Wednesday, September 11, 2013

View From the Combine Cab

"Thumping" is not usually a sound a Kansas wheat farmer wants to hear in the combine cab. Too often, it signals a malfunction of the mammoth machine that will likely result in costly repairs and downtime.

But, we Kansas wheat farmers on the County Line are discovering that corn harvest is a bit different. The thump, thump, thump as corn cobs enter the machine is just business as usual.
The quality of this photo isn't the best. It's not easy to take a photo of moving parts. Still, maybe it can give you the idea of what's happening!
This is the first time we've raised corn in our 32 years of farming together. In recent years, there has been some dryland corn planted in our area, but wheat is still the dominate crop around here. For most in this immediate area, irrigation is not an option. Our proximity to Quivira National Wildlife Refuge and its salt marshes is not ideal for quality ground water for irrigation.

This year, instead of planting milo as our row crop, we planted corn. There's a potential for higher yields, and there is more drought tolerance built into dryland corn seeds than previously available.  Additionally, corn is Round-Up ready, and milo is not. We have been having trouble controlling weeds in milo. If there are weeds and grasses in the corn, we can spray with Round-Up without harming the growing plants. 

Generous summer rains have helped us find some measure of success in our maiden voyage as corn farmers. However, extreme heat during pollination has reduced yields in some fields.
There is a learning curve for we new corn farmers. Randy is getting used to running our new corn head, which looks kind of like it has eight missiles attached to the front. He runs each missile-shaped attachment between the rows. The combine strips the corn cobs from the corn stalk, then the cobs are run through the machine.
Randy's reflection in the back window of the combine cab, with corn being deposited in the grain bin on the combine.
The cobs and stalks end up behind the machine. And the golden corn is augered up into the bin.
 Then, Randy offloads it into the grain truck, so that it can be hauled to market.
That's the process - theoretically, anyway. However, cutting a different crop means some tinkering with the combine to make sure the grain is getting separated from the stalk and cob, so Randy checks what's left behind the combine and makes adjustments as needed.
Last week, we cut higher moisture corn to take to the Haw Ranch Feedlot near Turon. They want the corn with a moisture percentage between 24 to 32 percent. They then grind the corn into cattle feed. (More on that process tomorrow.)
Our local cooperative elevator wanted moisture percentages at 16 or lower.  We hauled several loads to the Turon feed lot Tuesday and Wednesday. However, last Wednesday afternoon, Randy sat in a line of more than 30 trucks, waiting to dump. Since we don't have a semi truck for hauling, he decided that it was no longer worth the time or money to haul 20 miles away and have that much downtime.

On Monday, it had dried down enough to haul to Zenith, so Randy & Jake are back in business and cutting corn. 
Tomorrow - Hauling corn to the feedlot - a new adventure!


  1. Farming and/or Ranching is always an adventure. Glad to hear your corn experiment is going well. Hope harvest continues to do good.

    We are thinking our corn will be ready to chop by the end of this week. With last Saturday's rain, it will be a little bit before we can get in the field.

    The Rancher decided it's a good time to Precondition calves. We will start tomorrow.

    1. Hope you have some cooler weather for that job, Robyn!

  2. We have no crops here. Just cows. Those machines always amaze me at their ability to just get the wheat, corn or whatever. The blue grass combine has a tough job with all those tiny seeds they harvest. Great photos and explanation of how it all works. I feel like I am right in the seat next to you.

    1. Yes, as long as they work, the machines are an integral part of the process of harvesting grains. It's pretty amazing to look at photos from years ago and see the advancements in technology.