As things slow down in the winter months and daylight hours are short we turn our attention to hauling grain. All the work from summer (seeding, growing, spraying, harvest) is sitting in a bin. As grain is marketed, it is delivered to Swift Current, about 75 miles (125 km) away. Trucks full of grain leave, but they don’t necessarily come back empty. The calves are being fed mill-run pellets; this needs to be hauled home. In addition, there have been spring seeding plans made and fertilizer is purchased and hauled home.
The lull of winter means time indoors planning for the next season. A seeding plan takes into consideration:
- The history of a field (past performance, topography)
- Crop rotation to break the chain of disease
- Chemical rotation to avoid the potential of resistance
- Potential profitability of the crops (looking at the markets)
The topography of a field may make it unsuitable for some crops. For example, peas needs to be rolled as the combine header typically skims the ground during harvest. Some fields have enough variation to make doing this undesirable.
A crop rotation is a key tool in controlling diseases from one year to the next. Different crops are hosts to different diseases – by rotating between cereals, oilseeds and legumes we are able to break the cycle of disease. Legumes, like peas or lentils, fix nitrogen. Including a legume into the rotation also gives potential benefits for the next years crop by reducing nitrogen fertilizer needs.
Market news give indications of demand for various crops and supplies from around the world. This helps inform the decision of which crops and how much of each to grow.
Location, location, location. As much as it is desirable to switch things up, some pieces of land are close to the yard. This means they are close enough to receive manure when it is spread in the spring and can be used for silage as both these items have high water contents that are expensive to transport over any distance.