Despite how wet it was across much of Western Canada, including parts of southern Alberta, Barry King says he didn’t get stuck once this year harvesting about 30,000 tons of grass and grain silage.
The longtime custom operator of King Custom Farming, based out of High River, Alta., says for the first time ever they did go to long double-shift days this year, adapting a version of an old adage, “You have to make silage when the rain stops.”
“You had to cover as much ground as you could when the weather allowed,” says King, who has been in the custom-farming business since 1990. “I was with what I called the ‘Geriatric Crew’ — I think our average age was about 68 — and we’d start at 5 a. m. and we’d run until early afternoon, and then the young crew — average age of about 28 — would take over and run until 1 a. m. They’d stop and get everything serviced at the end of their shift, and then everything was ready to roll when we came at 5 a. m.”
One of Barry King’s trucks, left photo, hauls silage to the pit at Sear’s Ranches Beaver Kamp operation near Nanton, Alta., while the John Deere chopper, right photo, fills another truck with oat and barley silage.
King has run a single John Deere 7400 harvester equipped with a standard 25-foot-wide, straight-cut header for the past four years. He switched to a straight-cut silage harvester in 1996 and before that swathed and picked up the crop.
With the John Deere 7400 he can process 70 to 100 tons of silage per hour. He has three, 20-ton-capacity Class 7 International trucks, each outfitted with 20-ton self-unloading trailers that are used to haul silage to the pit. With everything running smoothly, it is a non-stop system — the chopper running and the trucks hauling all day long.
“It was a fantastic year from a mechanical standpoint,” he says. “There were no breakdowns and no delays other than weather. Fields were in good shape. There were no rocks and we never got stuck once although it was often a concern. We did have a problem with one truck on the last day, but other than that everything ran well.”
Ideally, King, who also has his own mixed farming operation west of High River, aims to put up silage at 60 per cent moisture. Good silage can still be made with crop moisture as low as 52 per cent, but then the rancher/feeder needs enough weight at the pit to properly pack it. And on the high-moisture side, decent silage can still be made at 68 per cent moisture.
King provides custom silage services to a number of beef and dairy operations in the High River/ Nanton/Stavely area. Also, as part of his custom-farming services, he has a John Deere 9600 combine which he expected to be hired for about 2,000 acres this fall, and in the spring he has a 40-foot ConservaPak seed drill, which seeds about 1,000 contract acres every year.
King Custom Farming can be reached at (403) 652-7419 or (403) 601-1422.
LeeHartiseditorofCattleman’sCornerbased inCalgary.Contacthimat403-592-1964orby emailat [email protected]