Friday, October 23, 2009

As good as it gets...

I have spent the last two days recovering from the "windsprint" bean harvest earlier this week.  We have two days left, weather permitting.  I was simply too pooped to post when I got in. Jan and I never worked much past dark when it was just the two of us and many fewer acres, but this is now and this is 2009: Harvest of Doom.

Ha-ha, just kidding of course.  But then I checked with some friends who were switching back to corn after 2-3 weeks.  Guess how much it had dried in the field?

0.5%  (Which is essentially zero with the rounding error.)

I think the corn may be as dry as it's going to get.

This is not encouraging.  So I'm looking at a 40 year old (my guess) Super B Dryer I have driven around on one farm and estimating how long it will take to push the rest of the crop through my 30 year old Shivvers unit.

I'm taking my time (thanks to the 1.3" rain) looking for options, which is complicated by almost 100% spring 2010 contracts for delivery.  Meanwhile, the grain industry is likewise losing hope of a miraculous solution.

This harvest is about moisture now.
Iowa farmers who were able to get back into fields on October 16 and 17 are reporting that the grain is coming out wetter than normal, with corn moisture content of 30% not unusual. Grain elevators and ethanol plants that buy corn generally want the grain to have a moisture of less than 15%. Farmers will have to spend more money on propane and electricity to dry corn this fall.

Farmers are also reporting corn coming out of the field at kernel weights lower than the 54 pounds per bushel USDA standard that is needed to qualify as the No. 2 Yellow corn grade. In some areas of the state, corn stopped maturing in late September due to the cooler, wetter than normal weather, which has resulted in smaller and lighter weight kernels.

The hard freeze that struck Iowa the weekend of October 10 to 11 put an end to the 2009 growing season pretty much statewide. Farmers say a full assessment of the frost damage to this year's corn crop has yet to be made. There is still some corn with green leaves in some fields in some areas of Iowa.
I'm not the only one airing my frustrations and fears - but I hope I've learned to pause occasionally to try to make some sense. This current situation doesn't look like some speculator conspiracy, just a phenomenally-rare double-fault*.

One question for you ethanol suppliers: Is there an upper limit on moisture you can grind in dry milling plant?

One thing is clear.  This year will be a test for our patience, civility and professional conduct. [Note the even more intense venting on forums (fora?) and blog comment sections] So if I post less than normal, it's because I am less than normal, and I don't want to drift mindlessly over too many lines of propriety in my more anxious moments.

*Please listen to my commentary this week on USFR.


JR said...

Well John one good thing about dairy farming is the fact we can use high moisture corn in our dairy rations. Those blue tubes are worth gold today. One good thing for the dairy guy. No I am not braggin just looking to be positive. However corn is running from 19 to 33% in the same six rows from one end of the field to the other. average seems to be 26 TW is about 52 to 53. JR

Anonymous said...

Local ethanol plant (Hawkeye Renewables, Iowa Falls) accepts corn about any time of the year at 17%. What little corn we've gotten out is around 22%, and like JR, those blue tubes are golden whenever there are cattle to feed.

Val said...

Hey John,

I hope you had a good day yesterday because we did in North Central Iowa. Let's just say we were taking out 24% corn and thought that was good... I think everyone agree that this harvest is all about moisture. I just hope our dryer keeps up now - let's just say it was being difficult last week. You'll also find this interesting - we have a friend who farms in Nebraska ask us this past weekend about dryers - he and his Dad have never had to have one and now they are looking into setting up a dryer system.

Happy Harvest! Val