Grazing

Cattle grazing at Vilicus Farms in Havre, Mont.

HAVRE, Mont. – In the north central region of the state at Vilicus Farms, the heat of summer is enveloping crops and livestock.

“Until today (July 16), the weather has been very pleasant – cool with a slight breeze and a high in the 70s,” said Paul Neubauer, farm foreman, adding there was a good dew each morning.

On that mid-July day, the weather took a switch and turned up the heat.

“We got some hot weather with a dry, steady wind out of the west. It was cloudless all day and reached up to about 90 degrees here. One of our co-workers, Jim, called it a ‘harvest wind,’” Paul said.

Vilicus Farms is owned and operated by Anna Jones-Crabtree and Doug Crabtree. In addition to Paul, Ben Clark is the farm agrarian and they have two new interns at the farm this month.

“Last week (second week in July), we had about a half-inch of rain on different fields around the farm,” he said. “The rain was a much appreciated boost to a good amount of precipitation so far this growing season, but the county is thirsty and it is hard to tell this week that it rained so much, so recently.”

The crew finished their cover crop termination and manure spreading on July 16.

“We consider cover crop termination as our first ‘harvest,’ as we till those crops in to feed the soil,” Paul said. “As far as crops, we will harvest winter rye and winter wheat first.”

That should start at any time.

“We have not started yet, but if this weather pattern holds, we probably will start this week,” he said.

They have heard of wheat stem sawfly damage to winter wheat in the area.

“Luckily, we have not seen much of that here, but we are always scouting for it,” Paul said.

Paul had the opportunity to see the lentils for the first time since seeding this past week, and he says they are looking good.

They are happy that there hasn’t been a lot of weed pressure for an organic lentil crop, and the plants are tall and green still.

Paul said they recently harvested forage barley and forage peas for the cow/calf pairs.

“We swathed about 100 acres of forage barley and peas that will be cattle feed,” he said. “We will leave the swaths out on the field and then use electric fence to graze the swaths incrementally. With the production we have had, and the small number of cattle, that crop should last us between 2-3 months.”

The interns are doing very well and fitting in as integral members of the team, Paul says.

Their intern, Anne, recently completed her first round of crop scouting, which is “no small task, and she mowed all our field borders,” he said.

Tim just recently completed the major job of thistle management.

“Tim toured the entire farm and mechanically destroyed thistle wherever he found it,” Paul said.

Eddie was “essential to completing manure spreading.”

“Due to some equipment breakdowns, we were relegated to using only one spreader and a payloader, so Eddie slung a lot of manure solo,” he said.

Farm crews at Vilicus are watching the skies. 

“Cooler temperatures with humidity like we have had for the past week will help all our crops keep growing and filling heads, achieving their potential,” Paul concluded.