Monday, June 27, 2011

Working the Fields

The last few weeks have been busy at Premier. The fields that have been grazed of their cool season forage have been transformed from stubble to sprouts. How did we get there?

We start by composting the bedding and wasted hay leftover by our winter flocks. The loose matter is pushed into a large compost pile where we allow nature to take its course. This involves the breakdown of organic matter and the production of heat. We want heat to occur to kill any weed seeds that may be lurking on our compost. We would rather not have those seeds present in our fields. In the photo above, Stan and Carl discuss the benefits of the dump scoop on our track loader. It certainly beats a pitchfork.

The breakdown of the bedding converts the larger pieces of "muck" into much smaller ones. This reduces the likelihood of the manure spreader's beaters becoming wrapped and stuck.

The heat produced in the pile also dissipates the moisture in it. This means that over time the pile gets smaller and less bulky. Less bulk=less loads to haul=less fuel used and less time spent. Does less bulk mean less fertilizer? Not necessarily, it just makes it more concentrated. The hydraulic bucket in the photo above is a pretty nifty attachment to have.

Once the spreader is loaded up we haul the compost to the fields to return the nutrients it gave us earlier when it was a hay field (the bedding and waste were originally harvested from these fields). Notice the fine size of the particles spread. Without composting these pieces would have been much larger. Large pieces tend to kill the growth under them and are harder to disk into the soil.

It's pretty easy to see where Carl has spread the compost. Hopefully Tharren used a highpower lens when he took these photos, otherwise it might have been a fairly fragrant photoshoot.

Kyle harrows the field to break up some of the larger chunks left by the disk. Disking allowed the compost to be worked into the soil rather than sitting on top of it.
Why is Mike dragging another harrow even after Kyle prepared the field with one? The second pass over the fields cover's the recently drilled seed.

Mike (in the tractor) after having finished planting soybeans and millet into the freshly fertilized and tilled ground. We planted the two because the forage that was originally there was a cool season forage. Cool season forages grow much better in the spring rather than the summer. Soybeans and millet are much better adapted to grow well in our hot and humid Iowa summers. We plan to start grazing sheep on this field when the beans and millet are 18 in. high.