A new combine doesn't fix "the problem"
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    56Nine's Avatar
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    A new combine doesn't fix "the problem"

    A neighbor a couple of miles south of my house is the THE first to till his fields in the spring, THE first to plant, and THE first to harvest his crop.

    The past several years I noticed that after he harvests his soybeans, his field would turn green. I figured out that his green was attributed to the soybeans sprouting and growing after his harvest.

    This year he purchased a new Case IH combine, new corn head and platform for soybeans and small grains. I was anxious to see how his harvest went this year, comparing previous post-harvest regrowth to this year's results.

    This evening on the way into town, I snapped a couple of pictures of his harvested land. I realize they are far off, but the area beyond the road ditch is the bean field. It should not have green growth, certainly not to the point you can see the combine tracks (on the diagonal) can be seen better in the second picture when zoomed in.

    Keep in mind this field is about a 1/2 mile wide, and a mile long or roughly 320 acres. Imagine the bushels of beans left behind. It boggles the mind to think that as low as commodity prices are, one would do everything in their power to maximize their harvested yield.

    The bottom line here (like many aspects of life) is that the best equipment in the world will not fix poor management. Never has, never will.


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    Darwin
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    well what is he doing wrong?

    is he going to fast thru the field?

    does he have the wrong screens in?

    back when i was a kid-my pap got the local fella to come and combine some of his grain for him--after we walked thru the field-he showed me all the grain that new fancy jd combine left on the ground. i asked why? he claimed the fella drove to fast-and didn't let the screens do their job--now this fella did a lot of custom grain harvest to help pay for the combine. but my pap never got him to come again.
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    Speed and settings of concave/rotor and sieve make the difference.
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    It might not be that bad

    No combine and no operator gets all the grain. That's just an unfortunate fact. It's the level of field loss that determines whether the combine and operator are doing their job.

    The soybeans may be 70-80 bushels/acre when the beans are on the plant. If there is a 1% harvest lost, that's .7 to .8 bu/acre. If 60% of the lost beans sprout, it's going to look like someone planted them because that's something like 6-7 beans/square foot.

    When we were grain farming at the start of the harvest we would get the combine in the field, hopefully set correctly. Then run it and once the machine was fully loaded so it was threshing at capacity, we'd stop and back up the length of the combine. The area under the combine would be checked for field loss coming off the header. That wasn't a big deal in beans or wheat as the major adjustments there were the reel speed, ground speed and header height which are all operator adjustments in the cab but you still want to know what's going on. In corn, you are looking mostly to make sure the snap rollers are set for your crop.

    The area behind the combine was also checked. That would tell you if the cylinder speed, concave adjustments, fan speed, ground speed etc. were all correct. Most operators are very happy with anything around a 1% field loss overall. That's still left in the field but as good as modern machines are, you are still taking a product with substantial variability and separating out a very small part of the overall plant.

    I haven't run one of the new machines with monitors everywhere, electronic adjustments etc. I suspect that 1% figure is still considered pretty dang good but it may be easier to set and change the machine to match the crop. The worst thing with the old machines was when the crop varied across a field. A change in moisture, crop down, stem moisture content, ear size etc. all meant re-adjusting the machine or accepting additional harvest loss.

    There's always a higher loss at the end rows of a field where the combine starts into the field. Headers don't work as well when they are turning plus you end up knocking down some crop as you start into a field. There's less harvest loss in big fields where the machine is running near capacity but not overloaded and there's a steady stream of the crop running through the header and thresher. Now, of course they don't stop to unload but run a grain cart under the auger and unload on the fly. It's not only more efficient but keeps the crop feed through the combine at a near constant volume, which is a good thing.

    Frankly, I never ran the combine enough to say I was an operator. I could and did run it but not enough to be comfortable setting it up or even knowing instinctively when something was a little off. There are a lot of moving parts in a combine and I'm guessing much of the new electronics are designed to let a less than great operator get acceptable results because the monitors let the machine adjust to the crop conditions.

