Still harvesting his way across the Great Plains (in 800-acre fields)


(Editor’s note: This week, we continue a unique journal by Mahoning County’s Austen Shoemaker, a 2011 West Branch High School graduate. Since early July, Shoemaker has been part of a Great Plains wheat combine crew, Schiltz Harvesting, out of Selden, Kan. He’s agreed to share some of his experience with Farm and Dairy readers.)


Mid-September 2011: Sorry it’s been so long since my last report. I had epic computer failure (hard drive crash), and have been busy with limited access to Internet.

But since we’ve last talked, we harvested wheat in Kansas, South Dakota, and North Dakota. Kansas went smoothly, with yields anywhere from 10 bushels/acre to 60 bu/ac.

Around the middle of July, we packed up the equipment on semis and made the drive to South Dakota. It took two trips, but we started cutting the day we got there with the second round.

Huge fields

The first field we cut was right next to the bin site where we unloaded. The field was approximately 800 acres — seemed huge to me, but it looked even bigger since there was another 800-acre spring wheat field right next to that one.

The owners of the farm, Perry and Shannon Depoy, a father and son, also had two combines and one cart to cut along with us. With six combines running, we cut approximately 1,200 acres a day for the next four days.

The biggest field I have seen belonged to the Depoys, a 900+ acre field that was 2.5 miles in length — nothing like Ohio!

The rest of the South Dakota harvest went fairly smooth, seeing similar yields to Kansas.

We had one major breakdown, a blown transmission in one of the combines. A harvest support group called Case IH Pro Harvest was out the next day and had a new one installed onsite.

The campsite was just someone’s farm right off of the main highway. The nearest town was Eagles Butte, S.D., an Indian reservation. We certainly did not feel welcome there, as the Indians didn’t really seem too sociable.

On to North Dakota

After a month of cutting winter wheat and spring wheat for about four farmers in South Dakota, we moved everything to Scranton, North Dakota.

I immediately liked this town; it was small and very friendly. The town consisted mainly of a gas station, a grocery store, a pizza shop, and a bar, all owned by the grain terminal known as Scranton Equity. This was a huge two-terminal elevator that could easily fill a 120-car train.

Two days before we arrived in Scranton, a huge hail storm went through and wiped out approximately 1,300 acres of wheat and durum wheat that we were supposed to cut. The damage was pretty serious, the fields that were hit the hardest were completely leveled. The cutting there only lasted about three weeks, since there wasn’t as much wheat to cut.

Back to Kansas

The move back to Kansas was definitely a long one, about 14 hours and 620 miles — and I had to make that trip four times to get everything back to Kansas.

Now we’re back in Selsen, Kansas, cutting dryland beans and dryland high moisture corn as it comes ready. Most stuff around here is still pretty wet, but a lot of high moisture corn is being picked.

Almost all of the high moisture corn from the three counties around is being hauled right down the road to Hoxie Feedyard Inc. This is a 60,000-cow feedlot that is hoping to put up 6.7 million bushels of high moisture corn this year.

The line of trucks going into the feedyard is often constant and long. A normal line of trucks waiting to run across the scale is a half mile long. It’s not only grain haulers trying to get in, it’s silage trucks and cattle haulers too.

When cattle trucks get loaded, at any given time, the whole grain line shuts down until they are loaded and gone.

Once across the scales and into the feedyard, the grain trucks wait in line again to get on one of the three dumping tables. When a truck dumps, it goes up a conveyer into a pile. The pile is constantly being dumped into a huge grinder with a payloader, then tractors with blades push the ground high moisture corn up onto the piles and pack it. It’s quite an impressive operation.

The corn around here has a good bit of hail damage as well. Yields have been all over the board.

That’s about it up ’til now…

Read Shoemaker’s first report with the crew.

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