Planning for a New Season: Hauling Grain and Finalizing the Cropping Plan in Illinois

We’ve been staying busy over the winter — we’re taking care of cows and getting them through winter. We have about another 25 days until we start calving, so at that point we’ll have a spring calf herd of 40 head on its way. But mostly we’re hauling grain and fertilizer. We’ve got pretty well everything hauled except for some parent seed. I think we’ve got 20,000 bushels of corn left to move and a few commercial beans, but most of it is parent seed.

We’ve been taking a lot of grain to the river terminals in St. Louis for export. We get a lot better basis there, so we haul it to the river terminal and it goes directly onto a barge south down to New Orleans or wherever, where it ships for export.

Most people in this area stay local with their grain delivery. Either they don’t have the trucks to get it down to St. Louis or they aren’t willing to pay to have it trucked. But for us, it’s very well worth the trip.

Finalizing the Cropping Plan

We got the cropping plan all together for this spring and we got the seed all ordered and firmed up. We’ve got our budgets put together and break-evens figured. So now we’re just kind of waiting on Mother Nature to start letting winter go away so we can rock and roll.

That’s one of the advantages of starting your cropping plan in the month of August the year before. If you start your cropping plan far enough ahead and stick to it, you’ll be fine. But if you haven’t got a good firm plan on what you’ll do, there’s no good way to figure your break-even.

Of course, there have been some changes made as the price of commodities dropped and when we got back some yield info at the end of harvest. And when we started looking at our data and the testing from 2014 crop — seeing what worked and what didn’t — of course we made changes. But where we set right now, at the end of February, I’m ready to go.

Looking Ahead to the Early Season

February has been pretty rough here. We’ve had snow on the ground for a couple weeks now, and last week when I got up to haul grain to St. Louis, it was 13° below zero. We’re a little bit warmer than that today — I think it was 22 when I came in from lunch. But it’s time to start moving toward spring.

We didn’t get any fall tillage or prep work done, so when things warm up, we have ruts to fill in and fertilizer to put on. It would be nice to get a run of decent weather here in late March to get some preliminary tillage done and get some fertilizer spread — it would certainly make this spring a lot more enjoyable and then when it’s time to start planting, we can focus solely on that.

We haven’t got the equipment ready to go yet, but it’s in progress. I’d like it to start warming up a little bit outside since we don’t have a huge heated shop. We have a cold shop and some of our machinery has. . . how do I put this. . .  our machinery has outgrown our shop space. So I’d like it to at least get up to 30–40° before we start working on that. And that’s the last major hurdle I’ve got before spring.