More corn farmers finishing 2009 harvest

BISMARCK, N.D. -- Fritz Rogstad is one of maybe half of North Dakota's corn farmers just finishing his harvest, shifting his focus to his cattle the farm-ranch, southeast of Bismarck, N.D.

BISMARCK, N.D. -- Fritz Rogstad is one of maybe half of North Dakota's corn farmers just finishing his harvest, shifting his focus to his cattle the farm-ranch, southeast of Bismarck, N.D.

"It's been going real good -- no water freezing up, no problems with livestock," says Rogstad, who finished combining corn Dec. 1.

Temperatures have dipped to subzero on the ranch he runs with the help of his wife, Laurie, and their daughter, Kelsey, a sophomore at Bismarck Century High School.

The family has a herd of about 150 cows.

They also have crops under three irrigation circles, totaling about 375 acres -- about 200 acres that in corn this year. About 80 of that was cut for silage and the rest went for grain.


The first time the Rogstads' corn had gotten dry enough to harvest was Nov. 21, he recalls. That day, it went down about 11.4 percent moisture from about 14.6 percent moisture the previous week and 18.6 the week before that. The yield ran 80 to 100 bushels per acre, which is exceptionally good yield for him.

"We don't have air" in the grain bins, Rogstad explains, so he needed 13 percent to 14 percent moisture to store.

It's been a good year overall for crop yields.

Spring wheat on 180 acres yielded a range of 30 to 70 bushels per acre, with most of it hitting 60, depending on the soil type. The best yields came on the nonirrigated parcels, as rains were timely this year.

"We never turned on the irrigators once," he says. "Other years, I usually run it."

The corn went into piles.

Some of the wheat that yielded less than 30 bushels was on new CRP that we've broken up, after 25 years in the program, Rogstad says.

"Some of it was so rough," he says, "and when the wheat was up and starting to head, the weeds took over after it had been sprayed once. We had to swath it down, so that was bad."


Rogstad is storing the wheat in two 3,000-bushel bins waiting for a better market. Protein was 12 percent to 13.5 percent

Rogstad usually gets four cuttings of alfalfa, but this year, there only were three, with a total of 5 to 6 tons an acre -- all under irrigation. The farm receives some nutrients in the form of sludge from the city of Bismarck.

Rogstad left the calves on the fields longer than usual and weaned them at the end of November. He backgrounds and saves most of his heifers for replacements.

For now, the Rogstads are working into the holidays -- hunkering down and looking ahead toward spring. Kelsey's into rodeo -- barrel racing, goat-tying, poles and western pleasure competition.

"She does some barrel racing inside during the winter, but she just practices cutting during the winter," Rogstad says. "Most of that starts in March."

Here are details from a weekly crop weather report, issued Dec. 6 by the National Agricultural Statistics Service in area states:

North Dakota

Corn harvest increased to 53 percent complete as of Dec. 6, up 13 percentage points from the Nov. 29 report. That wasn't as big as the 19 percentage point jump from the Nov. 22 report.


NASS reported it will stop the weekly Crop, Livestock and Weather reports for the year, except for the corn harvest progress, which it will follow through on Dec. 27 in North Dakota.

Some farmers are waiting until corn moisture content is lower, while others are trying to harvest. Freezing temperatures have improved field conditions. The five-year average for this date is 93 percent.

The farthest behind is a 35 percent to 40 percent completion report in the central and east-central areas, while the south-central areas were at 49 percent Dec. 6.

Sunflower harvest now is 97 percent complete, with the slowest being 92 percent in the southeast part of the state.

Despite the problems, much of the fall tillage and fertilizer application was completed.


Corn is 87 percent harvested, a 9 percent improvement from the Nov. 29 report. Corn reportedly was coming in at 21 percent moisture, about the same as the previous week and compared with a 17 percent moisture average for the date at this point across the past five years.

Sunflowers are 94 percent harvested, up 9 percentage points from the previous week.


November ranked as one of the warmest on record for the state. Snow accumulations of 1 to 2 inches in the southwest part of the state, but 2 to 5 inches in the Redwood, Brown, Cottonwood and Watonwan counties.

South Dakota

Some 73 percent of the state's corn for grain was harvested as of Dec. 6, that's up 15 percentage points from the Nov. 29 report, and slowed slightly from the 18 percent progress made the previous week.

The corn harvest remains below the 98 percentage-point progress for the five-year average and the 92 percent level at the same point in 2008.

The report indicated the winter wheat condition is 73 percent in the good-to-excellent categories.

Much of northeast South Dakota remains well ahead of average for precipitation on the growing season since April 1.

Mikkel Pates is an agricultural journalist, creating print, online and television stories for Agweek magazine and Agweek TV.
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