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Old-fashioned corn picking

By Staff | Nov 2, 2015

LYNNE JOHNSON drives the corn picker down the field as she harvests corn to feed their calves and bulls. The Johnsons decide each year how much corn they will combine and how much they will leave to be picked, based on what the corn is yielding.

MILFORD – Just off of U.S. Highway 71, south of Milford, a little piece of agricultural history is relived every year, two rows at a time.

When veterinarian Jack and Lynne Johnson begin the process of harvesting their corn crop, they get the combine out, along with a John Deere 4010 Diesel and the corn picker.

It’s all part of their farm story.

The Johnsons raise registered Herefords and grind the ear corn with oats and pellets to feed their calves and bulls.

They see how the corn is yielding on their combine monitor, then decide how many acres they will leave for the corn picker to harvest.

LIKE A BLAST FROM THE PAST, ears of corn spew from the corn picker’s elevator and into a wagon behind the picker. The Johnsons grind their own feed made from ear corn because the calves “do better” with it, they said.

“We just do enough to fill one side of the crib-it’s usually about 14 or 16 loads,” said Lynne Johnson, who operates the corn picker while her husband unloads the wagons into the corn crib.

Johnson said the amount of acres they set aside for this depends on how well the corn is yielding. This year the field from which they were harvesting produced about 200 bushels per acre, so they saved back 10 acres for ear corn.

“When the corn was doing 100 bushels per acre, we saved a lot more acres for this,” she said, adding that it took more acres to provide the feed value they sought from the corn.

Johnson said the calves and bulls do well on their ear corn/oats/pellets feed ration.

“You can’t beat that kind of feed,” said Johnson. “It’s very palatable.”

JACK JOHNSON guides the ears of corn out of the wagon and into the waiting elevator. They fill part of a corn crib, based on what they think they’ll need for the coming year.

The Johnsons use a 1980s-era New Idea corn picker, much like the one his father used to harvest the acres on the family’s home farm where they currently live.

“It’s a piece of American ingenuity,” he said. “It was once a 36-inch-row picker, but it was changed into a 30-inch-row picker when we went to the narrower rows.”

Johnson said they purchased the machine after it had been adjusted for narrower rows.

She enjoys running the corn picker.

“I grew up on a farm-I just enjoy doing it,” she said. “We’re not locked in doing it day after day.

EARS OF CORN GO UP THE ELEVATOR at the farm of Jack and Lynne Johnson of Milford. The Johnsons estimate how much ear corn they will need to feed their Hereford calves and bulls throughout the year, depending on what their corn is yielding.

“It only takes us three or four days to fill that side of the crib, and then we’re done.”

Johnson said they filled their cribs with picked corn until 1998, and in the following years they downsized the herd and began to harvest primarily with a combine.

Today they sell the corn that has been combined, but also keep some back for reserves, just in case they wouldn’t have enough ear corn to last a full year for their 65-head herd.

Johnson said the corn picker was a life saver at one time for the farmer who did much more intensive manual labor to get the crop in.

“Back in the day, two guys would harvest by hand all day and not even fill a wagon,” Johnson said. “And then they also shelled some of that corn by hand because they needed it to plant the next year.

SOMETHING THAT IS NOT SEEN MUCH ANYMORE is ear corn in a wooden corn crib. Here, Jack and Lynne Johnson of Milford show the corn they have harvested in this manner. They have worked in the last few years to paint and restore the buildings on their farm, including this corn crib.

“Today we can get these 10 acres out pretty fast.”

“It’s kind of fun,” said Jack Johnson. “Not many people do this anymore.”

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