EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the seventh in a series of articles profiling an Ohio farm family through a “typical” year. This month – finishing harvest, looking back and looking ahead.
DELAWARE COUNTY — As the end of the year gets closer, farmers find themselves between two worlds. On the one hand, the harvest is over and yields are coming in; and on the other hand, next’s year’s duties are already visible on the horizon.
For Zach Taylor of Delaware County, the year’s work is still very much alive.
When Rural Life first met Taylor during spring planting, the season had gotten off to a rocky start. There were equipment issues from the beginning and changing weather throughout. And when the weather would settle, it often settled on rain. The issues made for a delayed planting season which seemed to knock the whole second half of the year a little off schedule.
Taylor, his wife, Stephanie, and their daughter, Shelby, then had a busy summer with county fairs, showing animals, a trip to Custer, South Dakota and, of course, the day-to-day demands of the farm.
Taylor tends his own farm, some of his father’s land, and land he’s acquired over the years, putting him in charge of 1,200-1,300 acres.
Despite a rainy October and some up and down days at the start of November, Taylor was thankful for the sunny, milder weather.
“I’m not the only one that needed it. There are a lot of crops still out there,” he said. “We’ve fortunately been able to take advantage of it. I think we finally got all of our ducks in a row to where things are running pretty smooth.”
Leading up to harvest and through part of it, Taylor had issues with his grain system, eventually having to build a new control room.
“We were having trouble with the electric motor and gear boxes,” he said. “But everything’s about new now.” He has also been able to get help, from friends to farm hands to his wife. In late October, Stephanie had surgery on her foot and was out of commissioner for a few weeks. After a doctor visit, she was given the clearance to drive and ended up in the combine and tractor, pulling the grain cart. “Her being around more this fall has helped a bunch, too,” he said.
Taylor also planted cover crops on a section of soybeans this year to see what kind of yield it would bring him. He has dabbled in cover crops in the past but mainly does it in smaller, 50-acre bunches.
“We planted in some pretty ragged cover crop,” he said. “And boy it was the ugliest thing I ever seen, the ugliest thing I’d ever done.” He said part way through the growing he was convinced that it had been a mistake and they had wasted their time.
“Those were the best beans I’ve cut all year. They were phenomenal. They brought my overall average up almost five bushel,” he said. “Now, granted, I can’t put that all just on the cover crop. It could have been that we had more moisture there to get it started, it could’ve been better drainage. I don’t know.”
He said it’s a great tool and something he’d try again, but something he wants to get a better understanding of how it works on his farm. Getting those crops harvested also means he can start the process of selling.
“Overall, we’re probably seeing a little better pricing now than what we had going into it. At least the futures look better than they did,” he said. “It’s not been real volatile. We’ve had a few days where we’ve gained ten cents.” He said they were right around $9.92 for soybeans but the numbers have shifted up and down. For corn, the prices are $3.38.
“For as much as it takes to raise a bushel of corn, they sure aren’t giving us much back,” Taylor said. “We’re fortunate that we’ve had good corn. That’s going to be the only thing that keeps guys from going broke is the the yields this year.”
In the short-term, it’s on to manure hauling. The Taylors are also looking to buy a four-wheel drive tractor at auction. With their previous equipment issues and maintenance expenses, Taylor said it might be time to look into a purchase.
“I got two older ones that we’ve got to get replaced,” he said. “They still serve their purpose, but for the acres that we’re going across and the demand that we’re putting on them, it’s just too much. Too much of a risk.”
He said they are also happy with their seed selections so going into next planting season, he said they’ll stick to the corn and beans they have.
“Still going to stick with our refuge-in-a-bag corn,” he said. “And then we’ll go back to Liberty Soybeans, again.”
There is some trepidation in looking at the second half of 2018.
“We’re losing some ground this fall,” he said. “That’s essentially going to cut our income by a third.” The loss of 240 acres will cut their expenses back but will force them to re-examine their family budget in the future.
“You just got to tighten down where you can and do what you can do,” he said.
Next month: Completing the harvest and get ready for 2018.
Reach Michael Williamson at 740-852-1616, ext. 1619.