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Megan: Whittling Away in Wyoming

Roland Harvesting wrapped up things in Worland this past weekend and moved north near Powell. Aside from the frightening bridge accident, Worland was a successful stop for us. The barley ended up doing well, considering much of the crop had been hailed earlier in the summer. In Powell the barley is also doing great, with above average yields.  The ideal climate for malt barley is warm days and very cool nights, with plenty of water. In Wyoming, irrigation canals and gated pipes, along with center pivots, are the “norm” for farmers in the state. Many of the crops they raise in the area such as sunflowers, beets, beans, alfalfa, wheat and malt barley all do extremely well with ample amounts of water throughout the growing season.

Now for majority of the summer all of the crews at All Aboard have been discussing our harvest operations involving wheat, but around this time of year many of us venture into other crops. As I discussed earlier, we tend to harvest mostly malt barley while we are in Wyoming during the month of August and into the beginning of September. Almost all of the malt barley we harvest is hauled into grain elevators that are directly connected with beer companies – in the areas we work in it is mostly Anheuser-Busch and Coors. Due to the high quality that these breweries demand, the malt barley is tested very carefully and it has to reach certain standards to be accepted into the elevator. Many of these tests that are done reflect upon the grower; however, as harvesters we can influence factors such as the amount of dockage. By turning up the fans in the combine and manipulating the sieves along with changing the rotor speeds and concave settings we can minimize the amount of foreign material that is intermixed with the grain so that it will be a clean sample at the elevator. By manipulating the combine settings we also minimize the damage to the malt barley kernels. In addition, we can check the moisture and yields on our monitors in the combine.

After the malt barley is harvested we haul the grain into the elevators and from there the barley is then sent to a malting plant, and finally to a beer brewery. It is estimated that in one bushel of barley around 30 gallons of beer is made from that. To put this in perspective, one full truckload of barley holds around 900 bushels, and we haul in numerous loads every day. That’s a lot of barely we are harvesting and hauling, which in turn, helps to make a lot of beer!

I’m guessing most of you have all learned the basics of wheat and probably understand the “ins and outs” of the crop during the harvesting process. I would now like to share a brief “rundown” of malt barley. Typically, in regards to moisture, barley needs to be under 13.5 percent – about the same as wheat. Average test weights for barley are around 48 pounds per bushel and ideally protein should be lower than 13 percent.  Standard barley yields range from around 100 to 125 bushels per acre. Also, for high-quality barley the plump needs to be around 80 percent or better. The remainder of this is called thins and you want this number to remain very low.

Windshield cover off
James and Brandon take off the windshield cover from the combine before it is unloaded in Worland. Windshield covers are put on every time the combine is loaded on the trailer to protect the windshield from being cracked or broken while it is hauled to our new destination.

Unloading combine
Brandon carefully backs his combine off the trailer. Having a person around to help direct the combine operator is very helpful during this process.

Switching over combine
Brandon and James make alterations on the combine to accommodate the malt barley. The combines have to be adjusted differently for the various crops we harvest.

View of combine
A view of a malt barley field near Powell from inside Dad’s combine cab.

Barley in grain tank
Looking from the cab into the grain tank while the combine is running. As you can see, this window gets extremely dirty!

Barley up close
A close-up of malt barley kernels.

Dust from combine
Beautiful barley is all that I can say!

Barley with mountains
The gorgeous mountains make for an amazing backdrop in these fields.

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

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