SHELBY, Mont. – One of the busiest times of the year for producers across Montana, spring planting season, is surging toward the finish line at Welker Farms in the north central region of the state.
Bob Welker and his two sons, Nick and Scott, are staying extremely busy no-till seeding, spraying pre-crop and in-crop, keeping the farm machines in good running condition, doing various small jobs, and running out treated seed and fertilizer in one of the trucks to whoever is seeding in the field.
“Scott and Dad are seeding right now, knocking out those spring wheat acres pretty quickly,” said Nick, on a nice day the first week in May, where bright blue skies and seasonal temperatures allowed the Welkers to stay in the fields for several days in a row.
The Welkers are seeding Corbin and DuClair Hard Red Spring Wheat and also have Hard Red Winter Wheat in the ground.
At least one storm came through the first weekend in May, bringing a quarter inch of rain and snow. The cool weather lingered for a few days.
With the American flag flying atop the air cart, Scott flipped on auto steer and maneuvered the Big Bud 525/30 pulling the Flexicoil air cart and air drill down the rows, grabbing the steering wheel to turn around at the end of the field.
Scott keeps an eye on the monitors in the cab, watching the tractor's engine gauges, product levels in the cart, and checking the air drill blockage monitor for any plugged product flow.
“We’ve only got about 1,500 acres to go,” Scott said.
During one of the afternoons seeding, Scott stopped and picked up his family for a fun ride in the tractor. His wife and two little ones enjoy having fun with Dad for a while – and Dad loves it too.
Last fall, the Welkers had manure spread across 160 acres, so Scott hooked the Big Bud to the cultivator to incorporate the manure into the soil.
Nick spent time in the Big Brute, their huge main sprayer, spraying fields ahead of the planter to ensure clean fields. The sprayer needs to be filled with chemical and hundreds of gallons of water first, which often seems like an endless job.
“One of the main reasons we pre-spray is because of weeds like cheatgrass,” Nick said. Cheatgrass hugs the ground like a thick rug, uses lots of water and nutrients, and keeps crops from growing.
In the sprayers, the Welkers have GPS and monitors with their systems to make sure they are not going over the same ground more than once.
“We check and make sure it’s not windy if we’re going to be spraying,” Nick said. “If it’s windy in the day, I can’t spray until evening.”
The nozzles and screens are checked on the booms to make sure they are spraying product properly and efficiently. The booms can be individually shut off and started from inside the cab.
The three producers earlier planted yellow peas, and before the peas came up, the Welkers sprayed them with a pre-emergent herbicide.
Later, the Welkers will use their nice, tall Apache sprayer for in-crop weed spraying. It has narrow tires and can glide through the fields without harming the new seedlings.
But the Welkers really like their Big Brute, which they designed and built themselves.
“One of our last winter’s project was the creation of a one of a kind self-propelled sprayer,” Bob said.
The family found a Case IH fertilizer floater tractor and mounted a New Holland suspended 100-foot sprayer on the back.
They wanted it to match their Big Bud tractors, with its distinctive white paint and red lettering on the side that says, ‘Big Brute.’
“We decided to make it look like a Big Bud, so we used an authentic front hood from a series 3 Big Bud, donated by Ron Harmon of Big Equipment,” Bob said.
It was a massive job, with days spent using a crane, a loader, plenty of chains and more to lift farm machinery parts and pieces off the old sprayer and onto the new sprayer. They built it as if they were crew in a new farm machine shop.
An amazing project for any farm, it was recorded for their YouTube channel (https://www.youtube.com/WelkerFarmsInc) and is one of their most popular videos.
“That video series has over 1.5 million views,” Bob said.“It is also featured in Farming Simulator 19, a computer game played all around the world.”
Meanwhile, back in the fields after Scott had seeded for several hours, he heard a grinding sound and realized the transmission had gone out.
While it was the Big Bud KTA 525’s second transmission, Scott said, “It has been a long time - 30 years - since this transmission was installed.”
The next day, they found another transmission for $2,200 and six hours later, the tractor was up and back in the field seeding.
Meanwhile, one of the stunning, panoramic 360-degree views of agriculture that the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) captured was taken of the two Big Buds and planting systems, the trucks, with all the Welkers on hand.
With the sun lower and just peeking through the clouds, the trucks arrived with product to refill the Big Buds’ planting systems’ compartments on the seed carts. With Bob running one seed cart, framed by Montana state flag, and ‘Old Glory’ flying on the other cart where Scott was working, the UAV zooms out to show the rolling hills and farming fields in the north central region. It continually zooms out until the planting systems seem very small in the frame, and zooms back in as the Big Buds head out to the fields.
As Bob says, their story is truly a story of faith, farming, family and filming.
For more, see Welker Farms Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/Welkerfarmsinc, or website at https://welkerfarmsinc.com or play the Farm Simulator game at https://www.farming-simulator.com/mod.php?lang=en&country=be&mod_id=108130.