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From the President’s Cab - Summer 2021
Posted On: July 19, 2021

By Ray Liska

Greetings to all of you, outstanding in your fields! It is great to see the amazing custom ag fleet going full throttle throughout the Midwest and beyond. I feel an immense sense of pride watching our crews undertaking what has been and will be another triumphant season. Yes, there will be challenges, but we will always get the job done one way or another. 

Keeping up with tradition, I feel it is appropriate to open the discussion with the timeless topic that still finds its way to the forefront of conversation, the weather. Weather here in the driftless region, like much of the surrounding areas, has once again proven it writes the rules. Seeing record breaking temperatures and dry conditions very early in the season gave our manure haulers a great opportunity to make applications in a timely manner without issue, and maybe even get some time off for a beautiful Easter Sunday. Following just two snows on the robin’s tail, planting commenced in full swing with mellow soil conditions providing excellent seed to soil contact. After a great emergence and first crop about to roll, the words no farmer wants to hear until late fall was uttered, ‘frost warning.’ Everyone held their breath while the cold air settled into the valleys, but the crop proved to be resilient to the harsh nights with minimum damage and only a small amount of replanting needed. While the cold snap brought unwanted suppression of the grain crops, it also provided a little extra time for the silage harvesting crews to fine tune and prepare for what ended up being an abundant first cutting. Without any rain in sight, choppers hit the ground running, load after load tallied for the largest silage production states in the country. 

Then, we were hit with extremely hot and dry conditions and there wasn’t much rest for the massive network of operators, truck drivers, mechanics, parts specialists, etc. Windrows dried as fast as they hit the ground on many afternoons, giving opportunity for balers to help speed up the harvest. As we wrapped up, we all watched and waited patiently for the rains to bless the ground, but many clouds came and went, and the dry conditions pushed crops into a state of stress as the sprayers and applicators did their work. Finally, nearing the end of June, we saw those million-dollar rains fall from the sky, however they are much more like billion dollar rains in this day and age. 

Now, with the second cutting in the rear view, the stress of the drought accelerated the maturity and crews were once again back in full swing taking advantage of the sunlight, and maybe stopping just for a moment to enjoy the fireworks.

Hot, dry conditions and stress are trigger words for many of us. The imminent risk of fires has been a line on the chalk board of days some of us wish we could repeat. Earlier this year, through virtual learning, many WCO members were able to hear from experts on crisis/accident management. Many issues were discussed and some of them are hard to fathom, but we must always put our best effort forward to first prevent and hopefully avoid crisis issues. 

A key takeaway - and one that I can speak to from personal experience - before an investigator even asks what happened they will likely ask for maintenance records. Having matching maintenance records on file and in machines, along with third party certification could be valuable in handling any issues.

I always say I have the most fun job in the world, just don’t ask me when everything is going wrong, but if everyone makes it home safe it’s a good day. If you or anyone on your crew ever needs help dealing with the stress that comes inevitably with this job, WCO and its members can help. Through our vast network of professionals and people who have been through the same things, we are well-equipped with valued information and resources to support our fellow operators. As always have a safe and happy season, and may God be with you on your journey.

        - Ray



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