There’s no need to sound a dinner bell. Somehow, when Ruth Wittrock of Paullina pulls a fresh batch of Oatmeal Bars from the oven, her family members and neighbors know to call. Her husband and sons say her cooking is their secret to keeping their customers happy.
This Northwest Iowa family operates a baling business within a 40-mile radius around their business. Gordon and his three sons, Tracy, Tim and Terry, began Wittrock Baling in 2003 by purchasing equipment from a neighbor. That neighbor had operated a custom baling business for 16 years, so there was an existing book of business. The Wittrocks began with a customer base of 40 and, over the past decade, have grown their business to 120 customers.
“Buying the baling business was a really good opportunity for us,” says Gordon. “All three of our sons were interested in farming. It’s a bit unique that all of our boys wanted to farm, so we wanted to find a way to make it work. We weren’t farming enough acres for everyone to make a living, so we needed to look for additional income. Baling has allowed each of our boys to pursue their passion for farming.”
From April through November, the Wittrocks are busy cutting alfalfa, baling grass, chopping silage and baling cornstalks. There’s no down time during the baling season, so the winter months are spent buying/selling equipment and making repairs. They also raise their own corn and soybean crops, so it’s important that every piece of equipment is ready to go once the fields are fit to enter in the spring.
The Wittrocks go directly from spring planting to first crop alfalfa. Depending on the growing conditions, they may put up four hay crops for their customers before corn and soybean harvest begins. Once those crops are harvested, it’s time to bale the corn stalks.
Operating with such efficiency takes a great deal of teamwork. Tim and Terry line up the jobs. Terry does most of the cutting, however, everyone does whatever is needed to get the jobs done in a timely fashion. The days and hours can be long and demanding, especially when the weather is against them.
Over the years, they’ve upgraded equipment and added additional lines of machinery to handle the demand. They started cutting and baling with a John Deere 4240 and used a John Deere 4010, without a cab, for raking. Now they all use newer equipment. They have a John Deere R450 windrower. They use their John Deere 7930 and 7530 tractors to pull their two, new 569 balers. They use a John Deere 7810 to pull a new 27-wheel Rouse rake that will rake 47 feet.
“We like the bigger rake for greater speed and efficiency,” says Tim. “We also like the rubber mounted teeth for low maintenance.”
Not only has equipment technology changed, but alfalfa seed has advanced. This spring the Wittrocks planted Genuity® Roundup Ready® Alfalfa from Latham Hi-Tech Seeds. This particular alfalfa stands up to heavy traffic. It produces a large, deep set crown with high root and crown carbohydrate reserves to allow for aggressive regrowth and winter hardiness. These features, combined with an outstanding disease package and resistance to Roundup Ready herbicide, make this an ideal choice for those in search of high quality, weed control, and high yield under an aggressive schedule.
“You wouldn’t have believed what a weedy mess this field was in early spring! Then we made one pass with Roundup and it made a night and day difference,” says Gordon. “Not only was the field weed-free but the first crop on new seeding was extremely high yielding. LH 455TQ RR produced 20 large square bales off 13 acres. It’s leafy and fine-stemmed, just the way cows like it. We couldn’t be happier.”
On second thought, Gordon might be happier if he was eating an oatmeal bar while admiring his alfalfa crop. Try a batch at home and see if you can bake your family happy!