Tuesday, July 19, 2016

The Good, The Bad & The Ugly: Wheat Harvest 2016 Summary

Wheat Harvest 2016 is now in the rearview mirror.

I don't know that there is ever a harvest without some hitches. But the 2016 version had its moments of "the good, the bad and the ugly" during the almost month-long process.
The good: We had a high yield of 80 bushels per acre in one field. (Randy got 2nd place at the Stafford County Fair market wheat show with some of the KanMark wheat, which tested 64 pounds per bushel.)

The bad: We experienced rain delay after rain delay, dragging harvest out for a month. By the end of harvest, the test weight was down to 56 pounds per bushel.

The ugly: We  had a low yield of 15 bushels per acre on a field that had been hailed on twice and was mired in mud and weeds. By the time we "called it good," the grain was sprouting in the head, and we had a borrowed combine buried in the mud.

Our overall average on 1,559 acres planted to wheat was 48.5 bushels per acre. The last two fields definitely brought down the average.
It had all started so well. We were all smiles when harvest began June 15.
We had a new-to-us combine. At a farm auction this spring, we purchased a 2010 7120 Case combine, along with a 2011 35-foot flex header.
Randy was loving all the new gadgets. He could hardly keep his eyes off the yield monitor and information screens.
After a quick, first-day repair, the combine was working well.

We were getting binloads of high-quality wheat. Early in harvest, test weights were 62 to 64 pounds per bushel. The benchmark for quality wheat is 60 pounds per bushel. 
The lunch lady was getting good reviews from the boss and from the truck driver.
Philly Cheese Steaks served al fresco on the back of the car trunk!
Our first minor bump in the road was a trouble with a truck tire. But nobody got hurt and we were able to get it fixed relatively quickly. Plus, we were close enough to Zenith that hauling exclusively with the semi didn't pose too much of a problem.
A storm rolled in late June 17. Even though Randy would have preferred spending his Father's Day on the combine, we had a weather delay.
 After 6+ inches of rain during a period from June 17 to July 2, we were starting to see quite a few weeds in the remaining fields.
The final 275 acres had been hailed on twice and had gotten the most rain.
We had a rain-imposed hiatus from July 2 to July 11. Then, a raccoon dining inside the combine created more harvest drama. The raccoon went through the radiator when Randy tried to move the combine to our final two fields. The combine got hauled off to the repair shop.
So we traded red for green, borrowing our neighbor's combine.
The 4-wheel drive came in handy anyway, since Randy was still combating soggy ground and mud. Randy had a breakdown on July 13, which necessitated parts runs to both Hutchinson and Pratt.

The Kanza Co-op locations at both Zenith and Stafford were full, so we started hauling to Stafford County Flour Mills. And there we discovered another problem. The wheat had begun sprouting in the head because of all the rain and because it was down in the field so badly. Thankfully, they accepted the grain, though it was with a 17 percent dock. (It's not the impression you want to make on a mill that produces the best flour in the country: Hudson Cream Flour. We weren't the only ones with sprouted wheat, though, and Stafford County Flour Mills hauled the sprouted grain to another facility, where it will likely be used as livestock feed.)
We ended harvest with Randy watching a bulldozer in the combine's rearview mirror as it got pulled out of the muck and mire of the final field.
At some point, you just have to say "enough is enough" and call it good. It was our final location, and it had hail damage from two separate storms. Weeds were taking over after multiple rains. 
And after the combine got stuck the evening of July 13, we got another 2.20" of rain. The bulldozer we hired had to pull the combine all the way to the road.

A little perspective is in order: In 2015, our wheat crop averaged 50 bushels per acre. Harvest 2014 was not a good year, and we averaged 24.5 bushels per acre. Our best year ever was 2013, when we averaged 52 bushels per acre, despite planting into dust and several late freezes. 

So, the sun has finally set on Wheat Harvest 2016. The dryland corn and milo looks good after all those harvest rains. The guys are working on the second cutting of alfalfa. This harvest has been one to remember. Some of it, we'd probably prefer to forget. But that's part of farming. Kind of like the amnesia that new moms experience following labor, we'll put it behind us. And the journey will begin anew in September and October as we plant the 2017 wheat crop.


  1. It's sad to think of how your statistics would have differed had the rain held off one more week. Wishing you a much better year in 2017!

    1. It could certainly have been worse, and it has been. That is part of farming. It's probably not my favorite part, but I should be used to it by now, I suppose.

  2. The courage of farmers to put one year behind them and look forward to the next year goes back to the 1800s. With Isaac it was corn and potatoes...but the same challenges with the weather and prices.

    1. I just think it's good I live with a natural optimist!