Connected To The Land Ep. 14: The Forage Pro (Kent Russell)
Connected To The Land Ep 14: The Forage Pro (Kent Russell) In this episode of Connected To The Land with...
Connected To The Land Ep 14: The Forage Pro (Kent Russell)
In this episode of Connected To The Land with 4Rivers Equipment, host Fred Eichler talks with The Forage Pro, Kent Russell, about hay and forage in the northern US around Colorado and Wyoming. Hear Kent’s story about how hay has become such a big part of his life. From cutting and raking to the equipment, Kent knows how to bale some hay.
Fred Eichler: Connected To The Land with 4Rivers Equipment and John Deere. Welcome to the 4Rivers podcast, we are your working partner and we mean it. Well, today I’m sitting here with Kent Russell, and what’s fun for me is, me and Kent go back a little ways. We’ve not only enjoyed some good time in the outdoors, rafting trip, remember when we flipped the rafts and all the… Yeah.
Kent Russell: Yeah, that was fun.
FE: We’ve had some fun, and we’ve also done some hunting together. But Kent has helped us out on our farm a lot. He is kind of the forage pro and really everything, anything tractor, anything farming, Kent, not only does he know how to run it, but he knows how to do it better. So he’s taught us a lot over at our farm, and he’s a guy that I wish was over there every day. But, Kent, thanks for joining us this morning.
KR: Yes. Good to be here, Fred.
FE: So let’s talk a little bit about things that people have questions about. Farmers are a lot like, I guess, anybody else. Sometimes they don’t wanna tell people they don’t know anything. Have you ever experienced that with guys?
KR: Yes. Well, and that’s just human nature, nobody wants to admit that they don’t know how to do something, and that’s one of the main parts of my job is to help optimize a machine, make sure that everything’s running correctly, and just utilize a machine to its fullest potential so that that way guys can just have a better experience and get more done in the amount of time that you have.
FE: And make them feel comfortable while they’re doing it, and that’s what I’ve enjoyed, and same for my boys. But let’s talk about some things like, if you would break down the difference between hay and forage, for example.
KR: Forage crops, a lot of times are, at least in our area, they’re run through a self-propelled forage harvester to make silage for feed, for feedlot, dairy applications, that kind of thing is more to do with forage. Hay, normally we’re cutting the crop, drying the crop down and then baling it. I shouldn’t say that all the time, because hay, we do have a lot of guys that use hay as a forage crop too around here, and they do do a lot of chopping of the hay also for silage, for the feedlots, and dairies and stuff also. But the hay side of it, I mean, a lot of it is baled also around here for just winter time feed.
FE: What would be the most common, like if you were thinking forage, like you said, mostly corn, is that correct? For people that are listening and going, “Okay, when I think of forage,” would you say most of that’s gonna be a corn product?
KR: Right. Yeah, in this area, for forage, we would concentrate mostly on corn. There is other crops also, but mainly for our area, yes, we will talk about corn.
FE: Gotcha. So what are the growing seasons like here in Colorado? You’ve got some struggles really, ’cause I say that because there’s so many different crops in Colorado. I’ve done a podcast with guys that were doing barley and wheat for beer and alcohol, different things that are made. So you guys at 4Rivers here really are the experts and go out and help a lot of guys in the field, not only choose the right piece of equipment for the job, but then you guys also have to deal with all kinds of different growing seasons, right?
KR: Right. Well, and there is a lot of vegetables grown in our immediate area here too along with corn, hay. There is a lot of different crops. As far as growing seasons go, we do have some crops that are planted say mid-April on, and then for the most part we still have silage chopping going on right now. We’re still gonna have harvest clear through…
FE: November, December, that sounds like corn, right?
KR: Yeah, some of it will still be impact and stuff in November, maybe December even. But yeah, as far as the growing season itself, yeah, we can be anywhere from mid-April on. But then a lot of times we do have pretty good mild weather up here too, so I mean like our wheat crop and stuff, it stays green and looks really good throughout the whole winter a lot of times also.
FE: Yep, especially on a mild winter. Now, are you noticing, with your experience farming, is it climate change? Some of the warmer weather we’ve been experiencing across the country, really, it’s kind of a warming trend. And I think stuff like that’s cyclical, I’m not trying to get into the whole global warming, ’cause I think during the course of the world, we’ve gone cold or we’ve gone hot and all kinds of things, but is that impacting the growing season of certain crops that you’ve seen?
KR: One thing I have noticed, especially… Well, and I’m probably more of a hay and forage guy, so I do. But a lot of times the corn, what I’ve seen is guys have been able to go with a longer day corn, and being able to push the yield a little bit more over the last 20 some years, ’cause yeah, a guy can go with a little bit longer growing season corn to try to push a yield and get a little bit more forage or grain out of it.
FE: And that directly impacts your bottom line. So I’m gonna say, I think a lot of the farmers have been not too disappointed with a little warmer, [chuckle] as long as you’ve got the water, if you’ve got the moisture coming, and it’s not drying stuff out. What’s some of the equipment, and this is what I like is… Kent, what’s your job title for anybody that’s listening?
KR: I’m the commercial hay specialist for 4Rivers Equipment. So hay and forage is all I do.
FE: That’s in your wheelhouse. And how many, if you were to guess, and this is what I like, somebody that’s listening to this podcast may deal with 4Rivers or talk with 4Rivers about coming out, because the great thing is you guys cover the whole gambit. You guys will come out and help with soil samples, you’ll have people come out and give suggestions on what type of crops. And even when I’ve purchased stuff from you guys like, “Hey, Fred, this is probably gonna match what you need,” ’cause you’ll match my tractor to the equipment.
