Thursday, November 14, 2019

Harvest hare and tortoise

September 10, 2019 by  
Filed under Clodhopper

A simple approach to harvest brings results just as good as those seen on any big farm, says Clodhopper.

Having spent some time on my neighbour’s farm this harvest, I have concluded that my style of farming has either been totally outclassed – or is among the most simple and efficient around.

I certainly come top of the class when it comes to the least time taken to perform the simplest of tasks. Why? Because I don’t believe in buying work. If you are successful and profitable, why expand to the extent that you incur huge borrowings and increase your risk tenfold?

If you already have a decent living, doubling the size of the farm seldom means doubling your profits. So why create work for yourself and make things difficult? But expanding is exactly what my neighbour has done.

I prefer to keep things simple. My old grain store has 32 bays – each holding 15 tonnes of grain. If the grain is heaped up each side of the store, it will hold about 500 tonnes. The left side is for feed wheat. The right side is for milling.

I grow two feed varieties and one milling. The feed varieties are put on top of each other and an A4 sheet hanging in the farm office tells me the number of acres per feed variety. Almost every year the feed varieties are sold for the same price so the join in the grain store is irrelevant.

Testing time

I have a further 250t store for milling wheat nearby – if I need it. At the start of the day, the first load is moisture tested and if the sun still shines no further tests are needed – not because I am lazy but because I don’t not have time to test each load.

The combine keeps an eye on moisture and yield throughout the day. After each field is cut, the number of bays filled tell me how the crop has performed. My simple calculation is more often than not more accurate than the monitors.

My expansion-minded neighbour takes a different approach. Due to his large investment in drying facilities, he decided his wheat was ready to cut and needed an extra trailer boy for a couple of days. That person was me – and it was an eye-opening experience.

Like mine, his grain store uses a central grain elevator that is set to auto and slews from side to side. Trailers use the grain chutes so the delivery of the grain is much the same on both farms. But that is where the similarities end.

Doing it differently

On arrival at his farm with a full load of wheat, the tractor and trailer go over the weighbridge. The trailer is then tipped and all grain removed – which means the tractor driver has to climb into the trailer and sweep it clean and before reweighing.

Each load is tested both for moisture and bushel weight. In my simple mind, this creates extra work for the poor tractor driver. Why do you need to know what every load weighs – as well as the moisture and bushel weight?

When the shed is full it holds 1000 tonnes. Each individual trailer load cannot be separated and sold alone. So what does it matter if the moisture is 0.25% higher or lower? It is one big heap with no joins from fields of a known size.

My neighbour’s farm is very modern. The weighbridge, computers and associated spreadsheets show every aspect of grain delivery – including the time and entry of each load and when tipped. In contrast, my farm is behind the times and failing to embrace modern technology.

Yet we both know the exact tonnage we have in our sheds. We both know the moisture and where it came from and when. And it isn’t the case that I can’t – in my advancing years – climb into the trailer to sweep it out. I just can’t see the point of creating work.

Old-fashioned?

So am I old-fashioned or am I just trying to keep things simple?

A note of interest: My neighbour was pleased to tell me that fields 14 and 15 yielded 4.23t/acre. But field 23 happened to be flat and of rather dubious bushel weight, yielding only about 3t/acre.

I’ve always thought that “about 3t/acre” is code for “it really did not yield well but we are hoping for the best”. Have we lost our senses? Why can’t we rely on our own instincts rather than consulting a computer?

One final note: One of my neighbour’s two combines broke down. The computer shut the engine revs down because the exhaust system has to burn off and regenerate on a regular basis. Something to do with meeting regulations on emissions.

It turned out to be a electrical sensor that lost nearly two days of cutting. Meanwhile, my old green machine has a metal handle with two symbols on it – hare and tortoise. It belched out black smoke and revved like hell. But it never stopped or had its engine go into limp mode.

Happy harvest!

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