Nebraska farmers are continuing with their early harvest this year. A killing frost over the weekend brought the growing season to an end, according to USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service, Nebraska Field Office. The colder temperatures brought some snow to portions of the west.
According to the October 9 Nebraska Weather and Crops Report, corn mature reached 98 percent, well ahead of 84 last year and 81 average. Corn harvested for grain was 67 percent, compared to 17 last year and 30 days ahead of 17 average.
“The biggest challenge, and this is with all aspects of the crop progress, is weather. For about the eastern two-thirds of Nebraska, the weather has been fantastic and this shows in the pace of this year’s harvest. The western one-third has seen some recent snow/rain and this delayed harvest progressing, but now with warmer temperatures, we should see that progress pick up again, if it has not already,” said Kelly Brunkhorst, Director of Research for the Nebraska Corn Board.
Corn harvest is two-thirds complete, one month ahead of average. Based on October 1 conditions, Nebraska’s corn crop is forecast at 1.30 billion bushels, down 2 percent from last month and down 15 percent from last year, according to USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service, Nebraska Field Office. Yield is forecast at 142 bushels per acre, down 3 bushels from last month and 18 bushels below last year. Harvested acreage was increased by 50,000 acres to 9.15 million, but still 5 percent below a year ago.
“The irrigated crop from our discussions with producers looks very good. Yields seem to be running at or above average and the quality looks very good. Average yields over all of Nebraska’s irrigated corn is usually around 180 bushels per acre. We are hearing yields above this pretty consistently,” he said.
Safety is a big issue, and the Nebraska Corn Board wants everyone to be safe through harvest. Both rural and urban people will see increased activity on rural roads and highways over the next 30-60 days, and we want everyone to arrive and complete harvest in a safe manner. The combines, tractors and trucks move slower, and so keep awareness of this machinery. Additionally, be cautious around the farm and field. Moving parts, PTO and belts can be very dangerous and so we just urge caution and being safety minded during this and all times of the year,” said Brunkhorst.
Opportunities exist for corn farmers across the state beyond harvest, as poor pastures have forced cattle producers to look for alternative feed resources. Pasture and range conditions rated 77 percent very poor, 20 poor, 3 fair, 0 good, and 0 excellent, well below 65 percent good to excellent last year and average.
With 97 percent of the state’s pastures in poor or very poor condition, cattle were utilizing stalks. Producers continued seeking forage supplies to cover current and future needs, according to the report.
“One thing we are promoting this year is a grazing and stover harvest opportunities. The drought has been devastating on crop yields, but also pasture and forages for our livestock, and specifically beef industries. We believe that Nebraska is best situated to mitigate the drought to some degree with corn farmers working with beef producers to graze corn stalks,” Brunkhorst said.
“Much of a beef cattle’s diet is forage, from calving through finishing, and cow-calf operations rely significantly on range and grazing land,” said Jon Holzfaster, a cattle and corn farmer from Paxton who is a member of the Nebraska Corn Board. “In total, beef cattle achieve 70 percent of their growth on forage, and years like this can dramatically limit hay supplies and raise prices for that forage.”
Jim Ramm, a cattle producer from Atkinson and president of Nebraska Cattlemen, said cornstalks give cattle producers some much needed fall grazing or supplemental baled forage to stretch supplies.
“We’re encouraging cattle producers to consider the opportunity of cornstalk grazing because saving existing stored feedstuffs and hay supplies for winter feed is very important for making it through a drought,” Ramm said. “Cornstalk residue can be a good feed when managed properly, and we’re fortunate that the University of Nebraska has some great resources available.”
The Nebraska Department of Agriculture (NDA) said it is encouraging farmers with available cornstalks to work cooperatively with livestock producers to ensure access to as much quality forage as possible due to the ongoing drought conditions. Hay production, pastures and grasslands have all been greatly reduced as the fall and winter months approach.
“In light of the ongoing drought conditions, I’d like to encourage our farmers and ranchers to work together to ensure as much quality forage as possible is available to our beef cattle herds this fall and winter,” said NDA Director, Greg Ibach.
“We collectively appreciate the work by the University, NDA and others to spread the word on the programs, opportunities and partnerships that can happen not only this year but every year,” Holzfaster said. “Working together is what keeps agriculture strong in Nebraska.”
Soybean harvest is also well ahead of schedule, with over 70 percent of harvest complete as of October 9. This is nearly two weeks ahead of average.
Soybeans dropping leaves were 96 percent, compared to 91 last year and 93 average. Soybeans harvested were 71 percent, well ahead of 51 last year and 13 days ahead of 43 average. Soybean conditions rated 17 percent very poor, 28 poor, 35 fair, 17 good, and 3 excellent, well below last year’s 78 percent good to excellent and 77 average, according to the Nebraska Weather and Crops report.
Soybean production is forecast at 203 million bushels, up 1 percent from September but down 22 percent from last year. Yield is forecast at 41 bushels per acre, up 1 bushel from last month and the lowest since 2003. Area for harvest was decreased 50,000 acres to 4.95 million, up 2 percent from 2011.
Soybean farmers also have an opportunity to take advantage of a biodiesel opportunity. The Nebraska Soybean Board (NSB) is seeking potential diesel retailers to be awarded grants to invest in equipment used to sell biodiesel blends at retail stations.
Nebraska is one of the top soybean producing states in the U.S. and soybeans are currently the primary feedstock of biodiesel, according to the Nebraska Soybean Board. The funds for the program are provided by the Nebraska Soybean checkoff.
Winter wheat planting is also underway, and was over 80 percent complete as of October 9. However, less than one-third of the winter wheat fields were emerged, 12 days behind average, according to the report.
Winter wheat seeded was at 81 percent, behind both 89 percent last year and average. Winter wheat emerged was 31 percent, well behind 67 percent last year and 62 average.
Sorghum, proso millet, and dry bean harvests progressed. Proso millet harvest was 89 percent complete, ahead of 77 last year and 76 average. Dry beans harvested were 81 percent, behind 90 last year and 88 average. Dry edible bean production is up 45 percent from last year due to an increase in acres and higher yield.
Sorghum turning color was 100 percent, compared to 100 last year, and 98 average. Sorghum mature was 84 percent, ahead of 81 last year, and 69 average. Sorghum harvested was 31 percent complete, ahead of 13 last year, and 8 average. Sorghum conditions rated 11 percent very poor, 44 poor, 33 fair, 11 good, and 1 excellent, well below 75 percent good to excellent last year and 78 average.
Sorghum production is forecast at 3.48 million bushels, down 22 percent from last month due to a decrease in harvested acres. This production is 47 percent below a year ago and the smallest since 1953. Yield, at 58 bushels per acre, is up 2 bushels from the previous month but 36 bushels below last year. Harvested acreage was decreased 20,000 acres to 60,000, down 10,000 acres from last year and smallest since 1937.
The fourth cutting of alfalfa was 90 percent complete, ahead of 88 last year and 82 average. Alfalfa hay production is forecast to be 30 percent lower and all other hay production is expected to be down 29 percent from a year ago. ❖