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Christy: Finding our way

One thing that sets wheat harvest in Montana apart from all the other places we harvest is that a lot of the fields are not square. Everywhere else we travel, you have north-south and east-west roads for the most part. Around here, you wind down rough gravel roads through deep dips and steep hills to fields of many unique shapes. My first couple of years out here I got lost so many times. Either that, or I couldn’t figure out how to reach where the guys were combining.

The cell phone service is okay if you’re in town, but then as soon as you start down those windy roads, there’s nothing. It makes finding where the guys are and delivering parts and meals difficult. Two-way radios in all our combines, tractors, semis, and pickups help us to better communicate where service is scarce, but even the radios have limits on how far they reach.

A couple of years ago, we happened to connect with Roark Thompson, owner and creator of PipeAg. He designed a system of iPads that, among many features, allow you to see where each piece of equipment is and get directions to where it’s located. This software system from PipeAg is not meant to help me deliver parts and meals, but it is a byproduct that has mostly eliminated me getting lost and frustrating my husband.

Using this system benefits us in many ways. It increases our efficiency in the field, keeps our tickets and fields more organized, and so much more. Roark continuously works to improve his system and is also extremely diligent in working side by side with us in the field to work out any kinks or issues. He’s always available to troubleshoot, should it be necessary. This technology has greatly improved how we operate.

Harvest is moving very quickly here for us this year. After only a little over a week we have already covered about 12,500 acres. The crop in Montana is not a normal Montana crop. Locals I’ve visited with have told me that things did look exceptional to begin with this season, but turned for the worse after a spell of high temperatures and no rain. Crop yields have been far below average for some, or still strong enough to be decent depending on variety and location. We’ve seen a field of lentils yield 6 bushels an acre and then moved over to a wheat field that’s yielding upwards of 95 bushels an acre.

The end of this week we will need a few machines in North Dakota to begin harvesting there. We are really lucky we still have acres there this year because many harvesters do not. The devastating dry heat with no rain that hurt crops here did much worse in parts of North Dakota and South Dakota. I think our time in North Dakota will be shorter than normal just as it’s been here in Montana. This unusual year continues and the end of wheat harvest will be here before we know it.

Christy Paplow can be reached at christy@allaboardharvest.com.

All Aboard Wheat Harvest is sponsored by Case IH, Unverferth Manufacturing Co., Inc., BASF, Oklahoma Baptist Homes for Children, Gleaner, ITC, Westbred, Huskie, Western Equipment, US Custom Harvesters, and High Plains Journal.

 

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