donn nelson color sorter

A color sorter at the Casselton seed cleaning plant where Donn Nelson hauled his natto bean seed. Photo by Donn Nelson

FULLERTON, N.D. – As the snow begins to melt, the area around the Fullerton area is starting to see some flooding problems, according to Donn Nelson. Both overland flooding and the James River is starting to flow out of its banks. This wasn’t unexpected since this area had saturated soils going into winter and the latter part of the winter brought heavy snowfall to the region.

Donn’s farmstead lies just a few hundred feet west of the James River and he reports the river level has come up quite high in the last days of March and first couple days of April.

“We have been busy the last couple days hauling beans out to be conditioned for seed to a plant in Casselton. I thought the roads would be underwater by this morning (April 3), but they are not quite under yet. I am assuming we will have some roads under by tomorrow,” Donn said. “It is going to make our spring planting tougher. We should, normally, be able to plant by the end of the month, and I don’t know if that is in the cards the way things are going. Every thing is completely saturated and there is a lot to melt yet.”

The beans they were hauling to Casselton were natto beans and they were being cleaned and conditioned for seed production. These beans came from a State Seed Department inspected field, which passed and the production was given the green light for seed production.

They have also been talking to their pinto bean contractor and are expecting a shipment of seed from a plant in Idaho within the next few days. Last year pinto beans were not in the rotation, but with the lower soybean prices it was decided to put some of the planned soybean acres into pinto beans.

Usually Donn and his father put about one-fourth of their tillable land into corn and that is still the plan for this year, although some of the planned corn acres are now underwater.

“Some of that land may end up in soybeans. We like to maintain our rotation and not have bean acres go back to beans,” he said. “We will try to maintain the planned rotation, but the weather might make things difficult, and PP (prevented plant) might also become a factor.

The equipment is pretty much field ready. In our last visit Donn was relating how they were equipping a used planter that was recently purchased with the equipment that would work best for their operation. That conversion is now complete and the planter is field-ready.

The road going south from his place is high and dry and that is the road he takes to get to his cow herd that has temporary residence in a neighbor’s feedlot. Earlier this winter Donn made the decision to move his cow herd for a winter grazing program and instead to the cows to a neighbors feedlot. Those cows are still in the feedlot and Donn has been giving a lot of consideration as to when he will move those cows back to grazing on his land.

“I could be grazing right now, there is no doubt in my mind, but the biggest issue I have right now is fences under snow,” he explained. “The cows could just walk right over them to freedom, basically.

“Maybe by the weekend I can go check and see if there are spots where the fences aren’t under snow. It would be nice to drop the cattle off in some of those pastures and then when the rye starts greening up it would be ready for the them to graze.”

At least half of his pasture is now underwater, which makes it impossible to graze, despite the fact that he has some stockpiled grass on it, and he expects some of those areas will remain underwater for quite some time. Some of the land in the James River valley actually drains away from the banks of the river, so as the flood waters recede, some of that water doesn’t drain back in the river to be taken away. Instead it pools in low spots on the land and is trapped from draining back into the river.

Finally, there needs to be a correction to the last article. In that it was mentioned that Donn’s grandfather was part of the Hird Implement ownership. That wasn’t correct. Instead, his grandfather, Bob Nelson, was a salesman at Hird Implement in LaMoure. I apologize for the misunderstanding.

This also marks the last visit with Donn for the Producer Progress series. This has been a unique situation, since Donn is the only producer who has ever been followed for a full year, but the editorial staff at Farm & Ranch Guide thought his operation would be interesting throughout the year and that certainly proved to be the case.

In closing, thank you Donn for letting us get a glimpse of your thoughts regarding cover crops and no till farming on the cropping side, as well as rotational grazing and winter grazing on the cattle side of the business. Best wishes in your farming future!