Capital Press | Winter Services and Supplies http://www.capitalpress.com Capital Press Fri, 19 Jan 2018 03:47:24 -0500 en http://EOR-CPwebvarnish.newscyclecloud.com/apps/pbcsi.dll/staticimage/images/rss-logo.jpg Capital Press | Winter Services and Supplies http://www.capitalpress.com Fix or replace? It’s often a taxing question http://www.capitalpress.com/SpecialSections/Winter/20171019/fix-or-replace-its-often-a-taxing-question http://www.capitalpress.com/SpecialSections/Winter/20171019/fix-or-replace-its-often-a-taxing-question#Comments Thu, 19 Oct 2017 09:35:40 -0500 Brenna Wiegand http://www.capitalpress.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2017171019882 Whether to fix or replace old farm equipment usually boils down to one thing, according to Will Schwartz, owner of the Tractor Store in Eugene, Ore.

“The biggest factor I find is whether they need a tax write-off or not and how much of a write-off they need,” Schwartz said. “If they’re having a bad year they just wind up fixing the old stuff rather than buying new.”

The Tractor Store sells all kinds of farm equipment except balers and combines, he said.

“Sales have been about the same for the last four or five years, at least for me,” Schwartz said. “There are a lot of small farmers that just can’t justify $30,000 for a new tractor and they don’t need a huge write-off.

“When it comes to the used equipment, most of our customers are willing to spend $6,000 for an engine overhaul on a tractor that may be worth only $6,000,” he said. “To go buy another used one it’s going to cost $6,000. At least this way when they fix their own they know that the motor’s going to be good for the next 15 or 20 years.”

Others simply love older and antique farm equipment, whether for sentimental reasons or simplicity and relative ease of repair, he said.

The store generally serves customers from Albany to Coos Bay, Ore., where there are a lot of small farms, with an increasing number going into organic farming.

Hobby farms also continue to gain in popularity.

“We have a lot of hobby farmers,” he said. “They have a full-time job and they make good money and it’s more that they want to live in the country, and if you live in the country you have to have a tractor. Those people will buy a brand-new tractor because they’re using the farm for a write-off anyway.”

To prevent unexpected breakdowns and subsequent delays during the busy season, it’s good to get machinery in order before putting it away for the winter, when waits are shorter and downtime isn’t an issue.

New small tractors cost anywhere from $15,000 to $50,000. Most of the farmers Schwartz sees tend to steer clear of onboard electronics, so he stocks his inventory along those lines.

With some of the other tractors that have the computerized engines, farmers are stuck with taking it back to the dealer to have it worked on, he said. “Unless you have the computer program there’s no way of doing too much to the engine on it. You plug the computer in and it tells you what’s going on.”

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Ag tires also need care and maintenance http://www.capitalpress.com/SpecialSections/Winter/20171005/ag-tires-also-need-care-and-maintenance http://www.capitalpress.com/SpecialSections/Winter/20171005/ag-tires-also-need-care-and-maintenance#Comments Thu, 5 Oct 2017 11:10:56 -0500 Brenna Wiegand http://www.capitalpress.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2017171009933 While doing preventive maintenance it’s easy to put off replacing tires — especially when a combine tire can run $3,000 to $4,000.

What’s not so easy is fixing the old tire on a tractor that’s stuck out in the field.

Mike McLain, Ag West Tire Department manager in Rickreall, Ore., said technicians carry 3,000 to 4,000 gallons of non-toxic liquid in tanks with them for adding weight to tractor tires when they make a field call. Putting 150 gallons of ballast in one large tire gives better traction by adding about 1,500 pounds to its total weight.

“Now have fun going out and fixing a flat on an inside dually,” McLain said. “You’ve got to pump the liquid out; we may use a boom or forklift to unbolt and lift out the inside tire, which is 6 feet tall and weighs about a ton. Then empty the liquid from the inside tire and take it off the rim while it’s on the tractor and find out your repair. That’s a $500 flat repair.”

Of course, it’s not always about the tire itself.

“One of the biggest issues farmers have with tires is the drivers; you can be trained in a two-hour class and get a farm endorsement at the age of 13 and get in a $250,000 combine and run in somebody’s field,” McLain said. “Naturally, they have driving skills, but when they’re going to make a corner they might hit a fencepost or a piece of equipment and then they’ve ruined the tire.”

