Harvest, interrupted

This harvest, are you expecting an interruption free harvest where you are on-top of the job and each field gets cut at just the right time, every time?

Of course, you cannot control the weather. However, there is a lot you can do to ensure a timely and safe harvest.

If you are the combine driver, think back to last year where you cut until the grain tank was brim full, then carefully continued until you hear grain falling on the cab roof. A panic stop here is fatal as a much bigger whoosh of grain then lands on the cab roof requiring you to clean it up before the next shower of rain sets it all growing.

What next? A quick scan of the horizon tells you there are no trailers nearby. ‘I know’ you think. ‘I’ll hop out and take a photo and post it on social media’. It soon becomes clear that many other combines are stopped waiting for trailers too. Photos flood in from all parts of the country and much banter ensues around this year’s trailer drivers, grain handling back at base and those far off fields no one is quite sure why we still farm.

If you are the combine owner there is a bit more to think about. Here at AHDB and through our Monitor Farm programme we have understood the cost of combining and just as importantly if not more so; the cost of not combining when you could be.

If you speak to other business owners, they cannot believe such an expensive machine is employed for such a short time in a year. Just 200 cylinder hours in the UK is seen as a mid-point, based on the amount of harvesting hours available in an average season. This number can be used to calculate the capacity requirement for your combining area. Below this figure, you have more capacity than you need and are paying for it. More than 200 cylinder or drum hours spreads the combine cost across more hours but suggests you are at risk of falling foul of a catchy season. Of course, if you farm in wetter, coastal areas or in drier areas, this 200 hour figure needs adjustment to your area, based on your experience.

So, you can get your combine cost per hour calculated. Why? Surely, hectares per hour is more important. Based on the old adage ’If wheels ain’t turning, we ain’t earning’ we come back to our combine stopped waiting in the field. A typical 9-metre plus cut combine can cost from £250 to £300 for each one of those 200 operating hours. If this combine is stopped waiting for a trailer for just 10 minutes in every hour, it costs between £42 and £50 per hour of either lost harvesting time or additional harvesting cost, you decide.

Looking at the National Association of Agricultural Contractors website, this would easily pay for an additional tractor and trailer. It may not justify owning additional tractor and trailer but some pre-harvest planning can go a long way to that smooth uninterrupted harvest you hope for.

Either way, whatever you do, have a safe season. Wishing you good yields.



Based at Ashkam Bryan near York, Harry grew up on a beef farm in his native north Wales. Subsequently, Harry developed an interest in farm machinery that took him around the world working in agriculture. Having managed a plant breeding farm near Cambridge for Monsanto, in 2005 Harry joined John Deere as Crop Systems Specialist, from where he was recruited by AHDB Cereals & Oilseeds.

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