Oftentimes, improving management practices can increase your profitability. How well you manage your harvest process is one of those, says Ken Ferrie, Farm Journal Field Agronomist and owner of Crop-Tech, Inc. near Heyworth, Ill.
Ferrie notes that farmers, especially as they increase acreage, struggle to get crops harvested in a timely manner.
“Some of them say they have the same issue every year—the elevator couldn’t keep up, the corn wouldn’t dry, there were weather delays, and so on,” he notes.
If that describes you, Ferrie says now is a good time to elevate your harvest procedures. Here are three steps to consider.
Dig out your records from the past five years and look at how long it took you to harvest each of those five crops from start to finish.
“I mean take a hard look—not a touchy, feely look,” Ferrie says. “I’m talking reality. If you have struggled all the past five years and have an assortment of excuses why it took too long, it’s time to change.”
Know the daily capacity of your system. It can only be as fast as your weakest link.
“If you can harvest 160 acres a day but you can only handle 80 acres of grain a day, your capacity is 80 acres,” Ferrie explains. “Eighty acres a day may have been all right when you were farming 1,500 acres, meaning that you had 20 days to get the crop harvested. But now that you’re farming 4,000 acres, you may need 50 days to get harvest done, and that’s 50 days without weather delays or equipment breakdowns.”
If harvest takes 50 days, then you probably need to have a second team to get all your other fall practices done, like tillage, because you won’t have enough time left to do them after harvest.
“That’s one of the biggest time issues I see,” Ferrie says. “When farmers have fewer acres, they might be able to let the corn dry down in the field and get serious about harvest when it reaches 15% moisture.”
You can’t afford to do that with thousands of acres. “If you need 50 days for harvest, you are likely harvesting some 12% corn if you let it dry down in the field,” he notes. “With dry corn comes ear droppage and down corn, and that can turn a 50-day harvest to 70 days pretty quick. All you get done is chasing the next field of corn before it goes down.”
Ferrie provides additional recommendations in this edition of the Boots In The Field Report, and you can listen here.