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Unintended results of a second combine at harvest

We’re trying to work through the additional stress our increased productivity has caused.

We did finally end up with a second combine for harvest this fall. We found an off-lease machine that is a few years old. It doesn’t have all the bells and whistles, but as we were late in the marketing year, the price was reasonable. Once we got it home, we inspected and serviced it. The machine has been running well and eating up acres.

When we harvest, everything is scaled for a couple of different reasons. First, grain from separate operations is co-mingled. We have to have an honest way to know how much belongs to who. Secondly we use these records for crop insurance. (Another advantage of cart scales is in field yield comparisons.) Decades ago, we went down the route of scales on the grain cart in lieu of physical scales at facilities. Grain cart scales have worked very well, and properly calibrated are within half a percent. We double check the scales several times through the year.

This year is different from other years though. In the past, we only had one grain cart, and this year we have two. As a result of having two combines, two carts, and an additional driver, we have been ‘stealing’ acres every day. This was never my plan. I thought we were going to maximize daily harvest by picking corn in the mornings until the soybeans got fit, then cutting soybeans the rest of the day. In reality, what has happened is the corn machine continues to run all day short-handed.

We didn’t make this a practice in the past because with only one cart, we only have a handful of fields where the combine can make a full round (in corn) before being full. Additionally, we would have to go out of the way to scale the truck.

Whereas in the past, I used to coordinate operations, move equipment, make repairs, and be a relief driver, now I am in the combine seat. This is where the issues arise. You feel like you’re being inefficient, even though in reality we are getting more done than in the past.

In the last two weeks, we’ve probably cut 3-5 days off of harvest by having the second machine. We are working through the additional stress these changes have made.

We will also have to decide about second heads for each crop. I really don’t see much point in corn, we are properly sized and equipped to be efficient with one combine. Soybeans could be done quicker with the second machine running, but then we would lose the advantage of ‘stealing’ acres mentioned above. Unless the basis of our non-gmo and Identity Preserved operation changes, I can tell you we will not be changing each machine back and forth every day. This would require a kernel cleanout which takes about an hour per machine every time. Soybeans are an allergen. Corn loads going to food use will be rejected if soybeans are present. Also, exporters and seed conditioners don’t want to see corn in the soybeans we deliver.

These are the biggest reasons why we went to the second combine and second cart.

The opinions of the author are not necessarily those of Farm Futures or Penton Agriculture.

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