Emma: A Combine Inside and Out

One of the things I love about working with All Aboard Wheat Harvest is the comments and questions I get from the readers of the blog, and of High Plains Journal. I love to hear what people think about not only my family, but the harvesting lifestyle and agbusiness. I get questions from all walks of life. It doesn’t matter if they’re from the city, a farm, or an oil rig in Prudhoe Bay, Alaska, all of their questions are great and I’m going to take a stab at some of them – oh, and a big shout out and thanks to those of you in Alaska for following All Aboard. It’s pretty amazing how small the world gets with a little technology. Folks from north of the Arctic Circle following wheat harvest is pretty cool. It also gets me interested in how they do their jobs up there – especially bitter cold, polar bears and caribou.

I had a little inspiration for this post (and likely a couple more). You can all thank Win from the East for asking some really great questions about things I tend to take for granted as common knowledge. So I want to take this opportunity to explain our way of life and how we make it work to those who don’t have the privilege to out on the farm and in the dust.

One of the first things I’ll explain is how a combine works. There are many different combines from all kinds of manufacturers. We run John Deere 9600 combines. This particular combine is about 15 years old, and aren’t new by any means. Many harvesters do run new machinery, but these particular combines are dependable and we are extremely happy with them. It’s all we’ve run for 13 years, and prior to these machines we ran 9500’s which are basically the same machine.

So how does a combine work? I shot a video with my brother Dan to show you exactly how it works. Dan is just like the rest of use in the Misener clan and few up on the floor of a combine. He knows these machines in and out. My siblings and I can only thank my Dad and Mom for that – giving us an education and the support we needed. Thank you!

Here are a couple more questions from Win.

What is the cost of all the equipment, (combines, truck, camper, etc.) to initially purchase and then to move? I am guessing it is a huge investment, how does one pay for all the equipment.
The is variation in equipment costs. If you were to purchase a good machine (I will use John Deere 9600 as an example, because that’s all I know) that doesn’t need any work and is field ready, they typically run $50,000-$70,000 per machine and that is not including the headers. Brand new machines can run anywhere from $300,000 on up per machine not including headers and each machine will need a different header for each crop harvested. A flex head is typically used for soybeans and a brand new one is around $35,000 on up, and corn heads will usually run higher than that.There are other types of headers too, but we don’t usually run them because we don’t cut those crops.

If you were to purchase a new tractor and grain cart you would expect to spend around $270,000.Buying a new semi would cost around $130,000 or more, and another $32,000 for the grain trailer, or a combine trailer. A double header trailer that hauls two heads typically costs around $8,000 to $10,000, and a fuel trailer that holds 500 gallons of fuel can cost around $6,000. The fuel trailer is a convenience because every day we haul fuel to the equipment and we have all the fuel we need for that day in one place. It can pump 50 gallons a minute which cuts down on our regular maintenance time in the mornings.

Campers are a little tougher to price because it depends on what you need. You can spend anywhere from $30,000-$70,000. I think this sums up the cost of equipment, and keep in mind that this is just the equipment cost alone. This isn’t including the cost of maintenance. We have 164 tires, and 20 engines to maintain with oil changes, etc. don’t forget to toss in breakdown parts inventory for machinery and vehicles. We have the cost of fuel as well, and engine and hydraulic oils, too.

We once sat down and figured what it costs us to move all of our equipment from place to place. This was a couple of years ago, and since fuel prices have really skyrocketed. We figured it’s about $7 per mile, and we may drive 12,000 to 15,000 miles per vehicle per year.

Of course we also have insurance. We have special harvest insurance that covers us on the road, in the field, during inclement weather, fire, accidents, season help, and the off season. So, when Win said “I’m guessing it’s a huge investment,” he was right.

I have posted about moving place to place and the stress related to moving because the more we’re exposed the greater the risk for an accident. I just can’t stress enough to watch out for us on the roads as we move, and be careful when you see that big rig coming.

How does one pay for the equipment?
Like any self-employed person, you don’t start with everything. When my Dad started harvesting 43 years ago he didn’t have near the equipment we have now. Most of use started out with just one combine and maybe worked with another harvester to get started in the business. Other harvesters are second or third generation so the equipment gets passed down. No matter how harvesters got their start – somebody had to start from scratch.

Building, saving money, getting more work, and being frugal where you can help with starting a business. In the agriculture business you have to spend money to save money – like keeping up on your equipment – because you can’t afford to be shut down. When a check finally hits the bank you can almost guarantee that 95 percent of that check will go right back into the business to get new or better equipment, maintenance, fuel, permits, and the list keeps going on. That’s why when I say you’re in the ag business it’s not just a job, it’s a way of life. We strive toward the betterment of the business by giving all we have to it. I absolutely love my job and wouldn’t be anywhere else. I’m sure anyone in ag can relate.

I’ll continue answering Win’s questions in another post. I can’t wait to tackle them and share with the followers how our operation and way of life work.

Be safe and God bless!

Emma can be reached at emma@allaboardharvest.com. All Aboard 2011 is sponsored by High Plains Journal and DuPont Crop Protection.


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