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Harvest in full swing

Posted 8/19/15 (Wed)

By Amy Robinson
Farmer Staff Writer

 A good majority of farmers across McKenzie County are probably about 85 to 90 percent complete with their harvest and gearing up to pull out their combines for the season.
“I’ve been lucky with no hail this season,” said Cameron Wahlstrom, who farms near Alexander. “There’s average yields, I guess, and quality-wise, everything looks pretty good. I’m about 85 to 90 percent done and a majority of the guys within the next seven days or so should be pretty close to wrapping up.”
Even though some farmers didn’t get hail this harvest season, some unfortunately did. Tim Taylor, another local McKenzie County farmer, received significant hail damage.
“I did have some hail,” said Taylor, who farms west of Alexander. “About 50 to 75 percent of the crop was damaged by the hail. I have a 220-acre field of spring wheat and that appears to be the only field that had damage. But it’s inconsequential to me. So far, harvest is going really well. Yields are fairly good. I’m cutting durum and wheat right now.”
According to Wahlstrom, farmers have had more rain in past years than this year and the rain this year was very sporadic. He said it varied a lot, even within a one-mile radius, and July was very dry.
“Some guys got a good amount of rain,” said Wahlstrom. “And others didn’t. With the low commodity prices, some farmers are fortunate and some are getting below-average yields.”
“It’s been very hot out,” said Taylor, “and it’s been very dry, but it’s a good time to thresh wheat. It’s too hot to be outside, but being in the air conditioning is okay.”
When it comes to making money,  says Wahlstrom, it hasn’t been that great of a year, unless prices start coming back up. But, says Wahlstrom, he’s gotten close to average yields.
“We didn’t grow any wheat this year,” stated Wahlstrom. “But we did grow two new NDSU  (North Dakota State University) varieties. Both did very well considering the year. The first variety crop ran about 58 bushels, which is above average. And the second variety we planted last ran low to mid-40s. So I’d say we did pretty good with those crops this year.”
Taylor says he’s running about 25 to 30 bushels of wheat per acre and he adds that grading is choice durum, which is good.
Due to a fairly mild winter, farmers were able to get into their fields several weeks earlier this year in comparison to years prior. Farmers in McKenzie County started seeding in about mid-April this year.
“I started seeding in mid-April this year,” stated Wahlstrom. “That was earlier than years previous, and about a two-week earlier harvest. We will be wrapping up about two weeks earlier this year than last.”
Once farmers have wrapped up harvesting their crops, some of them sell the crop to the local elevator in Watford City, some store them on-site, and some sell or contract out to private buyers.
“We’re storing everything in grain bins on the farm,” said Wahlstrom. “Our barley will be contracted out with Bush Ag. We grew our durum for seed so we’ll be selling to farmers for seed purposes. And our canola and flax, we’ll store that until we bring it to the Watford City elevator later.”
For the crops that go to the elevator in Watford City, from there, the wheat - or any other choice crop - is hauled by semi truck to Williston. And then it is taken by rail to further destinations.
The elevator has four semi trucks that haul loads to Williston each day. Each semi can haul about 1,200 bushels per load and it takes roughly three hours per load - round trip. On a typical day, each truck makes three trips to Williston, which means that nearly 14,400 bushels can be transferred in one day from the elevator.
The prices for spring wheat are currently ranging from $5.21 to $5.82 across the state, which is lower in comparison to the national average which is near $5.94 per bushel. That’s because North Dakota values are being impacted by ongoing rail freight uncertainty, delayed deliveries, and higher secondary market values for rail freight.
“We’ll see where the commodity prices are and that will dictate what we plant next year,” said Wahlstrom. “It could have been a really good year if we would have gotten more rain in July. We got off to a really good start this year, but we didn’t get a lot of rain. It was sporadic.”