PLENTYWOOD, Mont. – Wheat harvest continues to move at a slow pace in the northern states. Scattered rains, cool nights, and cloudy skies are keeping the equipment out of the fields and the Hoffman crew remains spread out through three states.
“We still have machines in South Dakota, North Dakota and Montana,” said Jada Bulgin of Hoffman Harvesting. “The weather is still an issue. We haven’t had a lot of heat either, so everything is just slowly moving along.”
Some days, the combines won’t get to cutting until late in the afternoon. Then they only have a few hours to work until the sun goes down and the crop get too tough to cut.
“Even yesterday, we had a lot of wind, but the sun never came out. It just takes a little bit to dry and you have a certain moisture you need to cut wheat at,” Jada said. “Then the sprinkles that we've received are just enough to make it not dry enough, at least not until later on in the day.”
Most growers and elevators would like the wheat harvested around 13-14 percent moisture. It is easier for them to store at that level because there is less risk of mold.
The other issue is that wheat does not harvest well at higher moistures. The cutting bar on the combine does not get a smooth cut on a wet crop and the seed does not clean well either. There is a greater chance of losing seed and leaving it in the field.
Compared to when the crop is dry, it cuts much smoother and the machine is more efficient at cleaning and collecting the crop.
“Even if you can cut at a higher moisture, it's whether the machine is cutting it properly and doing a good job,” she said.
For the Hoffman crew, they’d rather spend a few extra days waiting for conditions to be right and give their clients a good harvest, than risk cutting a crop that is not ready and costing their client potential yield.
With the crew spread out across three states, it can be tough to be sure everyone has a place to stay. The crew in South Dakota are staying at the Hoffman farm in Bowdle, S.D.
“The campers are up here in Montana,” she said. “The ones in North Dakota are staying at our farmer’s hunting lodge.”
It is really helpful to the crew that this farmer is willing to share his lodge with them, especially this year when things are moving slower than normal.
Jada and her husband, Leon, were lucky enough to have neighbors willing to help them with their own harvest.
“We actually had some friends harvest our crop on the farm we started, we couldn't get it done, so they came and helped us out,” Jada said.
The crews working in South Dakota are finishing up the last of the custom harvest fields that the crew was contracted to do. That crew will soon be moving up to North Dakota to help finish up that area.
Once North Dakota is done, the crew will regroup in Montana where they still have many acres to go.