A lot of farmers are also investing in caterpillar-like tracks for their tractors, though they are more expensive up front and to maintain.

Not to worry, said Kim Oberg, manager of D&S Tires in Parma, Idaho. His company recaps both tracks and tractor tires.

“We can save their tires,” Oberg said. “As long as we have a good core we can rebuild them.”

Tires from all over the country and Canada roll into their plants in Idaho, Nebraska and Indiana.

Retreading tracks is about half the cost of buying new ones and doubles the life of a track core.

“You don’t have to throw that core away; we’re recycling your track core and that’s the biggest thing; we’re not throwing all that rubber in the dump,” Oberg said. “It’s quite a process to see; we buff off all the old lugs, put on a new layer of rubber, extrude our lugs, put each one on and then we volcanize it with high heat and pressure for about 4½ hours so that the rubber sticks.”

In addition to retreading many types of ag tires and tracks, D&S makes irrigation pivot tires from old truck casings. These are shipped into the plant from all over the country and then buffed, recapped and placed in a hot cap mold to form the tire.

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Fix or replace? It’s often a taxing question http://www.capitalpress.com/SpecialSections/Winter/20171005/fix-or-replace-its-often-a-taxing-question http://www.capitalpress.com/SpecialSections/Winter/20171005/fix-or-replace-its-often-a-taxing-question#Comments Thu, 5 Oct 2017 11:09:23 -0500 Brenna Wiegand http://www.capitalpress.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2017171009934 Whether to fix or replace old farm equipment usually boils down to one thing, according to Will Schwartz, owner of the Tractor Store in Eugene, Ore.

“The biggest factor I find is whether they need a tax write-off or not and how much of a write-off they need,” Schwartz said. “If they’re having a bad year they just wind up fixing the old stuff rather than buying new.”

The Tractor Store sells all kinds of farm equipment except balers and combines, he said.

“Sales have been about the same for the last four or five years, at least for me,” Schwartz said. “There are a lot of small farmers that just can’t justify $30,000 for a new tractor and they don’t need a huge write-off.

“When it comes to the used equipment, most of our customers are willing to spend $6,000 for an engine overhaul on a tractor that may be worth only $6,000,” he said. “To go buy another used one it’s going to cost $6,000. At least this way when they fix their own they know that the motor’s going to be good for the next 15 or 20 years.”

Others simply love older and antique farm equipment, whether for sentimental reasons or simplicity and relative ease of repair, he said.

The store generally serves customers from Albany to Coos Bay, Ore., where there are a lot of small farms, with an increasing number going into organic farming.

Hobby farms also continue to gain in popularity.

“We have a lot of hobby farmers,” he said. “They have a full-time job and they make good money and it’s more that they want to live in the country, and if you live in the country you have to have a tractor. Those people will buy a brand-new tractor because they’re using the farm for a write-off anyway.”

To prevent unexpected breakdowns and subsequent delays during the busy season, it’s good to get machinery in order before putting it away for the winter, when waits are shorter and downtime isn’t an issue.

New small tractors cost anywhere from $15,000 to $50,000. Most of the farmers Schwartz sees tend to steer clear of onboard electronics, so he stocks his inventory along those lines.

With some of the other tractors that have the computerized engines, farmers are stuck with taking it back to the dealer to have it worked on, he said. “Unless you have the computer program there’s no way of doing too much to the engine on it. You plug the computer in and it tells you what’s going on.”

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Tune-ups, maintenance keep ATVs in tip-top shape http://www.capitalpress.com/SpecialSections/Winter/20171005/tune-ups-maintenance-keep-atvs-in-tip-top-shape http://www.capitalpress.com/SpecialSections/Winter/20171005/tune-ups-maintenance-keep-atvs-in-tip-top-shape#Comments Thu, 5 Oct 2017 11:07:23 -0500 Brenna Wiegand http://www.capitalpress.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2017171009935 Not long after the thrill-seekers embraced the first all-terrain vehicles 40 years ago, the ag industry began catching on to their potential for use on the farm or ranch.

Now they are indispensable workhorses that tend to stay in action all year. With their ability to get through areas not accessible to pickup trucks and perform some of the duties of tractors, ATVs have sped their way onto all types of farms, ranches, ornamental nurseries and orchards.

ATVs also provide a new sense of freedom to individuals with limited physical mobility, enabling them to access all areas of the farm and increasing their involvement in the operation.

