You will seldom hear a farmer complain about rain, but recent spotty showers have made it harder for area wheat growers get their product to the various grain elevators in Southwest Oklahoma.
Wednesday’s tour of some of the area’s fields south of Lawton showed widely varied conditions and it seemed the H.E. Bailey Turnpike was the dividing line of sorts. West and south of I-44 near Grandfield and Ahpeahtone west of Walters, there were still fields uncut, waiting for a few days of hot sun and wind.
Blake Schumpert farms south of his Chattanooga home and he was busy fixing a sickle on one of his family’s combines.
“We sprayed this for weeds but all this rain has really brought that rye grass up and last night we broke some sections on the sickle and I’ve been working to get it ready,” Schumpert said. “This morning there was a good deal of dew, but I’m getting ready to start cutting.”
Thus far his results have been mixed.
“We’ve cut some fields that averaged about 45 and then some that were 20 bushels an acre,” he said. “It’s just a mixed bag this year.”
Farmers have been watching the price of wheat tumble from highs in the $9 a bushel range a month or so ago to $7.19 as of Thursday afternoon.
Northwest of Walters, Brett High had three combines working to knock out a field and the dust was flying, a good sight for any farmer since that shows low moisture content, always an important factor when the crop arrives at the elevator.
While the combines were having no trouble with muddy spots in that field, High’s wife Nannette, was running the grain buggy and driving to an adjacent field where their trucks could load without any problems.
“It’s been going pretty good,” she said. “We’ve been stopped by the rain some but hopefully we will get some dry weather.”
Elevators around the area are reporting various stages of harvest, ranging from Walters which has already hit 1.2-million bushels at its four elevators — Walters, Apeatone, Temple and Hulen to Apache where rain has limited the intake of grain.
“The test weights have been decent but we’ve seen some loads sliding off a bit with some of these rain delays,” Walters Cooperative Manager Josh Kirby said. “The moisture levels have been pretty good and we haven’t had many loads with much trash. The price has dropped from up in the $8 and $9 range but it has dropped to $7.19 today. I’d say we’ve probably bought about 300,000 bushels out of that total of 1.2-million bushels. Most farmers will wait until they are finished and then decide whether to sell or keep it in storage.”
Kirby is expecting this year’s crop to easily reach the level of 1.5-million bushels last season.
“The last two years weren’t that good, but we’re getting good grain most of the time this year,” he said.
When you start checking with some of the area’s other major elevators, the range drops in some locations.
“I’d say we haven’t taken more than 6 or 8 loads thus far,” Apache Farmer’s Cooperative spokesman Kevin McCray said. “These spotty storms have pretty much kept our farmers out of the fields. The loads we’ve taken have tested from 57 to 61 pounds per bushel. There has been some dockage, 1 or 2 percent, but most of it has been fairly clean.”
Heath Sanders, agronomy adviser for CHS Cooperative in Frederick, said that they have seen some really good wheat thus far in Tillman County.
“We’ve had mostly good test weights over 60 but we’ve also had some loads that tested 64 and 64.5 which is really good,” Sanders said. “Like most areas, we’ve had those little storms pop up so some farmers have been having to move to different fields because of the rain.”
Sanders estimated that the harvest in the Frederick area is somewhere around 60 percent completed and farmers have reported good yields.
“We’ve actually had some guys making 70 bushels an acre, but on the average our yields are between 45 and 55 bushels an acre,” Sanders said. “We got lucky down this way. We got some key rains and cooler temperatures that really allowed those heads to fill.”
Carnegie Farmers Cooperative has taken in 20,000 bushels as of Thursday but that area has dealt with the same type of weather that has slowed the progress across the area.
“Our test weights have been good, mostly 60 and 61,” Cheyenne Pierce said. “We have a few loads that had some dockage because of trash but most of it is clean. I’ve been hearing from farmers that most of them are doing pretty well with averages from 40 to 50 bushels an acre.”
One thing people are seeing at many area wheat fields are huge stacks of large square bales of wheat straw.
“There is a third party that is working with many farmers to buy their wheat straw,” Kirby said. “The farmer just shuts off their shredder and leaves the straw in windrows. These guys come in and bale it and then are shipping it to areas like the Oklahoma Panhandle and northwest Oklahoma where they’ve been missing some of these rains we’ve had.”
“I’ve been hearing that much of that wheat straw is going to those areas in northwest Oklahoma where there were fires and dry conditions,” McCray said. “And there are some livestock shows switching back to wheat straw from wood chips from what we’ve been hearing, so the demand is up and that’s why people are seeing those stacks.”