Most Cattaraugus County farmers in middle of fall harvest

A harvest crew from Palmer Dairy Farms, Holland, chops corn silage and collects it in a dump wagon in a field off Thomas Corners Road in the town of Ashford Friday. Most Cattaraugus County farmers are in the middle of the fall harvest thanks to a slow start from a wet spring.

Despite weather setbacks at planting and this growing season, the fall harvest is in full swing in Cattaraugus County farming country.

Rainy weather held back some farmers from planting for weeks at a time this spring. Farmers with well-drained soil were in better shape to prepare the soil and plant seeds.

With abundant hot, sunny weather at the right times, field corn and soybeans were able to bounce back with ample yields despite the slow start.

Josh Putman, field crop and forage specialist with the Southwestern New York Dairy, Livestock and Field Crops Team, said the harvest of corn silage for dairy cattle feed started slow, but picked up speed.

“The silage moisture is pretty good, about 35%,” he said. “The quality has been good. The corn really recovered.”

For farmers who are ready to harvest, rain over the past few days has slowed some down because of wet conditions in the fields for harvesters and trucks.

The corn can absorb the moisture, but not all cornfields are well-drained. It can make for a slippery harvest, with some equipment getting stuck in muddy fields.

Putman said there were some concerns about a Southern Tier frost (Friday night or early today). “That can really affect the quality.”

Putman said a few farmers have begun to harvest soybeans, which seem to be growing in abundance across the county.

“They want to get them picked and are trying to get (winter) wheat planted on time — before the weather turns ugly,” he said.

In cases where some corn needs a little more maturity, farmers will sometimes “chop corn every other day to keep a new layer of silage on the pile.”

Putman said, “We had a good stretch of a couple weeks of absolutely beautiful (growing) weather” that may have made the difference in maturity and overall quality of corn.

Because of wet conditions, some soybean farmers weren’t able to plant until the Fourth of July, which was pushing the envelope, Putman said. With frost on the horizon, “a lot of soybeans might not make it. Guys are kind of on pins and needles. The weather can pretty much do anything it wants.”

Nathan Blesy, president of the Cattaraugus County Farm Bureau, said Friday he still had to harvest about 50 of his 250 acres of field corn, which he hoped to finish today.

“Two more days and I’m pretty much done,” he said. “It’s supposed to be nice.”

Blesy, who owns Blesy Farms in the town of Ashford, was one of the lucky farmers who was able to plant early because of well-drained ground.

“The wet weather sets you back a few days,” he admitted. “The yields are better than anticipated with the late spring thanks to warm July weather. (Corn) turned out looking pretty good.”

Blesy indicated that “some guys are kind of in the middle,” just starting in their cornfields or part-way done. “A lot of corn is not ready because it was planted late. Good drainage is the key.”

Blesy also got four cuttings of alfalfa, which was also of good quality.

Soybean leaves are turning in fields that were planted on time. In other fields, the plants haven’t matured enough to produce beans of any size. They will need more growing time or farmers will be forced to disc them under.

“It started up to be a questionable year,” Blesy said. “I’d say it’s average to above average. I can’t complain. It doesn’t do any good.”

Blesy added, “The reason farmers don’t go to the casino is because we gamble every day.

(Contact reporter Rick Miller at rmiller@oleantimesherald.com. Follow him on Twitter, @RMillerOTH)