Capital Press | Winter Services and Supplies Capital Press Sun, 4 Oct 2015 21:03:21 -0400 en Capital Press | Winter Services and Supplies Vineyards need to be ‘tucked in’ for winter Thu, 1 Oct 2015 09:31:16 -0400 Brenna Wiegand It’s all about the vines, Willamette Valley vineyard operators say.

“To ensure a great spring in the vineyard it’s important to have good vine health through the growing season,” Pete Paradis of Paradis Vineyard in Silverton, Ore., said. “This year water has been a critical issue and we have utilized our drip irrigation system more than ever before.”

Next is vine nutrition. The soil is monitored annually and a nutrient balance is achieved by adding recommended amounts of custom-blended fertilizer. Vine petiole analysis is commonly done to determine the vine’s nutrient uptake.

“Third and likely the most important thing is using fungicides to protect the vines from ever-persistent disease pressure,” Paradis said.

“In the vineyard industry there’s not a lot of getting winter prepared,” Chris Deckelman, of Meridian Estate Vineyard & Vitis Ridge Winery in Silverton, said. Including his own 100, Deckelman manages 250-280 acres of wine grapes in the Silverton area.

“When you’re all through picking — it can be the end of October some years — you wait until the plants go completely dormant, normally around Dec. 1-15, and then you start pruning and training again. It’s a labor thing, too; you’re trying to keep your labor force active 12 months of the year.”

For Phil Kramer of Alexeli Vineyard & Winery, the additional task of making wine means no off season.

“Right when I’m done making wine, I need to bottle the vintage from a year ago,” he said. “As soon as I’m done bottling I have to prune the vineyard and then finish the wine from the current vintage.”

After that the growing season’s on its way and Kramer’s running the tasting room and continually distributing his wine. “You can’t leave home in the summer because you have to spray every two weeks and I have labor doing work. ... It’s at least 10 hours a day generally and there are a lot of long days.”

The vines have done their work, too.

“After harvest the vines are tired; you would be too if you had to do what they do,” Paradis said. “We like to say they go to sleep after a cold spell in November. They have worked hard and we have taken care of them well. It’s time to rest.

“If we have done our job well they will rest well, allow us to trim their branches and arise renewed and ready for the next year.”

Last year Adelsheim Winery of Newberg, Ore., began leasing Pete and Donna Paradis’ entire 60-acre vineyard. Though their son Pierre still acts as field manager, he’s been focusing more on his off-site equipment contracting, Rainbow Valley Enterprises.

Timing important when purchasing equipment Thu, 1 Oct 2015 09:37:02 -0400 LACEY JARRELL Farmers and ranchers should consider whether they want year-end tax breaks or new-year low interest rates before purchasing equipment.

“Year-end, of course, we see an influx of purchases simply because of tax implications. Then we’ll see a flurry about February or March,” said Carl Laux, sales manager at the Pape John Deere Dealer in Tangent, Ore.

According to Jeff Rossow, president of Mid-Valley Tractor in Eugene, Ore., March and April are the most popular time to buy mowers and compact 50 horsepower tractors.

Rossow noted that those months are when most people begin prepping for spring, but it’s also when good financing and rebate deals are available.

“Zero percent for 60 months is a good incentive. There are often discounts on implements if you buy a tractor at the same time,” Rossow said, noting that implements such as mowers, post-hole diggers, rakes and grading scrapers are popular add-ons. “Pretty much anything you want — you just have to match it up to the right size tractor.”

According to Laux, just as important as securing the right financial commitment is making sure the equipment is the right fit for the customer’s needs.

“The number one thing — when purchasing a new piece of agricultural equipment — is to make sure it fits your needs and your operation. Quite often customers purchase too small of a piece or too large of a piece,” Laux said.

He stressed that customers shouldn’t try to immediately return ill-fitting equipment because the return value is always less than what was paid for it.

“It’s like driving a new car off the lot — the value goes down instantly,” Laux said. “You could lose a lot of your equity if you try to trade it in too quickly. Buy the right one the first time.”

Laux said all Pape’s ag division locations in Oregon, Washington and Idaho have special year-end offers on equipment, such as combines, windrowers, utility tractors and row-crop tractors. He said some offers are sponsored in-house, others are from the dealership. Laux suggested farmers and ranchers call their local Pape dealer to find out what they qualify for.

“It’s equipment-specific. It’s based on the age we’ve had it in inventory. A lot of it is used equipment we’re trying to get moved. We’re offering some very attractive low interest rates on that equipment,” Laux said.