ATVs are commonly used to inspect crops, livestock, fences, irrigation lines and touch base with work crews. They are also used to fertilize and apply chemicals, herd livestock, mow and transport materials.

“They’re used for just about everything, from checking the mail to pulling the drag chain to feeding the herd,” Edward Maldonado of Cycle Country said. “Unlike tractors, combines and other large equipment requiring winterization, ATVs, side-by-sides and utility machines tend to get used all year.”

Cycle Country in Salem, Ore., is a Honda dealer.

These and the other ATVs are so useful and reliable they are often overlooked when it comes to preventive maintenance.

“While they’re still going, there doesn’t seem to be an issue, but they still need regular maintenance and services,” Maldonado said.

Cycle Country service manager Steven Coen said while many farm operations perform their own maintenance or bring them in for periodic tune-ups, there’s a tendency to run them until they break down.

“We see an influx of machines during the spraying season,” Coen said. “They’ve been causing problems but owners haven’t wanted to bring them in, both because they rely on them for daily work and because of the perceived expense associated with servicing at the dealer. More often than not, most agricultural clients are pleasantly surprised at the final total, and are always excited to have a great functioning machine after having been through service.”

Coen finds his agricultural clients down-to-earth, easy-going and great at using their rigs to their full potential.

“ATVs are an easier way for some of the farmers to maintain their fields without spending $90,000 to $100,000 on a tractor that often has more restrictions and a higher expense per use,” Coen said.

Monitoring the systems of the farm’s ATV protects that investment and reduces the risk of injury and the potential of getting stranded. These include the throttle, brakes, lights, oil and fuel, drive train, chassis as well as tires — but only to a point.

“They all want bald tires so they don’t tear up their fields,” Coen said. “When they come in and we recommend new tires they usually say no.”

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Irrigation systems need attention each fall http://www.capitalpress.com/SpecialSections/Winter/20171005/irrigation-systems-need-attention-each-fall http://www.capitalpress.com/SpecialSections/Winter/20171005/irrigation-systems-need-attention-each-fall#Comments Thu, 5 Oct 2017 11:05:45 -0500 Brenna Wiegand http://www.capitalpress.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2017171009936 Stettler Supply has been doing irrigation since the Stettler brothers returned to Salem, Ore., from World War II in 1948.

Still locally owned, Stettler Supply designs, constructs, repairs and sells irrigation systems and their components.

“We are a Reinke dealer and sell a lot of overhead traveling systems — center pivots and linear sprinklers,” General Manager Trevor Spires said. “Other types of systems include self-powered aluminum wheel lines and drip irrigation.”

In sandier soils drip tape may be buried underground alongside row crops when they’re planted and replaced the next planting season. Above-ground drip irrigation is for permanent crops such as hazelnuts and blueberries. Both drip systems allow emitters to be placed at the desired locations for a specific application.

Whatever the type, as fall and winter approach it is imperative to drain and flush the system so lines and filters don’t freeze.

This is best accomplished before the rain sets in and access to the fields becomes more difficult. In the spring, flush systems to clear out sand and other particulates that can plug emitters.

Farmers are always looking for ways to be more efficient with water and energy.

Radio monitoring and control of pumps, valves and automated timers save on labor, or farmers can control things from a cell phone. Field weather stations can also measure moisture in the soil and make real-time adjustments to irrigation.

In addition, drones and satellite imagery provide aerial photos that show areas being missed by irrigation and detect other issues.

Greater mechanization is a common theme in the ag community to reduce the associated costs and not be subject to the scarcity of workers.

“We feel the effects in our construction projects when we’re trying to find qualified labor; on the farm, they’re having a hard time harvesting crops,” Spires said. “We have one customer who is moving away from aluminum handline irrigation to a traveling system because he can’t find labor to move the irrigation pipes.

“It’s a job I did in high school but nobody wants to do that anymore; moving through a corn patch, water dripping on your head and the corn cutting your arms.”

Now he’s using GPS survey equipment to map out fields, row spacing, crop spacing and other factors as Stettler Supply works with customers in designing the right system for them.

“Farmers are incredibly smart, resourceful people,” Spires said. “They know their crops and their soil and their objectives better than anybody and they all do things a little differently.

“It’s ingenious the tools and equipment they invent to do things the way they want,” Spires said. “We carry 800,000 pieces in our store but it is still difficult to stock everything that everybody might want. There’s a sense of urgency in farming I don’t have in other industries.”

