Facts on Farming

A few weeks ago, a question was asked on Facebook by a local news station regarding farmers and government payments. Don’t worry, I won’t go into my feelings about that topic right here…but I do want to try to explain something to those that aren’t involved in agriculture.

It seems as if there is a misconception about farmers. (Not shocking, I know.) But the comment that was made online really struck a chord with me…and it should for you, too. You can read about my reaction here.

But I thought maybe we should have some numbers, so that people can understand what really goes into farming.

These are our "fleet" to bring in the crop. Far from new, but they get the job done.

Now, to be honest with you, I’m using numbers for my area, so things can be markedly different where you’re at…but in the end, it should all pencil out about the same.

Let’s start with the basics. Crops are figured by the acre (which is roughly half a soccer field). So most of the items you purchase to put the crops in and take them off are calculated based on how much it costs per acre. Crops that I will use in these examples are spring wheat, corn and soybeans…some of the more common crops in my area.

Check this out:

Example 1: Spring Wheat

The average yield (crop that they harvest) per acre for spring wheat is 49 bushels/acre in my area. The average market price is estimated at $7.54 per bushel. If you multiply that out, you would come up with an average income of $369.46 per acre. Not too bad, eh?

Well, that just doesn’t happen by itself. Let’s look at what it took to get there. The average direct costs associated with planting, pest management (taking care of bugs), nutrient management (taking care of soil), insurance, fuel, repairs, etc. is $192.92 per acre. Indirect costs, such as overhead, machinery depreciation, purchasing new machinery (usually just new to you, not new-new) and land charges, run about $117.52 per acre. The costs total $310.44 per acre. Hmmm…a little too close to that first number, right?

So, in an average year, planting spring wheat, a farmer can expect to make roughly $59 per acre. And that’s with fuel costs averaged at $3.40/gallon for gas and $3.20/gallon for diesel. We all know what is forecasted for those numbers, right?

I’ll spare you all the rundowns of the other two crops, and just give you the final numbers: Soybeans would average about $103 per acre and corn (for grain) would average about $150 per acre.

So what’s the average farm size in Dickey County (where I live)? It’s 1,100 acres. So let’s say we planted our whole farm to corn, and we had 1,100 acres, we would (according to these numbers) roughly make $165,000. (Also remember, that would be if you planted every acre and were able to harvest it. Most of the time, there are significant areas of drowned-out crops, etc.) And if we planted our whole farm to wheat? $65,000. (And let me tell you, we would never, ever dream to plant our whole farm to one crop. You remember that saying about all your eggs in one basket, right?)

But seriously, folks, that’s not how it works. Those are the numbers we shoot for and strive to reach…and like most professions, very little goes as planned.

For example (and these hit a little too close to home): imagine having to harvest all your wheat in one direction, doubling your fuel costs. Or having a pest move in, doubling your pest management inputs. Or having a wet spring, dry summer, late fall, whatever have you may, lowering your yields substantially.

No, to be honest, farmers on a national average follow this graphic a little more closely:

And that would be why so many farmers, and/or their partners, seek off-farm employment.

But we will plant a crop this spring, in hopes that we’ll meet or exceed our goal yields, while trimming as much off the expenses as we can…just like any good business person would do.

And that’s a fact.

P.S. I would especially like to thank Kacey Holm, our county extension agent, for his assistance in getting me these numbers. Extension ROCKS!

Wordless Wednesday – Corn Chopping (AKA Silage Cutting)

I was going through some of my older photos…and I realized that I hadn’t shared the shots that my 4-year-old took while we were driving truck for silage cutting.  Some of them are so funny, that I have to share.

EJ definitely has an eye for photography!

Today's post, brought to you by 4-year-old EJ.



Chopper at work...well, actually at rest, but getting ready to work.



Self-portrait. We'll call this, "EJ - Through the Looking Glass"



Chopper, at work again.



Up close shot of silage flying around.



Well, where would we be without our hands?



Had to get a shot in of his favorite person/mentor...Mr. Shorty.



Harvest 2011 in the Books

Yep, we’re done. What a relief! And can I tell you, this is the earliest we’ve been done with harvest in YEARS! Yay!

Yesterday I shot a few pictures…but I didn’t get there in time to get some of the shots I was dreaming of in my head. But this is my favorite from the day:

Waiting his turn.



I love seeing the excitement and joy in EJ’s eyes as he watches his dad and grandpa work. Out of all the boys, he has the most intense desire and connection to the farm…and he’s 4. He can tell you who owns what equipment, what it is and what his crops are (by the way, the little bales are his, and the big bales are his dad’s, just the same, the calves are all his, and the cows are dad’s). He knows how to get to each field, where he can and cannot go on the farm, and can sit in a tractor for a 12-hour day and not complain. Yet, he has no desire to write his numbers (I know he knows them, because he can read the numbers on a tractor), repeat the alphabet and switches colors at will (but will correct you with tractor colors). Yes, he will truly be a handful.

I’m hoping his stubborn streak changes by this spring…or else his kindergarten teacher will have to be creative in convincing him to share!