KR: Right, absolutely. And to me, that’s one of the biggest things when you’re dealing with the customers, just listening to their needs and trying to match the equipment for whatever type of crop that they’re trying to grow. Yeah, just match the equipment up so you’re not spending money that you don’t need to on different equipments.
FE: Well, that’s impressed me, ’cause you guys will down-sell people sometimes with that I’ve never seen anybody else do. But you guys are like, “That’s too big, you don’t really need that. This is gonna suit your needs better.” But on the equipment that you use, let’s talk a little bit about the type of equipment that you may come out to a guy’s farm and help them learn how to run better or more efficiently, or show them what to do.
KR: A lot of times, like our new Windrowers are W235, or our W260 Windrowers, I go out on a lot of times with guys on that, and I help optimize the equipment, make sure that it’s set correctly, make sure that it’s optimized and running to the capabilities that it’s running to. I also need to make sure that everybody’s comfortable with all the controls and knows how to set everything, and explain to them why I’m setting it the way that I am. Or helping them set it just to make sure that we’re optimizing the machine and getting the best quality product out of the machine when we’re done also like with that particular Windrower, just making sure we’re getting very good quality hay out of the machine.
FE: Well, when I watch you run that thing, man, you can make… It’s unbelievable to watch you run a piece of equipment and watch anybody else run a piece of equipment. [laughter]
KR: Well, I have been running equipment a long time, and I really enjoy it, it’s a lot of fun.
FE: And I also enjoy the safety aspect. When you guys go through… ’cause I know you guys take that very seriously on that big equipment, and that’s a big part of what 4Rivers is about, is teaching people how to operate stuff safely as well.
KR: Right. Right. I guess along with that, I do the same thing with round balers or large square balers. I do it with our silage choppers also. Same type of thing, just make sure everybody’s comfortable with it and optimize the machine to make it run correctly.
FE: So on the technology, because I think John Deere is kinda… I think they’re owning the industry as far as some of the technology that’s going in. And you’ve been over to Italy, you’ve been all over the world, literally. You’ve been to places to demo brand new stuff, and I know you’ve got another piece of equipment you guys are about to learn about, and I know we can’t talk about that yet, but it’s super exciting stuff. You’re up to date, not only on the farming practices, but also on the technology that comes with this equipment. How do you think technology on this equipment has helped, not only helped your business? So let’s talk about that as far as the competitive side when you’re comparing to competitors, but also on the environment.
KR: Well, and like on the competitive side, John Deere has been doing this for a long time. I know the first class that I remember going to with John Deere on the technology side was clear back in ’96, and basically that was with harvest monitors and harvest documentation on combines, is kind of where John Deere got their start on the technology side to be able to yield map and everything so that a producer can… You can learn from that. You have more data that you can go back every year and improve your operation, try to get more yield.
FE: Way to track it, right? That new baler that we’re running, Jeb’s got it down to where it’s reading moisture inside the bale chamber. Now, we’re still using moisture tester on some of that stuff ’cause it’s just a good idea to check it, but it’s giving you moisture percentages, it’s giving you the exact weight. It’ll tell you how many bales you’ve got in the field. Those are things we used to go out and count. I used to say to the oldest, “How many bales we got here?” And it’ll also give him a weight so he can even look and see, “Okay, here’s the weight of these bales. Here’s what they’re averaging.” He can run an average per bale. I mean, the amount of information now is unreal.
KR: Well, and yeah, like with that particular baler, we have a bale mobile app that we can use, and it will keep track of it right on your iPad. It’s basically a yield mapping for your baler, and it keeps track of the same amount of stuff, the weight per bale, the moisture. You can flag particular bales if one bale is a little wet, that way when you’re going out later on to pick up the bales, you can stack them separately. There is a lot of stuff with the technology. Another thing with technology is, it saves a guy passes through the field, because you can be so much more consistent with your pass to pass accuracy that that alone right there saves wear and tear on equipment, it saves fuel, so all of that stuff impacts the environment, so it does help with that.
FE: Yeah, less time running, less time burning fuel and everything else, so let me jump on to one other thing as we’re kinda closing up here. I wanna talk to you about what’s your favorite piece of equipment to run? Now, I know this is just a personal thing. I don’t want you to tell me from John Deere’s perspective or 4Rivers’ perspective. I wanna know with Kent sitting here in front of me, since you run all kinds of equipment, do you have one that you go, “You know, that’s just the machine I love hopping in.” Is it one of the Windrowers? Is it one of the… What is it that you like them. Is it one of the balers? Is it one of the… It can be anything.
KR: Well, I really enjoy running the Windrowers. I also really enjoy running our large square balers. I’m not sure that I could pick one of those two. I really enjoy running both of those items, they’re just a lot of fun.
FE: Did you get to see what you’re doing?
KR: Oh yes, yeah. Both of those are, for me a baler or a Windrower, either one is just a lot of fun to operate.
FE: Nice. It’s always fun to ask people what their favorite piece of equipment is. Well, Kent, as the hay and forage pro here at 4Rivers, I hope you got a little bit of insight into Kent Russell, and what’s great is if you work with 4Rivers, he may be the guy that comes out and shows you how to run some of that big equipment more efficiently, how to get the best out of it. But Kent, thank you so much for sitting down with us today. I hope you learned a little bit, but feel free to call 4Rivers if you need some help with anything you’re doing, because their slogan is not just a slogan. They’re your working partner and they do mean it.
FE: Thanks, Kent.
KR: Thank you, Fred.