It’s easy to write off the last year and move on. Out of sight, out of mind, right? But let’s take a moment to reflect on the victories — however small they may seem in the rearview mirror. 

Cambridge, Ill., farmer Monte Bottens, noted at the 5th Annual National Strip-Tillage Conference in Peoria, Ill., in early August that he was fortunate to get his 1,300-acre operation planted ahead of the prevented plant deadline. 

But as many farmers know, the soggy spring was bookended by an equally wet fall, further altering the typical cropping season timelines. As Bottens jokes, “When we're harvesting 25% moisture corn all year round, you learn about the weakness of your dryer system.”

Despite the challenges, Bottens was able to put a positive spin on some of the lessons learned in his field in 2019, during his participating in a farmer panel for our sister publication Ag Equipment Intelligence’s recent 2020 Executive Briefing.

With more focus on regenerative ag practices, Bottens incorporated 150 head of cows and finishers to graze a cover cropped field that included cereal rye, Austrian winter peas, triticale and winter vetch. He grazed the herd from April 7 to June 3 and during that 55-day span had nearly 30 inches of rain.

“Honestly, after a while I just gave up counting,” he says. “But we rotated the herd on 8-15 acres a day. They went around the whole 160-acre field 3 times, we took them off and no-till planted corn into the field the next day. 

“Our Precision Planting DeltaForce system showed that we needed heavy down pressure in order to get into the soil because of the cattle traffic and initially, we were worried about getting that seed at the proper depth.”

Bottens was pleasantly surprised at harvest, and despite the less-than-ideal planting and combining conditions, the field where he grazed cover crops yielded 14 bushels per acre better than the field across the road that had no cattle impact. 

“For us to have an extreme year like 2019 and to learn that, was just amazing,” he says. “That was huge, huge learning experience, to where we can harvest beef revenue and corn revenue off that same acre in the same year, and have a synergy between the two, animals and the land.”

What’s one positive you pulled from your operation in 2019? Share your thoughts with me at jzemlicka@lessitermedia.com and have a Happy New Year.