View From the Cab

Machinery Tune-Ups, Repairs Keep Harvest Rumbling Along

Gregg Hillyer
By  Gregg Hillyer , Progressive Farmer Editor-in-Chief
Zack Rendel of Miami, Oklahoma, (left) and Brent and Lisa Judisch of Cedar Falls, Iowa, are this year's featured DTN View From the Cab farmers. (Courtesy photo of Zack Rendel; DTN photo of Brent and Lisa Judisch by Pamela Smith)

LANGDON, Mo. (DTN) -- Wear and tear of tractor and truck tires and large, specialized farm equipment is associated with raising and bringing in a crop. That's why DTN View From the Cab farmers Brent and Lisa Judisch of Cedar Falls, Iowa, have been working on their equipment ahead of harvest.

Eighteen-wheeler truck tractors with hopper-bottom grain trailers -- the Judisches have four -- mean 72 tires on the road. Adding in the water trailer used to refill the sprayer rounds the total up to 80 tires. "I got all the tractors and trailers inspected. I've got four tires to replace," Brent told DTN late Sunday evening.

Tires on inside duals on the grain cart tractor are worn and in need of replacement, too. Brent will pull the outside duals himself, in the farm shop.

The replacements and repairs don't stop there. Brent sold one aging soybean head and replaced it with a newer used one. But the other head, the one he kept, needed reel bushings -- 48 of them. So, while part of team Judisch -- made up of Lisa, Rusty Zey, Harold Burington and Duane Judisch -- worked on that, Brent checked out one corn head. And Duane and Harold also replaced all the sickle sections in the other 35-foot soybean head. Then, on Sunday, Brent checked on the other corn head.

One of Brent and Lisa's two combines has 1,100 hours on the meter -- that's the equivalent of 110 10-hour days. Worn shaker pans that move grain away from sieves had started to vibrate. Brent replaced those before they broke apart. While the combine is in the shop, he'll replace belts and the bubble-up auger in the grain tank, too.

In one irrefutable sign of maturity, ears on stalks in one field of 104-day corn have dropped so that ear tips point down instead of up. "We'll probably be in that field in two weeks," Brent said.

Brent's seen only one field of corn picked, a field of seed corn. Some fields to the south where drought has been a problem are exhibiting signs of stress with weak ear shanks on green stalks and premature ear tipping. Most soybeans in the area are still green, but a neighbor's field with early Group 2s has turned completely yellow.

There are troubled spots in this year's crop.

"I did get a tweet from one of my comrades on the crop tour in northeastern Nebraska, where flat pods in one field of soybeans were dropping off of plants, a lot of them. I haven't seen anything like that here," Brent said.

Only two weeks remain before, once again, combine rubber meets the row in Brent and Lisa's fields.

"It's gonna be a rush to harvest now," Brent concluded.

Meanwhile, View From the Cab farmer Zack Rendel of Miami, Oklahoma, is getting closer to wrapping up his corn harvest that began in August. But there have been some wrinkles to smooth out first. "We got a lot of corn out last week, and we had a lot of breakdowns also," Zack told DTN Monday afternoon.

"My combine broke down last Monday afternoon. On the feeder house drive, the main belt broke. We got it into the shop and found more problems. The variable feeder house shiv and mount was broken, and the upper shiv was worn out. New ones are about $1,000," Zack said.

Instead of immediately going out to buy a new part, Zack decided to put his welding-school training to use and do the repairs himself. But even the best-laid plans can go astray when welding cast iron. By Tuesday evening, the feeder house developed a vibration too bad to ignore. "We pulled everything out again. My welds had broken apart. We ended up biting the bullet and bought new parts," he said.

By Friday, grain moisture readings crept above 16%. The Rendels took harvest off on Saturday and Sunday to allow more field drying time. Then it was back into the combine Monday to 15.6% moisture corn.

Zack enrolled in a corn nutrient strip trial this year. Material was supplied by the sponsor in return for yield data. If results are good enough, there'll be a free trip to talk to other corn producers about his experience. Zack's supplier also footed the bill for Climate Fieldview by Climate Corporation. Fieldview allows Zack to view yield information from the combine yield monitor on his tablet computer.

Milo is ready -- that's next on Zack's list. Killing milo plants with a glyphosate application won't be necessary. They're drying on their own. And sugarcane aphids, an insect pest affecting grain sorghum, have been absent. That's keeping pesticide costs low.

Milo is a non-GMO crop that some livestock feeders have adapted for premiums in specialized markets. "(The) sorghum checkoff told me about a hog producer in northern Arkansas who feeds his hogs non-GMO crops. He needs 100,000 bushels. This is going to be a good market for my and other people's milo," Zack explained.

Soybeans are still green and filling pods. Fieldwork ahead of canola planting is proceeding.

Corn yields remain solid at averages of 130 to 140 bpa. Test weights vary from 55.4 pounds to above 57 pounds per bushel. With perseverance, corn harvest on the Rendel farm will be over this week.

"The end is near," Zack said.

Richard Oswald can be reached at

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Gregg Hillyer