Farm Like a Girl

I have been anxious to share this post with you for quite a few weeks now. And the funny thing is, I can’t wait to show off more once winter is actually here!

What am I talking about?

Well, thanks to my friends at The Real Farmwives of America, I was hooked up with some awesome Carhartt bibs. When I picked out my bibs, I felt like the luckiest woman alive. I’d been contemplating ordering a pair, because last winter I used a pair of my husband’s…and let me tell you what, they are NOT made the same!

My hubby’s coveralls were baggy on the bottom, tight across the top and difficult for me to move in. My new ones fit me like a glove, and the best part yet? They’re PURPLE! No more worrying about grabbing the wrong pair, one of the boys taking off with them, or Boss Man slipping them on because they’re handy! 🙂 Yay!

This winter, I’ll be putting these bibs through their paces, checking cows during snow storms, like I did in this video:

But for now, I used them for a variety of tasks. Like:

1) Driving truck during silage cutting.

EJ was my silage truck partner. He had to wear his bibs too!



My 4-year-old photographer...didn't do too bad!



Dumping the chopped up corn (silage). It'll be packed down in a pile, covered, and used later this winter for feed for our cattle.



Sometimes the waiting during silage season can be a bit boring. Thankfully my phone kept me up-to-date on the progress being made and where I was needed.



2) My hubby’s idea of an early-morning, marital-relationship-building-exercise…AKA covering the silage pile.

My husband's comment when I asked him to take a picture of us working? "If I take the picture of you, won't they wonder why I'm not working too?"



The best part of this yearly routine was the beautiful sunrise I was able to take in:

Another beautiful fall morning.



3) And don’t forget, the ever-wonderful job of spraying out the horsetrailer after hauling the cows and calves home from weaning!

It's a dirty job, but someone's gotta do it!



These coveralls, bibs, whatever you want to call them, they will quickly become a staple in my wardrobe. They are warm, comfortable and easy to care for…all things that are a MUST in my house!

To win a pair of Carhartt Bib Overalls of your own please visit The Real Farmwives to sign up for their giveaway. Seriously, do it. They are amazing. I will never buy another pair of men’s bibs again!!! 🙂

Carhartt did provide me with this product to review but the thoughts and opinions expressed here are my own.

Frosty Farm

We were really, really close to a frost this morning…and our farm isn’t ready for that! (Of course, Mother Nature never waits ’til you’re ready, though.)

So, what does frost mean for the farm?

Well…it means work.

Frost kills the plant, which in turn makes the fruit of the plant ripen sooner than planned. Unfortunately, when plants don’t ripen on their own, and a frost helps ripen them, they can all ripen at the same time. Which is stressful!

Today our high is supposed to be mid-50’s, tonight a low of upper-20’s, and then a slow warm up again. It’s hard to plan in the fall, because you never know what the day is going to bring. My boys leave for school in heavy jackets and come back without them. You start the day in long sleeves and end the day in shorts. It’s crazy, but it’s the same thing every fall.

Another sure sign of fall? I was up ’til almost 2 this morning, canning the vegetables that were ready to go, just in case frost did set in. I’m a tired prairie mama today!

Just some of the produce now prepared for winter!


Tuesday Farm Update

So, during all this craziness, I actually got my Flipcam out again and shot some video of Wheat Harvest 2011. It’s not my best work, but at this point, I’m surprised it’s not just a video of me in the fetal position in the corner sucking my thumb and clicking my heels, saying, “There’s no place like home.” I think you get my point.


New perspective

We are entering a new ballgame here at the Wagner Farm. One I never expected to have to face, but can’t wait to see the results!

Our youngest son seems to have a condition that doesn’t allow him to breakdown proteins. The solution to this problem, at this time, is to limit his protein intake. Quite an interesting situation for a cattle family, to say the least. But, in the true sense of making lemonade out of lemons, I look forward to the road we’re going down. I can’t wait to see what I can learn!

Don’t get me wrong, my family will not become vegans, and I have no intention of changing our way of life, but everything will be done from a whole new perspective.

Now, I have always been one to understand that there are people in this world who make choices based on true science, medical advice and thorough research. I respect and admire those people and understand completely why they make the choices that they make.

On the other hand, there is an even larger group of people that prey on fear, sling mud and use emotion and distorted information to support their cause, and feel free to spread their misinformation around the cyberworld. Those are the people that I hope to refute.

We raise cattle…and we do a good job, if I do say so myself. We also raise corn, soybeans, wheat and alfalfa/grass hay. (And for the moment, we appear to be raising a pretty darn good crop of deer…much to our dismay.) Having a child that cannot consume these products, or at least only in extremely limited quantities, changes my perspective quite a bit…and that’s a good thing.

I find no fault with someone who makes a decision to elminate a product that I raise out of their diet for the benefit and well-being of their health, or in this case, a child’s health. When that decision is made based on the argument that I’m not caring enough for my animals…that’s where we part ways.

Care to join me on this new adventure? It’s gonna be a wild ride!