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Tractors, combines must be ready when it’s ‘go time’ http://www.capitalpress.com/SpecialSections/Winter/20171005/tractors-combines-must-be-ready-when-its-go-time http://www.capitalpress.com/SpecialSections/Winter/20171005/tractors-combines-must-be-ready-when-its-go-time#Comments Thu, 5 Oct 2017 11:01:59 -0500 Brenna Wiegand http://www.capitalpress.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2017171009937 Farmers in the Midwest chuckle at their Western counterparts, asking how a machine used less than a month out of the year gets worn down so quickly.

While tractors normally have a lengthy work season, in Oregon’s Willamette Valley most combines will run two, maybe three weeks out of the year.

“Our harvest window is generally pretty short,” said Eric Stritzke, general manager of Linn Benton Tractor in Silverton, Ore. “That machine being parked, even in a building, is harder on all the seals, hoses and everything than if it were being used.”

The narrow harvest window and its variables mean a breakdown can be critical.

“They use them hard and any time you have downtime it is extremely expensive in the grand scheme of things,” Stritzke said. “In this day and age labor for absolutely any operation is a huge expense so if you have a combine or a tractor down you may have an operator down, a truck driver that’s not being productive and it’s just a vicious cycle. Also, any of the modern farm equipment can get pretty deadly pretty quickly if it’s not operating right or is not operated in a correct manner.

“When I was turning wrenches I was always looking for what might fail,” he said. “Downtime you lose money but safety you lose lives.”

While the workings of a combine can seem overwhelmingly complicated, boiled down to basics they’re pretty straightforward machines.

“There are a lot of great mechanics out there but very few have been taught the basic functions of how one part interacts with another,” Stritzke said. “You can’t typically take a truck mechanic and throw him at a combine or tractor and vice versa.”

The rapid advances in technology over the past 30 to 40 years is putting a monkey wrench into maintenance and repair.

“With the newest combines and tractors, you’ve got all the computerized electronics in addition to all the belts, chains, bearings and sheet metal and it takes much more of a technician to understand how those electronics work with the base machine,” he said. “You can shut down a $200,000 combine because of a $2 sensor.”

Electronic capabilities have created new gaps in the industry and a shortage of people to fill them. For instance, if a tractor operator rides the clutch for a certain period of time, in some cases the dealership gets an email informing them of the issue. They in turn are expected by the manufacturer to notify the customers.

The high-tech machines also spell opportunity for the next generation of mechanics.

“We need to start looking at our middle school and high school teenagers and grooming them to fill these gaps; providing them the college educations,” Stritzke said. “As we all know it’s tougher and tougher to find people that want to do physical labor and modern young technicians are a rare commodity because not only do they have the physical side of it but they also need to be a computer technician.

“There are a number of ag mechanic programs throughout the country but it’s getting tougher and tougher to find individuals that are interested in those programs,” he added. “That’s where we need to be engaging ourselves.”

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Farmers plug into energy-saving incentives http://www.capitalpress.com/SpecialSections/Winter/20171005/farmers-plug-into-energy-saving-incentives http://www.capitalpress.com/SpecialSections/Winter/20171005/farmers-plug-into-energy-saving-incentives#Comments Thu, 5 Oct 2017 10:57:27 -0500 Brenna Wiegand http://www.capitalpress.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2017171009938 Being reimbursed for energy-saving measures is easier than most farmers and greenhouse owners think.

In 2016, the Energy Trust of Oregon provided incentives of $1.25 million for 415 irrigation projects and $150,000 in incentives for 18 greenhouse projects.

“On top of these incentives there are energy and water savings,” Susan Jowaiszas of Energy Trust said, “and those go on and on year after year.”

Six different greenhouse measures are available for customers of Northwest Natural Gas, Cascade Natural Gas or Avista.

“A great one is replacing non-infrared greenhouse covering with infrared-transmitting polycarbonate covering,” Energy Trust Ag and Industrial Outreach Manager Ulrike Mengelberg said. “We pay 2 cents per square foot — just about the difference in cost between a non-IR poly versus an IR poly covering, and the energy savings on that is immense.”

The new unit heater rebate has also been popular, as is the greenhouse controller. Alerting features on the new controllers take some of the anxiety out of greenhouse management. For instance, the operator can receive a text message when the temperature is off.

