Work doesn’t stop on the farm.
Despite the winter conditions and a reprieve from the growing season, planning for production and livestock keep county farmers busy.
“We are still stripping for about the next 2.5 weeks,” said Mark Roberts, local tobacco, corn and livestock farmer. “We put our cover crop down shortly after cutting tobacco in October. We are getting things ready for the rest of the year.”
Planning for the coming growing season and evaluation of the past year’s production play heavily during the winter months. Decisions about new varieties and strains, land use, and equipment maintenance play an integral part of the planning process.
“We make decisions on crop locations, we do crop rotation, order corn seed and we will do seed trays in March for tobacco,” Roberts said. “We will look at several different varieties for the ground with different maturity rates. It wasn’t a good year for corn. We harvested what we could harvest. It didn’t rain at the right time and high heat killed the pollination on corn.”
Roberts also will watch grain prices per bushel online to decide when and where to sell. Roberts’ livestock isn’t calving now, but according to Steve Moore, Henry County Extension Agent for Agriculture and Natural Resources, feeding livestock and the work surrounding it will devour an exorbitant amount of time.
“Almost all farmers have some type of livestock,” Moore said. “Morning and evening feeding and looking after those livestock can be a lengthy process. The calving season will begin in the middle to late next month and farmers need to be there for that. Whether it is alpaca, sheep, goats, beef cattle or horses most farmers maintain hay for those animals.”
Although it isn’t the harvest season, Moore said planning now for the coming season comes from evaluation of the previous one.
“Whether it is formal or informal every farmer is looking at tax time their past year’s production, “ Moore said. “They make decisions about whether to lease more land or possibly lease it out. In the production of corn and soybeans, farmers may be looking for more land for increasing the size of their operation. The decision they keep it in permanent pasture or let it go out for corn or soy may come into play.”
Moore said decisions on what soy and corn will be worth plays into those decisions.
The University of Kentucky has released reports from studies on seeds and Moore said farmers in large production will price shop for varieties that have a resistance to insect and weed control in the county’s region.
From these reports and local commodity trade shows, Moore said many farmers take advantage of educational opportunities locally and regionally.
“Farmers may decide if they want to increase their tobacco production outside contracted buyers like R.J. Reynolds and Philip Morris,” Moore said. “According to Will Snell (faculty member of the UK Department of Agricultural Economics) the findings from the Barley Tobacco Growers Association show the demand is greater than the supply for tobacco across the globe. There was a 14 percent growth than the previous year in tobacco. It may be a year or two blip, but our growers are in the driver seat.”
Moore said the Extension Agency will host a presentation Jan. 28 on pasture and hay improvement with forage specialist Dr. Gary Lacefield and Dr. Jeff Lehmkuhler, UK Assistant Extension Professor & Extension Beef Cattle Specialist.
“We have had drought and too much rain in the last few years,” Moore said. “We need to look at low cost strategies allowing for growth of good grasses and soil testing.”
Moore said the Extension Agency will offer free evaluation of 10 soil samples per farm per year.
“We encourage soil samples in the fall and spring. It helps farmers decide during this time of the year what crop goes where and what nutrients are in the soil in regards to fertilizer.”