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    The only real way to evaluate the loss is to physically go into the field, and count the lost grain.

    IIRC, when planting, we only planted one bushel per acre.

    No combine is perfect,, a perfect, 100% harvest machine would be cost prohibitive.
    The combine cost $300K+ already,, would you double that cost to save $6 worth of beans per acre?
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    56Nine's Avatar
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    I have no way of knowing what his specific issues are. From my roadside observation, his problems seem to follow him from machine to machine. As I drive up and down the road, I cannot recall another field with this amount of regrowth, and trust me see LOTS of these fields every day. With the new combines it's REALLY easy to get complacent and accept its readouts and settings from the manual as "truth". when in fact they are and should be considered guidelines.

    Let's look more specifically at crop loss and where it comes from.

    The method to determine loss is not too difficult and comes from factors in and outside the machine. In any typical harvest you have 4 kinds of loss: Pre harvest loss as the crop can and will shatter from the stalk from being mature and any number of environmental forces. Shatter loss comes from when the head contacts the stalk, some soybeans will fall from the plant as the stalk gets cut and the reel brings the crop into the head. Lodging loss comes from grain that's remains on the stalk but not shattered, but doesn't make it to the header. In wet years the stalks will rot and the plant simply falls over to a point where the head cannot pick it up, deer will break stalks over, late season storms will cause it to fall over. And then there's Machine loss is in the operator's control and is dependent on many settings inside the physical machine.

    The method to determine loss is by measuring a 10 square foot area, and count the beans in the area. If the harvest width is 20' this is an area 6" wide. One can take the same approach by measuring the loss in different locations to determine exactly where the loss is occuring.
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    For the soybean crop, this means approximately 40 beans in 10 sqft is pretty close to 1 bushel per acre loss (I'm confident this field exceeds 40 beans per 10 sqft). Acceptable loss is considered to be about 3% or 1-2 bushel per acre (bpa). The beans in the picture are just beyond cotyledon stage, with the first true leaves just emerging. So I don't think we have a forresting affect.

    Ideally the farmer would choose to harvest the crop when conditions are favorable meaning grain moisture is acceptable and the crop is mature, but not OVERLY so. But clearly conditions are not always in the farmer's control. Proper machine settings are in his control and are in the farm's best interest.

    Today's cash soybeans closed at $9.65 per bushel. 320 acres x 1 bpa = $3,088, 5 bu loss per acre = $15,440. I would be willing to bet he's in the 7-10 bpa range and if my guess is close that's between $21k and $30k left in the field.
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    Jer
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    Quote Originally Posted by CADplans View Post
    The only real way to evaluate the loss is to physically go into the field, and count the lost grain.

    IIRC, when planting, we only planted one bushel per acre.

    No combine is perfect,, a perfect, 100% harvest machine would be cost prohibitive.
    The combine cost $300K+ already,, would you double that cost to save $6 worth of beans per acre?
    300K??!! What discount dealership are you buying from?? Does Costco sell combines now??!! LOL.

    When I was a kid they were just starting to have loss sensors at the back of the machine. Did those fizzle out, or were they just proven useless??

    I agree though, 1% loss is absolutely the cost of doing business. Darwin/56'er, your neighbor is mitigating a tremendous risk of financial loss due to rain or frost or both by simply not buggering around and getting that crop in the ground, and then off and in the bin, ASAP. Trust me, I grew up on a farm where buggering around and trying to save 50$ by spending 500$ (and 2 warm, sunny days) was the norm, and I have a neighbor right across the road from us that subscribes to that very same Saskatchewan-esque philosophy. Our farm is dead now, and year to year very little ever changes for the better across the road. Both are justified with thousands of excuses "why it can't be done" instead of "how it can be done".

    Remember - "Being cheap can be very, very expensive".

