In Kansas, late October and early November means milo harvest time.
“So far it’s been going real well,” said Bob Binder, a farmer from just south of Hays. “My son does the farming. I’m retired, and I help him out. We have a partnership. I think he’s got 330 acres of milo, and we’re about half done.”
A good harvest, Binder said, is no breakdowns, the equipment works well, milo is standing as opposed to laying down, there’s plenty of help, and, of course, good yields are always encouraging.
“Yields this fall are great,” Binder said, “running anywhere from 100 to 125 bushels an acre.”
Many farmers across Kansas are experiencing similar trends. As of Oct. 21, the USDA reported 87% of milo in Kansas reached maturity. That is equal to last year. According to data collected by the USDA and the Kansas State Extension Service, 27% of milo was harvested — that is ahead of last year but less than average. Although the amount harvested is lower, the product is good.
In Plains in Meade County, Jonathan Reazin, the senior location manager for MKC, said about half of the expected milo is in.
“Yield wise, it’s average, nothing spectacular,” Reazin said. “There were less acres planted.”
In central Kansas, yields seem to be up a bit. Adam Butler, the senior location manager for MKC in Groveland, in McPherson County, said their farmer’s milo yield is up a little. This is similar to what farmers like Binder in Hays are seeing.
Milo, also known as sorghum, is grown in what is known as the Sorghum Belt. This includes Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma, South Dakota and Texas. According to the Sorghum Checkoff Program, in 2018 farmers planted 5.7 million acres of sorghum and harvested 365 bushels. During that harvest, according to the Checkoff Program, Kansas led the pack with 2.8 million acres, followed by Texas with 1.55 million — leaving the other states far below one million acres each.
Brian Witt, the coordinator for Midland Marketing Co-op in Hays, pulled a sample of milo, which was cut just west of Antonio, near Hays. The test weight was 62.6, indicating the load’s milo berry is denser than the average, which normally renders a 56 test weight, Witt said.
“His moisture was 12.8. That’s good. Under 15 is ideal,” Witt said. “That’s very nice milo.”
As of Oct. 21, the USDA reports milo harvested in Kansas is 9% excellent, 48% good, 28% fair and 37% poor or very poor.
In southern and central Kansas many farmers have harvested corn. The Hays elevator holds about 800,000 bushels and is 80% full.
“The elevator is holding that crop rather than shipping it because there’s strong demand now for milo from area feed mills and ethanol plants,” Witt said. “You can’t put soybeans on the ground. You can’t put corn on the ground, well, we don’t. Milo is the easiest to store on the ground. Just before the elevators fill up, you want to start putting it on the ground so you’ve got other options in case other things go wrong.”
Because Hays has no room for ground storage, Midland Marketing’s Coop in Yocemento, just west of Hays, has a growing pile of milo. According to the Yocemento coordinator, Clint Pfannenstiel, in a little more than two weeks they collected 85,000 bushels of milo. The Yocemento elevator holds 800,000 bushels, and Pfannenstiel has five acres set aside for ground storage.
“We’ve got room for 800,000 to a million bushels on the ground,” Pfannenstiel said. “We’re not shipping any out, we’re shipping out of other locations that don’t have the capability of a ground pile. So our outbound trucks are taking it from elsewhere.”
Pfannenstiel said the trucks coming in are showing yields of 100 to 130 bushels an acre. “That sure beats the 60 bushels an acre that farmers see in drier years,” he said.
Depending on the weather, fall harvest can last up to two months, Witt said. Farmers harvest wheat around the clock, but not milo. It has a shorter cutting period. Farmers have to wait for the sun to dry off the heads and must shut down about an hour after dark.
In north central Kansas, farmers have not harvested much milo yet. Larry Brake, the senior location manager for MKC in Abilene, said because of the spring rains, milo planting was delayed until mid to late June.
“The milo does look good though,” Brake said. “Certainly north of one hundred bushels.”