“It’s just one of those measures that makes a lot of sense; it controls your heating and your cooling and your venting,” Mengelberg said.

For those converting to under-bench heat, whether in the floor or directly underneath the plants, Energy Trust offers $1.05 per foot on new tubing.

On the farm, Energy Trust offers rebates and custom incentives for irrigation system improvements to customers of Portland General Electric and Pacific Power. Calculated incentives require pre-approval. The efficiency a new system brings is reimbursed at 25 cents per kilowatt-hour saved. Examples include replacing a wheel line with a center pivot or replacing a big gun with drip irrigation.

Another big upgrade for irrigation is replacing an oversized irrigation pump.

“Maybe they have the 100-horsepower pump that Grandpa put in and now the grandkids have better irrigation systems and only need a 50 horsepower,” Mengelberg said. “We can help them pay for their new pump.”

Energy Trust’s incentive covers up to 40 percent of the cost of a new variable frequency drive. This allows farmers to use their pump more efficiently. Growers can also use their smart phones to remote start the new units.

Incentives are offered for just about anything that saves water because that means saving electricity, too.

“It’s easy — they just fill out the rebate form,” Mengelberg said. “There are about 14 different irrigation components they can get a rebate on.”

“We had one farmer who sent in a year’s worth of invoices on Dec. 27; it came in as a 55-page fax,” Mengelberg said. “We couldn’t use a third of them because they were too old — rebate forms are due within 6 months of purchase and before the end of the calendar year — but we ended up sending him a $20,000 incentive check for things like nozzles and gaskets and sprinkler heads. It can really add up.”

For more information, go to www.energytrust.org/ag.

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Put row crops to bed for the winter http://www.capitalpress.com/SpecialSections/Winter/20171005/put-row-crops-to-bed-for-the-winter http://www.capitalpress.com/SpecialSections/Winter/20171005/put-row-crops-to-bed-for-the-winter#Comments Thu, 5 Oct 2017 10:54:40 -0500 Brenna Wiegand http://www.capitalpress.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2017171009939 By the end of harvest most farmers are out of gas.

“They get really tired of farming by the end of the harvest,” said Ed Peachey, weed scientist and vegetable specialist with Oregon State University’s Horticulture Department, “but there are a few things to do before the fall rains start that can make farming easier in the future.”

For processed vegetable producers, it is important to stop weeds such as nightshade and keep them from producing seeds. Spraying herbicides such as glyphosate is easy but it doesn’t stop seed production very quickly; it’s usually better to try to destroy the plants with flails or tillage equipment to crunch up the berries. Otherwise, the weeds keep producing seeds, sometimes into mid-November, he said.

Fall is also a good time to identify new weeds that have shown up and make plans for control, if needed.

“If there are weeds you haven’t seen before that are exposed after harvest, that’s the time you’ve really got to pay attention,” Peachey said. “If it’s an invasive species and it’s got seeds on it, it’s not unreasonable to think about removing them from the field, especially if they’re in isolated spots.”

Velvetleaf has Peachey concerned; he’s seen it in Oregon’s Willamette Valley since the mid-1990s but never in such high numbers.

“I don’t know if it has reached some critical mass, but this summer I found a couple fields infested with velvetleaf,” he said. “Usually it’s been maybe one plant per acre or less; suddenly there are hundreds per acre.”

Fall is also a good time to plant cover crops to improve soil quality, reduce erosion and suppress winter weeds, but that can be a challenge given the factors involved. Herbicide carryover is one factor that must be taken seriously when considering cover crops. Herbicides with long residuals — Raptor, Reflex and Sandea, for example — limit the crops that can be planted in the spring and may affect cover crop growth in the fall.

Producing a good cover crop requires the same expertise and attention to detail as planting a cash crop.

“You have to think about how you’re going to manage slugs,” Peachey said. “If I have this amount of crop residue on the surface; can I get slug bait down to them?”

Most growers don’t have the time to fully work down a field in the fall to bury all the crop residue, he said, and disking or plowing deep is pretty risky as far as losing soil.

An alternative to fall-planted cover crops is to inter-seed cover crops into crops such as sweet corn during the summer. Peachey has been conducting several trials throughout the Willamette Valley this year in conventional and organic sweet corn and squash crops through support of the Western Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (WSARE) Program.

The objective is to find ways to get more cover crops into the system without having to do all the planting and tillage in the fall, and without jeopardizing weed control in the vegetable crop.

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