Some silage cutting getting started early

Crop quality looking good, area producers say

Workers cut silage west of Freeman Saturday afternoon. Warm temperatures and relatively dry conditions throughout the region have some farmers cutting silage early this year. Some also expect an early harvest if current conditions continue. (Erik Kaufman / Republic)

MITCHELL, S.D. — The warm, dry weather is putting some farmers ahead of schedule in 2020, with silage cutting underway for some producers in and around the Mitchell area.

“We started (cutting silage) Monday. It’s a little bit earlier than usual as we don’t usually start up until Sept. 1, but the heat all summer moved it along,” Wally Kramer, who farms near Freeman, told the Mitchell Republic.

Southeastern South Dakota has seen steady high temperatures throughout the month of August, with highs hovering in the 80s and 90s for much of the month. That heat, combined with the relatively low moisture levels, has matured corn faster than usual, forcing farmers to head into the field to take care of business earlier this year.

It’s a big change from last year at this time, when record rainfall drenched the region, flooding out fields, washing out roads and damaging bridges. The moisture wreaked havoc with producers in the field, who either couldn’t get in to plant their crop or couldn’t get in to harvest it, or whatever was left after seeing acres drowned out in floods.

“Planting (in 2020) was a challenge, it was still wet carry-over from last year,” Kramer said.


When they could get in and out of the fields in 2019, however, yields were typically good, and this August is seeing good quality corn that is inching closer to an early harvest.

”This corn is really nice, it’s really nice," Kramer said. "I would say it’s been comparable to last year, other than it got moved along. It’s really early.”

Kramer’s main complaint for this season is the heat, but mostly for the stress it puts on farm workers and his cattle. He raises about 400 head.

“(The biggest challenge has been) the heat. It seemed like it was hot all summer. High heat and humidity. It’s miserable for man and beast,” he said.

It’s a similar scene about 30 miles north on Highway 81. Cathy Eichacker said her family’s operation near Salem has also already started cutting silage, which is also ahead of schedule for them.

“We’re doing that right now,” said Eichacker, who operates Eichacker Simmantels with her husband, Steve. “It’s actually going really well. The corn matured very quickly in the last week, so we were working cattle last week and have been trying to do silage in between.”

Eichacker said they began cutting Monday, which is ahead of schedule for them. She said they usually don’t start cutting silage until after the South Dakota State Fair, but conditions were right to head out into the fields in late August. They’ve been splitting their time between caring for calves and cattle and cutting as time allows.

“Typically we start after the state fair, we very seldom have our silage cut earlier than this year. It’s going to be a very early harvest this year the way things are maturing with the warmer temperatures,” Eichacker said. “We just have a small two-row silage cutter and do it for ourselves and shop, but it takes us a good week.”


Overall, Eichacker said growing and working conditions have been a step above what they experienced in 2019. While planting was a bit difficult with some remaining moisture from the heavy rains last year, work in the field was considerably easier than the mess that was the previous year.

Even the wind was not in their favor last year, she said.

“Last year we had a lot of green snap. We had a windstorm go through in July and it broke the corn right off, so we had to deal with a lot of green snap and it dropped our yield immensely,” Eichacker said. “But everything looks good now. It looks amazing.”

She said they were fine with moving up their schedule to accommodate silage cutting. Summer is a busy time on any farm, and Eichacker said her family is used to making changes to get the job done.

“We are always busy, but for us you want to get that crop out before Mother Nature can turn against you, so early is good,” Eichacker said. “But we do like to keep the corn out in the field to let it dry out.”

While the high temperatures have been unpleasant to work in, it is also accelerating the drying of the corn, which will save drying costs come harvest time, she said.

“My husband went out and checked the corn and it is changing daily. This corn could be dropping a point of moisture a day in this heat,” Eichacker said.

The family has also managed three cuttings of alfalfa with the potential for a fourth, and their soybeans are also looking healthy, though a little rain wouldn’t hurt anything at this point, she said.


Like Kramer, she predicts an early harvest if the warm, dry conditions hold up the way they have the last several weeks.

“I think it’s going to vary across the state, but it’s looking to be a good fall, if everything holds up,” Eichacker said.

Erik Kaufman joined the Mitchell Republic in July of 2019 as an education and features reporter. He grew up in Freeman, S.D., graduating from Freeman High School. He graduated from the University of South Dakota in 1999 with a major in English and a minor in computer science. He can be reached at
What To Read Next
Get Local