In early June, I wrote about our corn planting woes and how severely wet our soils were. We were able to plant corn on about 1,000 acres from June 4-8. We had also previously mudded in 1,000 acres during very brief planting windows throughout May. We also reseeded many drowned out acres of alfalfa with perennial ryegrass mixes. Then the fun started. We were able to secure another 2,000 acres of prevent plant acres from neighbors who realized that planting cash crop corn after June 1 was not going to be a winner. We ordered 1,600 acres of dwarf BMR forage sorghum seed, 150 acres of Teff seed and 250 acres of Japanese millet seed.
    Do you ever think when you drive by other people’s fields how nice they look from the road and if only your fields were that nice? Let me tell you a little secret, their fields have problems too. We secured some of the lower, wetter fields because they could not plant them in a timely manner. We also found rocks, gullies and tile washouts just like in our own fields.
    Now it is November, and I can tell you the good, bad and the ugly of how it all turned out. The Japanese millet was a winner. It was easy to seed, fertilize and weed, and control costs were minimal. In 60 days, we had 5-6 tons per acre of 65% moisture grass silage that tested 14% protein. This along with a few pounds of ground corn almost makes a perfect heifer ration. We planted it around July 1 and thought we might even get a second crop off it, but it did not regrow much after Sept. 1. If I ever get soybeans hailed off in early summer, Japanese millet would be my first option to plant on those acres.
    The Teff grass was slow to germinate and grew slowly at first. The seed was high priced, and a little hard to get. We chopped most of it with the millet, but it only yielded about 2-3 tons per acre. We did round bale some and even made a few small square bales. The dry hay smelled great, and it did test in the high teens in protein. It might have a place for horse or calf hay. My grandsons are thinking about more small square bales next year so they can make some cash.
    The verdict on the forage sorghum is still out. As of now we have chopped about 1,000 acres with it averaging about 10 tons per acre. We have finished two piles of it at two of our heifer grower farms. The feed absolutely smells delicious and is running about 65% moisture even after the many hard freezes we have already had. We are working on our last pile at the dairy, and our nutritionist wants to use it for several purposes. He wants to replace some straw and corn silage in the dry cow ration and thinks it will save 20-30 cents per cow per day. He also wants to put some in the milk cow ration to replace some purchased wet gluten, hoping to save 15 cents per cow per day. Supposedly there is high sugar content in the forage sorghum that makes it a special kind of feed. So far the early samples are running 10%-11% protein. We figure we have $25 per ton in hard costs in the forage sorghum. This would include seed, fertilizer, weed control, land compensation, chopping, hauling and packing. That would be about $10-$15 less than one ton of corn silage. The feed is not as valuable as corn silage, but we do not know for sure how much less valuable. We do know it is feed.
    The ugly part of all this is the extra work everyone has done to accomplish all this. I have employees secretly texting me if they can join me on the combine crew instead of getting their trucks drug through the mud all day on the silage crew. Fortunately, Joe bought a Safety Pull setup for all the trucks this year, and it gets used all too frequently.
    My favorite Peterbilt has a bad starter, a broken hydraulic pump, uses two gallons of engine oil daily and is probably carrying an extra ton of mud on it.
    Seriously, the employees have been great as have been all the neighbors who worked with us through this challenging year. I hope we never have to do it again. I think all of us would have gone crazy were it not for daughter-in-law Rita bringing out delicious meals to the field every noon and night for over a month.
    Vander Kooi operates a 1,800-cow, 4,500 acre farm with his son, Joe, and daughter-in-law, Rita, near Worthington, Minn. Send him feedback at Follow him on Instagram, @davevanderkooi.