Rossow said equipment owners thinking about trading-in should consider waiting until February or March to get the most value.

“Springtime is when equipment is valued higher for trade-in,” he said. “If you trade something in, we have to sit on it through winter, usually.”

According to Rossow, the benefit of trading old equipment in is not having to deal with selling it yourself.

To get the most out of a trade-in, ensure the equipment is clean and has low hours, he added.

Know your business, have a plan Thu, 1 Oct 2015 09:35:23 -0400 LACEY JARRELL Long-term interest rates are still at historic lows but experts anticipate they’ll begin creeping up in the coming months.

According to Mitch Stokes, manager of Northwest Farm Credit Services in Klamath Falls, Ore., the agriculture economy generally moves counter-cyclical to the overall economy: When the economy is doing well, agriculture suffers a bit. He said if the economy continues gaining momentum, it could have a counter-cyclical effect on agriculture and lower commodity prices.

Stokes said if the value of what is produced is less than previous years, the ability to secure financing could be impacted, because commodities are a component of working capital. He explained that long-term low commodity prices could affect purchasers’ repayment capacity because there isn’t as much value in goods.

It’s not all bad news, though.

“We’re looking at rates today that we might not see again. It’s a great time to get a loan,” said Bob Boyle, regional vice president for Northwest Farm Credit Services in Salem, Ore.

Stokes said before attempting to secure financing, farmers and ranchers should have a fundamental understanding of their business and a solid business plan that positions them to be successful.

“When we’re working with farmers and ranchers seeking credit, our hope is that they’ve taken the time to really look at their finances — with a vision looking ahead over the next three to five years,” Boyle said.

According to Stokes, a primary concern for loan officers working with prospective buyers is that they haven’t handled what credit they do have responsibly.

“The advice I give first-time buyers is to make sure your personal consumer credit report is clean and tidy. That everything that’s on it is yours and that you’re making any debt payments that you have currently on time, every time,” he said.

Stokes also advises prospective buyers to have a reserve fund, whether it’s savings for a down payment or for a rainy day. He said real estate payments can be as low as 5 percent of the selling price, but having as much cash on hand as possible can make the buying experience smoother.

Prospective home or land buyers should also do their best to limit other debt, he added.

Boyle said farmers who borrow money for seasonal lines of credit have also enjoyed record-low interest rates, but that is also expected to change in the next year or so.

“Everything I’m picking up suggests the Fed will begin to bump those short-term rates sometime before the end of this year,” Boyle said.

The best time to secure operating loans is in fall, at the end of the production cycle, because farmers typically know what goods they have and what they are worth, according to Stokes.

“There are few question marks on his or her financial statement,” he said.

Stokes said Northwest Farm Credit Services typically responds to loan request within 30 days.

Fall is best time to get irrigation gear ready for spring Thu, 1 Oct 2015 09:33:28 -0400 LACEY JARRELL Farmers need to make sure irrigation equipment is completely drained to prevent freezing damage when winter temperatures set in.

Howard Neibling, extension irrigation water management engineer for the University of Idaho, explained if water is left in mainlines and wheel lines, it can freeze and break the line.

“Next year when you are trying to run water, and you need to move a lot of water in a hurry, all of a sudden you have mud hole there and you’ve got to shut the system down for several days,” Neibling said.

He said low spots that won’t drain are usually the first to freeze. If a pipe has a low spot, Neibling suggested connecting a riser or anything the water can be pumped out through using a portable pump.

Centrifugal pumps, used to pump water from canals to irrigation lines, also need to have all the water drained from them.

“You don’t want it freezing because freezing water will break a nice cast iron housing on a pump,” Neibling said. “It will just split it wide open.”

Fall is also a good time to inspect hoses that connect mainline to wheel line outlets, according to Neibling.

“It’s a time to look your equipment over and see what could go wrong or cause you problems later in the spring and summer. Anything you can fix should be fixed in the fall,” he said. “The spring gets so crazy — you’re trying to do so many things — you don’t have time to deal with any of these maintenance issues.”

He said worn hoses and worn nozzles, or nozzles that are the wrong size, should be replaced.

“When it’s still working, make a note of what gaskets are leaking and replace those once fall is here,” he said.

According to Neibling, results from testing dozens of wheel lines revealed the average water loss from leaks was about 12 to 14 percent of total system capacity. Worn nozzles or wrong-size nozzles added 12 to 14 percent loss to that.

