The sun sets on the harvest in Westman as a farmer combines a field of Carberry hard red spring wheat north of Deloraine. The rains came shortly after, dumping up to 80 millimetres on the area.
It’s a good year to be in the grain dryer sales business, as farmers across Westman frantically wrap up the harvest in less than ideal conditions.
A major storm two weekends ago, which dumped close to 80 millimetres of rain in some areas, has forced some producers into the unenviable position of harvesting crops while they are above moisture levels required for safe storage.
"We’ve seen fantastic yields, but it’s been a really slow harvest because of the rain," said Dale Little, who idled down his combine on his farm 10 kilometres north of Hamiota to talk to the Brandon Sun last week.
"It’s been tough to get anything to dry down and there is so much straw. I’ve had to take grain off knowing it’s tough, and knowing I’ll worry about drying it when I take it to the elevator."
The conditions have added costs and headaches at every turn as a damp crop is harder on machinery and takes longer to cut, resulting in more man-hours and the burning of more fuel.
Where he could combine between 110 to 120 acres of wheat on one tank of fuel in good conditions, Little said he is lucky to get 80 right now.
Many producers will rely on grain dryers and aeration in order to fetch top dollar in a market where cereal and oil prices continue to fall amid a record harvest.
"It’s been a good crop year, it’s just been a wet harvest," said Little, adding that between 50 to 70 mm of rain fell on some fields over a three-day span.
"I have never seen a cereal crop like this in my life and it would have been fantastic had it not been for the rain."
Combine lights were out in full force just prior to the rain as some producers were able to wrap up the harvest.
Most of the rain tracked down Highway 21 as Deloraine recorded 77 mm, Souris was hit with 59 mm and Hamiota got 51 mm.
Wayne Drummond, who farms north of Lauder on the edge of the Souris River, said it’s mostly corn and soybeans that are left in the southwestern corner of the province.
While some producers will wait until the ground freezes to harvest corn due to the wet conditions, others are hopeful sun and strong winds might allow them onto fields to do some fall work.
It has been a funny year, according to Drummond, with much of his usual marginal land producing great crops with high yields, while routinely productive land was wiped out due to large rain events.
Looking around the area, he’s concerned about the land’s capacity to hold water as winter approaches.
"I’m always worried about history repeating itself," Drummond said, referencing the fall of 1975 when wet fall conditions coupled with a lot of snow in the winter created a flood in the spring of 1976.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition October 21, 2013