of nutrient run off.  In addition to preventing soil erosion, alfalfa has many other benefits including absorbing nitrates in the ground water, providing a rich habitat for many species and serving as a valuable host to a wide variety of insects, some of which actually naturally help with pest control.  Alfalfa is a pretty amazing natural fertilizer as it fixes its own nitrogen from Rhizobia bacteria and helps provide nitrogen for future crops while also improving soil tilth.

Calving Progress

We are now about half way through our calving season.  We have been blessed with a few sets of healthy twins the last couple of weeks.  The conditions the last couple of weeks have been muddy, making things difficult for the baby calves and their moms.  Because of this, we did some rearranging of our cattle and moved some cow/calf pairs into one of our hoop barns to provide better conditions for them.  The hoop barns offer a warm environment where we can better maintain dry bedding to keep them comfortable.  Fortunately, the weather has improved and we are getting ready to turn the pairs out to pasture.

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Ruthie bottle feeding a calf.  *Photo credit – Connie Blomme

Easter Feast – Where Does It Come From?

Before grandma presents her amazing spread, where do some of the Easter dinner favorites come from?

  • Did you know Iowa is the #1 egg producing state?  As you devour those delicious deviled eggs, thank an Iowa egg producer.
  • Plan to pig out on that Easter ham?  Iowa is the #1 pork producing state as well.  Enjoy that Easter ham guilt free knowing that you’re consuming safe, nutritious protein that was likely raised by an Iowa farmer who truly cares for the well-being of their animals.
  • Love you some green bean casserole?  You can thank the fine farmers in Wisconsin for being the top producing green bean state in the country.
  • And this one is no surprise . . . Idaho produces the most potatoes of any state in the country.  Thank goodness for those potato farmers making mashed potatoes a staple at our Easter feasts.

Hungry yet?  I wish you all a blessed Easter!

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