    -Jer.
    Last edited by Jer; 09-29-2017 at 12:19 PM.
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    Loss sensors

    Quote Originally Posted by Jer View Post
    300K??!! What discount dealership are you buying from?? Does Costco sell combines now??!! LOL.

    When I was a kid they were just starting to have loss sensors at the back of the machine. Did those fizzle out, or were they just proven useless??

    I agree though, 1% loss is absolutely the cost of doing business. Darwin/56'er, your neighbor is mitigating a tremendous risk of financial loss due to rain or frost or both by simply not buggering around and getting that crop in the ground, and then off and in the bin, ASAP. Trust me, I grew up on a farm where buggering around and trying to save 50$ by spending 500$ (and 2 warm, sunny days) was the norm, and I have a neighbor right across the road from us that subscribes to that very same Saskatchewan-esque philosophy. Our farm is dead now, and year to year very little ever changes for the better across the road. Both are justified with thousands of excuses "why it can't be done" instead of "how it can be done".

    Remember - "Being cheap can be very, very expensive".

    -Jer.
    I think they still have the loss sensors but lots of others have been added. You almost NEED GPS steering for the combine if you are looking at all the data on the new ones. Even with all the sensors, computer read outs etc. I still see good operators check or have someone check the ground periodically just to make sure they aren't leaving too much in the field. That used to be a good job for the truck drivers but with the large combines and grain carts the truck drivers are usually scrambling to keep up. By the time they pull into the field and get turned around the cart is ready to dump. There just isn't a lot of waiting around any more. Of course, with $500-600 K for the combine, $200+ for the tractor and grain cart and 2-3 trucks with hopper bottom trailers, stuff has to move. You just can't have that million or so of machinery sitting around. Somehow the good operators though still manage to also be very efficient and on the low field loss side. Bad operators have lots of nice equipment for a while, then it's back at the dealers. What I hate is when really good people just aren't that good at business and end up losing everything because they couldn't handle the business side of farming.

    Treefarmer
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    56Nine's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Treefarmer View Post
    I think they still have the loss sensors but lots of others have been added. You almost NEED GPS steering for the combine if you are looking at all the data on the new ones. Even with all the sensors, computer read outs etc. I still see good operators check or have someone check the ground periodically just to make sure they aren't leaving too much in the field. That used to be a good job for the truck drivers but with the large combines and grain carts the truck drivers are usually scrambling to keep up. By the time they pull into the field and get turned around the cart is ready to dump. There just isn't a lot of waiting around any more. Of course, with $500-600 K for the combine, $200+ for the tractor and grain cart and 2-3 trucks with hopper bottom trailers, stuff has to move. You just can't have that million or so of machinery sitting around. Somehow the good operators though still manage to also be very efficient and on the low field loss side. Bad operators have lots of nice equipment for a while, then it's back at the dealers. What I hate is when really good people just aren't that good at business and end up losing everything because they couldn't handle the business side of farming.

    Treefarmer
    Isn't this the truth. Funny how one gets the mindset that while they have hundreds of thousands of dollars in equipment or lease payments out of the wazoo, the hour to check for loss and work on adjusting the combine seems like "wasting time." Another neighbor has a new combine with all the bells and whistles, sensors all over the place, but more than once when I've ridden with him we have gotten out and scoped out the ground. Most of the time just to verify the machine settings are within an acceptable loss level.

    I get it, but don't understand it.
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    56Nine's Avatar
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    This is a different farmer, I know NOTHING about their operation other than they custom farm (cash rent) thousands of acres. I don't know the exact harvest date but it was with in 2 or three days of the top post picture and has received the same rains. We have been crazy dry here this summer. I re-posted a larger version of the original picture below for comparison.

    He has a different brand (the "right" color) . The platform heads are similar in size, and capacity. The difference? Look out across the field, especially in the tracks (the area to the left and right of the light strips), there's NO green regrowth. He does have a few weed stumps, but that's to be expected.

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    The original farm field:
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    Darwin
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