Planting by the crane’s calendar

Third-generation farmer Scott Woodman never thought much about sandhill cranes as a boy on the farm. As Woodman grew older, his appreciation for the cranes grew, too.

He’s come to see the crane migration as pretty neat, and he plans his farming accordingly.

But Woodman’s tie to the land doesn’t stop at the edge of his fields. He represents farmers for the Headwaters Corp. and serves on the board of the Central Platte Natural Resource District.

Scott Woodman

Scott Woodman points to a section of the Platte River that runs along his farm. He and his family watch cranes come to this spot to roost each year. Photo by Morgan Ledermann.

 

These natural resources include the land his family began farming 125 years ago.

To manage the farm, he pays close attention to the crane migration. 

When the cranes show up each February, Woodman knows it’s time for his 200-head of cattle to begin calving. When the cranes leave in April, he knows planting begins for his corn and soybeans.

He says the cranes can help farmers by spreading manure – picking through it and looking for corn. But the cranes also have an uncanny knack of sneaking down newly planted rows and plucking seeds out of the soil.

If a farmer isn’t careful, half a dozen cranes can ruin 20 acres in one night, Woodman said.

He describes the relationship of farmers and cranes as ranging from neutral to negative.

While farmers farther from the Platte plant their corn in early April, Woodman waits until the cranes leave later in the month. He chooses to incorporate crane behavior into his farming but understands why others don’t.

One of the biggest frustrations farmers have, he said, is the presence of bird watchers as they cruise dirt roads in the area spotting cranes.

­­­­– Morgan Ledermann

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