Combine tips from the pros
On a hot July afternoon, custom harvester Kevin Neufeld leads a convoy of combines and a 15 person crew across Colorado on I 25. Neufeld and his crew are in their third month of combining wheat. And they have four months left before they call it a season.
Custom cutters like Neufeld spend more time on a combine in one year than the average farmer does in ten. As a result, they can combine better than many farmers. According to an Iowa State survey of central Iowa corn combine operations, custom operators have fewer field losses than owner operators. Custom Harvesters, a nonprofit association of custom harvesters.
And they can do the job faster, too. With their large machines, hauling logistics, and fleet of supporting equipment, they can be in and out in a matter of days instead of the month it might take a farmer.
Farm Industry News caught up with six custom harvesters who are among the best in the business. We asked them how corn and soybean farmers who harvest their own crops can do a better or more efficient job.
Crew: six family members plus 14 employees
Equipment: six John Deere 9660 STS combines
Territory: California, Texas, Colorado, Montana
Neufeld runs six John Deere 9660 STS combines. To get the highest quality grain and maximum bushel from the field, he follows the settings recommended in the operator manual to start. Then he makes adjustments based on the amount of cracks and foreign material in the grain sample. He also checks for grain loss on the ground several times a day or every time he starts a new field. in a ways, get behind the machine and look on the ground, he explains. you start pitching a lot out the back, you suffer a big loss, especially in something as high yielding as corn. For example, with an eight row corn head, eight kernels in a square foot equals 1 bu./acre loss. What more, grain left on the ground can lead to a big volunteer crop that can be expensive to control.
Neufeld says the key to correcting a problem is to make one adjustment at a time. example, if the combine is throwing excessive grain out the back, first slow the ground speed, he explains. running too fast, the combine will try to send too much crop through the machine. If a slower speed brings no improvement, return to your old speed and slow the cleaning fan. If that doesn help, speed the fan back up and open the chaffer or sieve to allow more grain to fall through. Also check your threshing elements, which may be over chewing the cob and causing loss. If there is excessive foreign material, such as chewed up corn cobs or trash, in the grain sample or bin, open the concave, which may be over threshing the corn. Next slow the speed of the rotor or cylinder.
Don assume grain loss is coming from the back of the combine, Neufeld adds. If conditions are dry, the loss could be coming from the header due to shattering on entry.
Even though Neufeld harvests thousands of acres a year, he doesn buy the largest combine available. Instead he buys the size that matches the supporting equipment that is available. your combine can cut 20% more corn a day, it is not going to do you any good if you don have enough trucks to keep it going, he says.
As a result, he says before you spend money on the biggest machine, make sure you have enough supporting equipment to maximize its use. combine should not be the bottleneck of your operation, he says. is better to have an empty truck sitting in the field than a full combine waiting to be unloaded. Lee Johnson Johnson Harvesting Evansville, MN
Equipment: eight 2388 Case IH combines
Crops: corn, soybeans, wheat, sunflowers
Territory: Minnesota, Oklahoma, Kansas, Colorado, South Dakota, North Dakota, Montana
Brent Lee Johnson harvests crops across the High Plains with eight 2388 Case IH combines. We reached him in his crew cab Ford pickup while he was moving machines from Colorado to South Dakota.
Johnson says the biggest mistake farmers make is not getting their equipment set up right. have a tendency to over modify their combines, he says. are so many products available and different ways to set up a machine. And some of the aftermarket equipment doesn match the opportunities available on newer machines engineered by companies. One example is the wrong combination of aftermarket sieves and concaves. You should check with your combine technician at your local dealer to find out what combinations work.
The next biggest mistake Johnson sees is the failure to organize grain carts and trucks efficiently. things like pointing the truck out of the field rather than having to turn a full truck in the field, he says. do it as second nature because of the months and years of doing it. says you should always face your trucks away from the field to save time and wear and tear on the trucks and to give the grain cart easier access to them. You also should park trucks in a row and load the first truck first so you always know which way to go and never have to back up.
always station everything in the field so you don have to back up and risk damage from unnecessary backing, he says.
Finally, he advises, to save cart time, you should unload the combine in the grain carts as you are headed toward the truck.
A tip related to efficiency is safety. two work well together, he says. Safety in his business means getting the word out of everyone vocabulary, he says. never seen a crop that didn get taken off the field. But I sure seen cases where we had to bury someone when there was still a crop in the field. recommends that you do not set the pace of harvest at a frantic level. Farmers who enlist the help of family members or people in town should pace their workers according to their abilities so that they don feel rushed and make mistakes. example, make sure you walk through the details of how to get the truck out of the field or how to unload it at the elevator or at the bin site, he explains. just calm down. says if you keep a calm and positive attitude, you will get more work out of your people in a much safer environment.
Lawrence Dees Dees Seed Company Blountstown, FL
Equipment: three Massey Ferguson 9690 combines
Crops: corn, soybeans, oats, wheat, millet, clover, grass seed and rye
Territory: 11,500 acres in Georgia, Alabama and Florida
be conscientious in your work is the only thing I could tell you, he says. you don you waste a man crop. to Dees means walking the field behind every machine each time it starts to make sure crop isn being lost. lose some, which is intolerance, he says. we try not to lose as much as our competitors lose. attributes his edge to two things: his Massey Ferguson 9690 combines and the few adjustments he makes to them. He says the Massey rotary design lets him harvest a better quality sample with less crop loss than with competitive combines.
wouldn run anything else, he says. is a whole lot simpler to operate. And with the helical vane feeder beater, high profile chrome rasp bars, rotator knives, and constant speed rotor control, the machines will do a better job. admits one exception is in wheat straw early in the season, where he says the John Deere conventional cylinder type machine does a better job of producing straw that is to be baled.