“That’s 25 percent loss in water just due to those items,” he said.

Equipment owners should also inspect pivots for worn bearing seals and joints that need to be greased. Ensuring joints are greased and seals are secure will help keep water out of the joints, Neibling said.

Oil in center pivots gearboxes needs to be checked and filled to proper levels at the end of the season. Neibling recommends using the oil recommended by pivot manufacturers.

He said pivot tires that look low should be filled or repaired right away.

“You don’t want a flat tire in the hottest part of the season next year,” he said.

Wheel line engines need pre-winter care, too. They can be removed or left on the line. Fuel should be emptied by running the engine until all the fuel runs out, or by siphoning the tank. The oil and the air filter should be replaced if necessary. The engine and other mechanical parts should be covered until the threat of extreme cold and moisture has passed.

Fix it or replace it — what factors to consider Thu, 1 Oct 2015 09:32:19 -0400 LACEY JARRELL When purchasing new equipment, investing in an extended warranty can minimize risk and cost down the road.

After the manufacturer’s warranty runs out, repair costs come straight out of pocket, said Rich Schmidt, sales associate at the Brim New Holland dealer in Salem, Ore. But with an extended warranty, repairs often only cost the amount of the deductible.

“These warranties are always available until the manufacturer’s warranty expires. They don’t necessarily have to buy it at purchase time. They can buy it later,” Schmidt said.

Carl Laux, sales manager at the Pape John Deere dealer in Tangent, Ore., recommends purchasing extended warranties for large, medium and small equipment. He also noted that warranty deductibles are usually low — ranging between $250 and $500 per incident — and are only a fraction of some tractor repair costs, which can easily exceed $10,000.

“Repairs are expensive and it doesn’t take long to pay for that extended warranty,” Laux said. “We haven’t had anyone complain about buying an extended warranty. They always thank us because we sold it to them.”

According to Brim New Holland Service Manager Billy Martin, farmers who are considering forgoing repairs and buying another piece of equipment should weigh the cost of repairs against purchase price.

“If you can afford to replace it, you replace it. If you can’t, you fix it,” Martin said. “If it’s just a small part that’s broken, it’s probably cheaper to just repair it.”

Martin said equipment owners need to be diligent about upkeep — he recommends inspecting engines daily, and checking engine and hydraulic oils. He noted that air filters, especially those in equipment working dusty fields, should be cleaned daily as well.

“Everybody just gets in and goes, but they need to take time to check the fluid levels and make sure everything is up and topped off before they get to work with it,” he said.

Jeff Rossow, president of Mid-Valley Tractor in Eugene, Ore., noted that front pivot seals can easily wear out. He recommends equipment owners regularly check them for dirt, wear and leaks.

He advises equipment owners regularly grease loader and axle pivot points so they don’t get rusty and freeze up.

Laux said keeping electronic software upgrades in new equipment up-to-date is the best way to ensure precision technology in tractors and farm equipment is accurate.

“Make sure the latest version of the software is current in those machines because the manufacturers are constantly upgrading and modifying the software,” he said.

Laux said before deciding whether to fix or repair equipment, owners should also review the equipment’s history and compare its net value with what’s been spent on maintenance repair. He said equipment owners should keep a detailed log of repairs and maintenance.

“That’s part of your cost of ownership, and of course, the older it gets, the more repairs it will need,” he said.

“Anything spent on repairs, that’s a tax deduction,” he added. “So there are advantages to repairing, as well.”

Winter requires preparations on the dairy farm Thu, 1 Oct 2015 09:29:37 -0400 Brenna Wiegand Alan and Barbara Mann of Abiqua Acres Dairy outside Silverton, Ore., live a stone’s throw from their daughter Darleen Sichley, son-in-law Ben Sichley and their two young boys. The younger couple went into business with Darleen’s parents last year.

They’re also a short walk from the 90 registered Guernseys they milk twice a day. The young stock they raise adds 100 animals.

Working six cows at a time, each milking takes about three hours.

“We do all the milking ourselves, which is pretty rare for dairy farmers,” Alan Mann said. “My wife and I and Darleen and Ben are the entire crew.”

Though their day-to-day lives maintain the same rhythm, the cows’ lives change with the season and that takes planning, provision — and extra work.

“Making sure the barns are ready for them is a big part of what we make time for right now,” Alan Mann said. “Right now there isn’t much to eat out in the pasture, but they still get exercise and get to go out.”

