All Aboard Harvest | Janel Schemper
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Author: Janel Schemper

Kinsley, Kansas – The wind had blown for days and there was rain in the forecast.  We harvested wheat up until it started raining.  Luckily, we got the field done and got the combines parked for the night and then the wind hit.  Soon after,...

Kinsley, Kansas - We have been lucky enough to have wheat to cut and harvest weather lately.  We’ve also had south winds 20 to 35 mph for several consecutive days which has allowed us to start earlier in the mornings and cut later into the...

Weatherford, Oklahoma - What an interesting spring we had this year. The cold winter air finally gave up in May.  I was asked over 100 times when I was leaving for harvest.  I typically don’t have the answer until the time comes to leave for...

Pierre, South Dakota – We are slowly making progress. We have been here a couple of weeks now and for the most part have spent most of our time waiting on spring wheat to ripen. We have cut a few fields (some have been hailed on), and overall the wheat is yielding around 30 bushels per acre. The protein has been 17-20 percent, which is excellent. However, the wheat is light, weighing about 55 pounds or so. The wheat is standing good, and the conditions have been fair. What we really need are some good drying days, including lots of heat and wind. That would help our wheat harvesting progress a lot.

Fort Benton, Montana - Last year 25 percent of our crew went to Montana.  This year 75 percent of our crew went to Montana to harvest winter wheat, spring wheat, chick peas and lentils. They have been there for about ten days and have been harvesting full blast nearly every day.

The winter wheat has been averaging over 60 bushels an acre, 62 pounds and 13-14 percent protein.  Sounds good to me!  It took the crew three days to get all of the equipment from Western Nebraska up to Montana, so I hope they have the best of luck there and continue getting in some big days of harvesting!

Pierre, South Dakota – We made the big trip from Western Nebraska up to the Pierre, South Dakota area, and there is definitely a big ole drought going on. I was told that there really hasn’t been any rain at home in Nebraska since May, and South Dakota looks to be the same way. I could see the drought results as I traveled across Kansas, Nebraska and South Dakota last week. Kansas looked alright, but as soon as I was in Nebraska I could see it. And it became worse as I traveled into South Dakota.

On the way up here we ran into road construction at Mission, South Dakota. There was a sign at Valentine, Nebraska that said road construction and width restriction 31 miles ahead. We asked around in Valentine; and everyone said they had seen lots of combines going north, and we could get through there. We got up to Mission, and there it was. There they were working on the main street that we travel, and our wide loads couldn’t fit through because of the cones. I wonder how many combines have just been hauled through there anyway. A local was nice enough to stop and tell us to turn around at the school, go back a mile and then head west on the gravel. Then at the dead end, go north up to Highway 18 and we would be back on the right track again to Highway 83 north. There was no detour route sign anywhere. For goodness sakes, why not?

Western Nebraska – This year I was in Kansas longer than expected due to the evening rain showers. We couldn’t ever work really late like we needed to and put in our time because we’d get shut down by the rain most evenings. The weather really messed with us. 

Thankfully, my brother Jared and Uncle Lonny were able to harvest most all of our wheat jobs in Western Nebraska before we got there. We did still get to stop there and cut for a few days, which was great. Disappointingly, the wheat I cut didn’t yield well due to mosaic disease. The wheat looked decent from the road, but the mosaic disease really got to it this year. However, Western Nebraska has some of the most beautiful sunsets with such beautiful colors. I didn’t get to cut there long enough this year to enjoy them. 

Goodland, Kansas – We’ve been harvesting wheat every single day here on the Kansas/Colorado state line, which is great. However, we’ve been getting little rain showers almost every evening around 9 p.m. causing us to have to quit early most nights. These little rain showers usually just make a mess of the equipment. The dust and the chaff on the combines and blue headers get stuck on badly with the rain drops, and every morning we're kept busy blowing off the combines. And I get my biggest workout of the day in washing windows like crazy. Washing windows every single day gets old, but it is part of harvesting and the weather. 

When we see the storms showing up in the west, we almost always have a threat of hail. Disappointingly, we did have some hail out of one or two of the clouds. Harvesting wheat that's been hailed on and a few acres of wheat with mosaic disease takes all of the fun out of it. Both are definitely disastrous to the wheat crop. That’s just the way it is sometimes. We have had plenty of good wheat to cut though for the most part. The wheat yielded 60-80 bushels per acre. The test weights were 60-63 pounds, and the protein ran at mostly 10 but was 12-plus sometimes.  

Goodland, Kansas - We’ve been busy harvesting wheat since May and will be busy for a few more weeks; but I am sorry to report that after we’re finished cutting wheat in Kansas, Colorado and Western Nebraska, we’re not sure what we’ll have to cut up north. South Dakota, North Dakota and Montana are in a severe drought and there are reports of no winter wheat at all and the spring wheat is going to be a really sorry crop this year due to the drought. Harvesters have to have income to make payments. If there is no income, payments are not made. Harvesters count on Montana and the Dakotas for big acres and yields to complete their summer wheat run. 

Custom harvesting is certainly a risky business to be in due to Mother Nature - no doubt about it. Mother Nature can be so good, but she can also be so bad. One bad harvest run can ruin a harvester’s business. This drought is seriously bad for us harvesters. We’re all stressed out just thinking about it. No joke, I even had a report of freeze damage in South Dakota on June 24th. Crazy, I know. Whatever wheat turns black is a result of the freeze damage, so you just have to wait and see what areas got hit. We'll know what we've got when we get up north later this month.