Daryl Obermeyer grew up in Nemaha County and then headed to the University of Nebraska – Lincoln to pursue a degree in Ag Economics.
Obermeyer and his wife Jackie started at “zero” when building their farming operation, “My father was a renter. Jackie and I are the first generation that have owned land,” he said, about the farm he now owns that he grew up on located amidst the loamy soils southwest of Brownville, Neb.
“I like numbers and I like farming. I came back and rented my first farm from a neighbor in 1974. I also borrowed machinery to farm the ground by exchanging labor with another farmer. We did not buy any farm ground until 1983,” he said.
Obermeyer’s is a dryland farm. His recognition of his precious water resources was one impetus to embrace conservation practices like cover crops, “There is hardly enough water under the farm we own for a house well. I have been no-till since 1986. We changed because of time, fuel savings and I got tired of seeing erosion on hill ground. I switched because my neighbor, Ron Heskett, was doing no-till and I saw the benefits of what he was doing. I use older equipment. I have always purchased other people’s leftovers and any extra money we had went into purchasing land.”
Obermeyer started using cover crops in 1987, “I don’t think I called it a cover crop, but I would seed wheat on ground that was going into soybeans. I would do that a little bit for pasture. I would also grow them for spring weed control, because there was not a good weed control herbicide at that time.”
“If the wheat field is close to a pasture, I put cover crops following wheat harvest. Then I pasture in the late summer and the spring when it greens up. If I have a spring burndown it is rye, turnips and radishes. If I go with a winter kill it is oats, turnips and radishes. Then, in late August, I will have an airplane seed a couple quarter sections, so I can use them for winter pasture. That is usually a rye cover crop,” he went on.
Obermeyer’s farm is a three-year rotation of corn, soybeans and wheat, “The wheat that is not close to a pasture, I plant to soybeans. I have planted soybeans as late as July 15 on wheat ground and still had yields over 30 bushels/acre. But, when I get it planted in late June, I can get those yields to 40. I like the soybeans because they don’t require as much labor. When you harvest 60-bushel soybeans vs. 250-bushel corn you don’t need near the labor.”
“When I got a yield monitor, I realized there was a yield bump with corn and soybeans following wheat. Even though wheat is not a high revenue crop, you get some benefit on the corn and soybean yields the following years. Also, I raise enough yellow corn for livestock feed and the rest of the corn is white corn so I can get premium on the price,” he noted.
Obermeyer said cover crops and cattle just make sense, “Calves are born in June and I like that for calving because it is light from 4:30 a.m. until 10 p.m. and much easier to watch cattle have their calves. I generally wean calves about Thanksgiving and then I put them all on feed and sell some after they are bunk broke. The rest I fatten and sell privately. I also raise chickens with my granddaughter, and she sells the eggs. We also have some rabbits, miniature horses and goats.”
Obermeyer is enjoying being part of the Nebraska NRCS (Natural Resources Conservation Service) Soil Health Initiative, “The testing includes winter kill and spring burn down of cover crops. I like the winter kill idea because it is letting Mother Nature kill the cover crop, rather than having to apply another herbicide.”
He noted the summer of 2016 as one example of a big cover crop win, “We had a hail and windstorm. The corn leaves were stripped off the corn. On August 18 of 2016, I had Myerkorth Aviation hit it with rye, turnips, radishes, cowpeas and rape. It rained an inch-and-a-half. By the time I harvested the corn, I had a jungle out there. I had 50 pairs on that quarter section for three months and only fed one round bale. That was probably the biggest success I have ever had.”
“A farm is a great place to raise kids. All three of our kids learned to drive helping me build fence on my standard transmission pick up. We had them all three go to college driving standard transmission cars. That way, none of them would have the pressure of anyone wanting to borrow their cars,” he noted.
That sort of common sense thinking, from college cars to cover crops, is something Obermeyer said all farmers can relate to, “Farmers who have not pursued cover crops and other types of conservation practices should really consider the savings on fertilizer, capturing water runoff, and providing feed for livestock. It takes management to do this, but it’s worth it.”