Kelly Herberholz made the first cut of this year’s harvest a week ago.
Since then, he and his father, Joe, have slowly been chipping away at their crop throughout central and western Hettinger County. Kelly estimates they have at least 300 acres done and that much of their spring wheat is running between 35 and 45 bushels an acre.
“We need more than that though,” he said with a short laugh.
Southwest North Dakota farmers are on the verge of what appears to be an above-average small grains harvest in a year where prices are well below average.
“There’s some good-looking crop out there. Now if we could just get a price for it,” CHS Southwest Grain General Manager Delane Thom said Friday. “A 50-bushel spring wheat crop is barely a break-even number.”
On Friday, 14 protein spring wheat closed at $3.85 a bushel at the Southwest Grain terminal near Taylor. Milling quality durum was $5.90.
As farmers like Herberholz are quietly chipping away at their spring wheat crop in Hettinger County — where the wheat is furthest along — he and others say and are awaiting higher temperatures this weekend that could turn a crop nearly ready to cut into one that’s falling into the hoppers of combines throughout the area.
“If the sun would come out, I think we’d all go,” Herberholz said.
This weekend — with temperatures forecast in the high 80s and low 90s, with a chance of thunderstorms on Sunday evening — could go a long way toward getting farmers in the field.
Tom Snell, who runs Snell Harvesting of Ellinwood, Kan., has 18 combines in Regent ready to go whenever the wheat is. He said they took a couple of their John Deere harvesters out north of the small town on Friday to try areas for one client.
Snell said he has seen some good crops throughout the Great Plains this summer and while this year’s North Dakota crop isn’t going to be a “bin buster,” he believes it’ll be a good one. And he wants to help get it off the field and into those bins as soon as possible.
“When it’s getting this close we’re no different than a farmer,” Snell said. “As quick as you can, you want to get going.”
Thom said he recently drove through much of southwest North Dakota.
He said crops didn’t fare well along the Highway 12 corridor between Bowman and Lemmon, S.D.
“It’s extremely dry down in that country,” Thom said. “A lot of that crop was rolled up for hay because the hay crop was short. The further north you get of that line, the better it looks.”
He estimates that five major hail events during the summer took out anywhere between 30,000 to 50,000 acres of cropland throughout the area, all the way from Scranton to Glen Ullin and, of course, north to Killdeer, where a devastating storm ripped through the Dunn County city and surrounding countryside on July 10.
Thom said crops north of Interstate 94 are at least three weeks away from being ready to harvest.
“Where it hailed it out, it hailed it out,” he said.
Thom said that in recent weeks, many farmers have been selling year-old wheat at his elevator in what he says is effort to clear storage space.
“There has been a fair amount of old crop movement, of wheat specifically,” he said. “That’s kind of an indicator that there’s got to be a pretty normal crop out there.”
Farmers aren’t the only ones preparing for harvest, however.
Mick Lewton, store manager of West Plains Implement in Dickinson, said his business has done about all it can do to prepare for one of the busiest parts of its year. He said the Case IH ProHarvest support team is also mobilized at the shop.
“It takes a little while to prepare for, but we’re about as good as we’re going to get right now,” Lewton said.