A-team

It is hard to beat a big, blue Montana sky and field full of ripened wheat.

The A-Team Harvesting crew made it safely into Montana the last week of July, and although they were ready to cut, the wheat itself wasn’t. The end of July is a little on the early side for winter wheat to be ready in Montana, so the harvest crew took some time to take in the sights around Billings for a few days while they waited for the wheat to dry.

“Six of us loaded up and went through Yellowstone National Park. It was really neat,” said Justin Ashmore, owner of A-Team Harvesting 2, LLC.

It is easy for the summers to fly right on past a custom harvesting crew, and although they are constantly on the move into new territory, there often isn’t an opportunity to see much of it outside the windshield of a combine. Whenever the opportunity arises, Justin tries to go on outings with his harvesting crew so their summers aren’t just all wheat and hard work. While at Yellowstone, Justin reported they saw plenty of wildlife, and the geysers, of course, where a highlight.

Once the wheat finally dried out, the A-Team Harvesting crew went to work thrashing wheat right next to the Billings Logan International Airport, located on the iconic rims that overlook the city of Billings and the Yellowstone River Valley. Simply put, the views were spectacular.

The views weren’t the only thing that were great, however. Justin says the wheat itself is excellent, as well. After harvesting some less-than-ideal crops coming up through America’s Heartland, it has been nice to be cutting such quality wheat.

“It’s been the best wheat we have been in thus far. The quality has been really good with really good test weights. Protein has been all over the place, but it has been yielding great at 40 plus bushels to the acre,” Justin added.

The first week of August found Justin and his two daughters, Cora and Coda, back home in Logan, Kans. Their county fair was to be held that week and Cora and Coda would be showing steers for the first time. Both Cora and Coda play an integral part on the harvest crew, so they had to be sure their steers were halter broke and show-ready before they left for the harvest run back in May. This year they are taking steers born and raised on the Ashmore family ranch, so they are extra special.

“The girls are so happy. They have been working hard with these steers all year,” Justin said.

While half of the A-Team Harvesting crew was busy washing and fitting fat steers, the other half was still up in Montana. After they harvested all the wheat on the rims, the crew once again ran into some green wheat they had to babysit. Montana has such varying elevations, which can lead to some inconsistencies in drying times, but this particular break allowed for some routine maintenance on the combines and other harvesting equipment.

A-Team performs routine maintenance on their equipment every 200-250 hours. As a custom crew, it certainly doesn’t take long for a machine to rack up that many hours. Changing the oil on a big Case IH combine or Cat Challenger is a little bit different then just changing the oil in your car, Justin says.

“Every combine takes five gallons of oil, so between the three combines and the Challenger, we will use 20 gallons of oil every regular change,” he explained.

Making sure equipment is running smoothly is a big part of the duties for a custom harvesting crew. Break downs can be costly, not only monetarily, but also when it comes to time. When the wheat is ready, the crew and all its machinery must be ready, too, so whenever there is a lull in the actual harvesting of the wheat, Justin makes sure the equipment is blown out, breaks are checked and repairs are made.

With summer winding down, A-Team Harvesting will be going through a crew change, so to speak. Cora and Coda will stay home in Logan once fair is over so they can have a week or so to get prepared for school. Justin’s oldest son, Colton, and his friend, Ian, who also works on the crew, will head back about the middle of August to start their senior year of high school, as well. New people will have to be brought on to help A-Team finish the final jaunt of their harvest run.