All Aboard Harvest | Scott: Hot wind does the trick.
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Scott: Hot wind does the trick.

Scott: Hot wind does the trick.

Scott Clark talks about American Quality’s arrival in South Dakota, ripe wheat, and the amount of traveling his crew does throughout the year.

I’ve already touched on the subject of how frequently we load up our machinery and haul it to the next job site. As the capacity and productivity of our machinery continues to increase, our harvest time at each location has decreased drastically the last several years. However with all of the emphasis on getting the wheat out of the fields and into the bin—some might begin to overlook the amount of time the custom harvester spends transporting equipment. I can name half a dozen hired hands that haven’t forgotten how many hours we spend on the road.

Our crew finished harvesting near Goodland, Kan., on July 8. We then spent several days cleaning and loading the combines as well as equipping them with axle extensions and dual spacers for muddy conditions. The guys took a couple of days off while management ran errands to pick up parts and equipment, and meet with clients to secure fall acres to harvest (provided it rains in some areas).

The crew moved the first load of equipment up to Pierre, S.D. on July 20. After completing the 450 mile trip to Pierre with oversize loads and grain trailers, Kevin taxied the crew back to Goodland that same night. Everyone jumped up and at ‘em early Thursday morning to make the second trip to Pierre and rolled in late that afternoon after fixing a blowout on the side of the highway. After unloading the equipment and getting the combines ready to go to the field, the crew setup the trailer houses and called it quits after traveling 1400 miles in under 32 hours with a convoy of equipment.

The crew managed to get into the field on Friday just after lunchtime. Scattered showers across the area the previous evening slowed most everyone down in the area early in the day, but we received just a sprinkle. The first obstacle we had to tackle was diverting the tractor-trailer rigs 20 miles to come into the field from the south side because the roads from the north were so badly washed out. Typically we harvest both winter wheat and spring wheat in the Dakotas, but due to the flooding this past spring, our farmers did not sow any spring wheat. Although these same fields had been green not long ago, the long, hot, windy days recently ripened the crop fast. Initial yields for the winter wheat were ranging from 35 to 55 bushels per acre while the moisture was running around 13 percent. The tests weights were 58 to 64 pounds, and the protein was running about 11 to 14 percent.

Just as we had anticipated, the ground is soft in the low laying areas where the drainage is poor. The wheat in these areas was making 35 to 40 bushels per acre while the hills and higher elevated fields where the water ran off were making over 50. Once we finish harvesting all of our stops south and west of Pierre we will move East of Pierre to finish our remaining wheat stop in South Dakota over the next 10 days.

What our crew likes today—The song Asphalt Cowboy.

“The sun has opened up my eyes, and I don’t want to leave…for that lonesome road but here I go—climbing back behind the wheel of (75) feet of chrome and steel. I drive these horses through the rain and snow. This high-speed rodeo is all I know…I’m an asphalt cowboy.”—Jason Aldean

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Pulling oversize loads through the hills of South Dakota can be tough at times. We must yield to oncoming traffic crossing the bridge at the bottom of this hill. Doing so often requires us to reduce our traveling speed which makes it difficult to pull heavy loads up the opposing side of the hill. A good driver learns to look ahead, plan his attack, and communicate with the loads behind him in order to maintain speed and pull the long hills safely.

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Kevin leads a convoy of equipment through South Dakota.

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One of our tractor and graincarts heads northbound.

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A couple of trucks pull combines up the hill.

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Encountering washed out roads has become an almost daily occurrence for us after the floods in this area this past Spring. These washouts, combined with narrow roads, make it tougher to move machinery between fields and haul the wheat from the field to the elevators.

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The combines pull up to the header trailer to hookup to the headers.

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We’ve encountered dusty conditions in South Dakota this year and most of the lower fields have rust which produces a dark black, smutty dust (not shown in the picture).

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A combine finishes unloading on the cart.

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The grain is clean and has good quality despite the dirty harvesting conditions.

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The guys pose for a quick picture in front of the John Deere harvest support trailer. In the heat of battle, we don’t often make time to capture photos in the field so we have to make do with what we can on days we’re not harvesting.

For more information contact crew@allaboardharvest.com. All Aboard 2011 is sponsored by High Plains Journal and DuPont Crop Protection.

2 Comments
  • Charles M. Gore
    Posted at 20:49h, 26 July

    South Dakota lives up to the wide open spaces. The last time I was in SD was in 1973. My co-worker and I left our Chicago office at 1430 on a Friday afternoon and arrived in Pierre, SD early Sat. Morning. We were driving his AMC Grimlyn and made the little engine work by running about 90 mph most of the way. Something went wrong with the little 6 and the last few miles it just barely ran. It was a long 3 days doing the trip. It was nice being 27 years old. The big fast rains in the hills can really mess things up. It does not look like much of the Winter Wheat is left. How much of a break does it look like you all will have since the SD Spring Wheat was not planted?

    Thanks,
    CMG

  • Scott Clark
    Posted at 11:48h, 06 August

    Charles,

    Thanks for sharing your trip! Sounds as though little has changed around here since ’73. Although our winter wheat acres are down this year and the spring wheat is virtually non-existent, we’ll just have a week of downtime moving up to ND prior to harvesting the canola and wheat up there.

    I’m afraid it’s going to be a tough year for many custom harvesters where only the strong will survive! Thanks for following!