Business Farming

Saturday 1 October 2016

Letter from America: 11,000 acres of wheat on the ground

Reporting from South Dakota

Jamie Casey

Published 19/08/2015 | 02:30

At an average yield of 0.8 tonnes per acre of oats, a driver can haul over 46 acres per load in North Dakota
At an average yield of 0.8 tonnes per acre of oats, a driver can haul over 46 acres per load in North Dakota

While the summer in Ireland was a bit hit and miss up until recently, over here in South Dakota we are still basking in 35C days. However, the weather is beginning to get a little colder, especially at night when the temperature often drops down to 10C.

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At the time of writing we have just finished harvesting oats in Chamberlain, South Dakota. These oats were harvested at a moisture of 13pc, and yielded approximately 0.8t/ac. They were grown on land that the farmer had rented, which meant we had to haul the oats 80km to the farmer's yard. Up until this point, the trucks have had a weight restriction of 85,000lbs, or around 39t. However, that restriction doesn't apply in South or North Dakota, so I have been hauling these oat crops with two 34ft grain trailers hooked together. At a yield of 0.8t/ac that meant I could haul over 46ac per load!

Having harvested over 11,000ac of wheat to date, it was a nice change to get into a different crop. Tomorrow morning we will make the 580km journey to the next stop in Regent, North Dakota. We will harvest wheat again for the next month, and will begin to cut some canola at the beginning of September.

Since we began harvesting we have stopped to work in seven different locations. We harvested in both the Southern and Northern part of Oklahoma, South Central and Western Kansas, Central and North Eastern Colorado and Central South Dakota. Up until now, almost all of the grain has been hauled to grain elevators in the local town where we are cutting. The farmer would store a few loads of the cleanest grain for seed for the following year, but 99pc of the crop would be sold to the local elevator.

These towns are generally quite small, and some would be more like a village. The local amenities and services vary from very good to very poor. Some of the better towns had a supermarket and a bar, while others literally didn't even have a shop. Due to the nature of the work and the long hours, we don't get a chance to go shopping very often. If we get a wet day, we first catch up on any servicing and repairs that had been put on hold, then we catch up on cleaning and shopping. We often have to drive anywhere from 80 to 160km to the nearest decent size Walmart, and stock up on essentials for at least a fortnight.

Home at the minute is a 53ft refrigerated trailer, which has been converted to a camper. This type of camper is surprisingly rare but is ideal for the job. We have met many crews along the way all living in standard campers.

We've got a full kitchen, two full size showers, it also has enough room for eight beds, air conditioning and two flat screen televisions. Days off are a rare and welcome commodity, but we had one after we finished this job. Our boss, Anders, has two jet skis which we haul around with us on harvest. This morning we finally got a chance to fire them up, and quickly launched them into the Missouri river. We made the best of the day, because it looks like the next two months are going to be absolutely crazy busy.

As I finish writing it is 11.30pm on Sunday night and I really should be in bed as the big rigs will be rolling for North Dakota tomorrow morning at 6.30am. Enjoy what remains of the summer at home and I'll keep you posted on our travels.

Indo Farming

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