In winter the cows are kept in a free-stall barn where they can roam, eat, drink or lie down at will. The beds are rubber tires embedded in concrete with sawdust on top.

“It’s nice and cozy for them,” his daughter, Darleen Sichley, said, adding that despite there being close to 100 1,200-pound Guernseys at large in the open-air enclosure, there’s plenty of room. Many cows will choose a particular bed for the duration.

The new arrangements mean all of their feed must be delivered twice daily. A nutritionist helps them re-balance the menu to account for the lack of grass.

“The biggest preparation is getting feed for the year stored,” Alan Mann said. “We feed about 600 to 700 tons of cannery waste corn silage, which is in our bunker silo now and we try to get 300 to 350 tons of Eastern Oregon alfalfa hay under a roof before winter weather comes.”

The cows are eating about two 1,000-pound bales of hay a day, the average cow eating 100 pounds in return for about 53 pounds of milk, or about 6 gallons.

“We also increase our insurance coverage once all the feed is stored to avoid a catastrophic loss should a fire start in our hay barn,” he said.

Manure handling becomes a much bigger deal when the cows are confined, and when it gets real cold they need to keep ahead of the pipes so they don’t freeze.

Should the electricity go out a tractor-powered generator means the milking schedule is not disrupted.

“We really appreciate the power company when we see the amount of diesel it takes to get through just one milking,” Barbara Mann said.

Once in a while weather prevents the milk truck from making it to all the farms on the route.

“We are only allowed to hold milk in our own storage tank for 48 hours, so there have been times when we have had to dump milk,” Alan Mann said. “Generally our co-op covers that loss for us if it is through no fault of our own.”

Putting berries to bed key to next year’s crop Thu, 1 Oct 2015 09:27:27 -0400 Brenna Wiegand Though winter work is a bit slower than the summer push, there’s still plenty to do, growers say.

“Winter is definitely lower key, lower pressure,” Brian Martin of G&C Farms said. “There’s planting, pruning and harvesting all summer; winter gives us a chance to do more maintenance on the vehicles and equipment updating; general repairs to things that have worn out. They get a lot of use in the summer.”

G&C Farms, northeast of Salem, Ore., is owned by Martin, Paul Roth, Doug Roth and Jeff Roth and comprises about 1,100 acres in blueberries, blackberries, grasses, wheat and hazelnuts. The crew includes Brian’s sons Taylor and Jason Martin and Oswaldo Barrera and Marcilino Dominguez.

Other tasks include going over 200 acres of berry posts and wires for repairs, flushing irrigation lines and continuing to address untiring mouse and weed populations.

“We try to get out there as late as we can to prevent winter weeds; we’ll disk and till between rows and use cover crops,” Martin said. “Most of the time I plant permanent cover crops you can mow like grass between the rows.”

G&C Farms works in cooperation with field agronomist Paul Borgen of the Pratum Co-op for soil analysis and fertility recommendations.

“Blueberries tend to set their fruit buds in the fall so we’ll go out with some foliar nutrients; usually phosphorus, potassium, boron and zinc, mostly for foliage development; and put a little phosphorus and potassium in the ground for root uptake,” Borgen said, adding that blueberries are more winter hardy than cane berries.

“I don’t really know what’s made it so bad but Marionberries are notorious for freezing in low temperatures; when we have multiple days under 20 degrees you can see some real damage,” he said. “Things we’ll do on Marionberries include cutting the irrigation and getting all the fertilizing done by the end of August to get them to shut down. You don’t want them real lush when you go into winter.”

Marionberries bear fruit on one-year-old wood so the canes that grew last spring are next year’s berries. The old vines are cut out and the new ones wrapped up on the wire, but all of this needs to be done by the end of August.

“Going beyond that will damage the cambium layer of bark, opening them up to damage in cold weather. If you don’t have all your training done by the end of August then you need to wait until March.”

Some berry growers attempt to stave off winter’s ravages by employing a spray similar to a latex and fortified with pine oil.

“If you spray that on a cane berry or blueberry plant prior to a frost it can prevent moisture loss through evapotranspiration,” Borgen said. “It’s not like it’s a hard and fast rule. Some farmers are big believers in it — there are guys who want to have some sense of control. You’ve got a lot of money invested in those things and if there’s anything they can try they want to do it. The biggest issue is when you have low temperatures with wind; it desiccates the plant and dries it out.”