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Harvest extends into new year...

With wet conditions persisting last fall, Mike Zimmer wasn’t sure he was going to get to his corn crop, and he didn’t in 2019.

1/14/20 (Tue)

With wet conditions persisting last fall, Mike Zimmer wasn’t sure he was going to get to his corn crop, and he didn’t in 2019.

But in the first week of 2020, that’s the first week of January, Zimmer was in the field combining corn as if it was late October.

With little to no snow on the frozen ground, and a bright, sunny afternoon, most conditions were ideal for harvesting.

What wasn’t ideal was the temperature and the wind. After all, it is January. The temperature was holding at 4 degrees Fahrenheit and the wind was blowing 25 miles per hour out of the northwest.

“The corn is good,” Zimmer said. “The test weights are down a little and the moisture is a little challenging, but it’s good.”

The moisture content had actually dropped in the past several days and much of it was under 20 percent, according to Zimmer.

The field, 3 miles south of Kenmare, was running 100 bushels per acre, which isn’t too bad when you consider it’s been in the field almost three months longer than it should have been and has been vulnerable to the elements.

Zimmer, who had 700 acres of corn to harvest, said the hardest thing about it was having to go to basketball practice.

Zimmer is the head coach of the Kenmare Honkers girls basketball team.

“Because of practice we have to knock off about 3 in the afternoon,” he said. “That’s why we’re doing a lot more combining on Wednesday and Sunday.”

Zimmer admits the lack of snow has really been helpful and because the corn is “freeze dried,” it has allowed him to move through the field at a moderate pace.

But there’s another advantage that Zimmer described.

“The cool thing about corn headers is they strip off the cob and all the stalks roll under the header and it chops them up,” said. “I could probably drive a little faster.”

He added, “If I was really in a hurry and wanted to get something done, I’d get my wife (Kris) out there because she knows how to combine grain.”

This is unprecedented, even for Zimmer, who is willing to try new things and take a risk from time to time.

“No, we’re usually done about Thanksgiving, but it’s been a hard fall, you know that,” he said. “We were combining small grains and soybeans in December.”

The very reason he waited until now to harvest his corn crop is because it was too wet. But now that it’s winter, it can be kept in condition while it contains 19 or 20 percent moisture because there won’t be any spoilage when the grain is frozen.

It will, however, have to be dried in the spring to prevent spoilage and rot.

All of Zimmer’s corn goes to feedlots and ethanol plants in Canada. He said there is a hog facility right across the border that takes a lot of his North Dakota crop.

As of Dec. 31, the USDA Ag Statistics Service said only 48 percent of the corn crop in North Dakota had been harvested and 66 percent of the sunflower crop was done.

In August of last year, it was predicted North Dakota producers would harvest 477 million bushels of corn, which would have represented a 6 percent increase over 2018.

It included 327 million bushels for grain, which would have been up 12 percent over 2018. The average yield was expected to be 146 bushels per acre across the state.

But then the rains came in September and continued into early October. Then it started snowing which brought an already late harvest to a standstill until producers decided to venture out on the frozen ground to get the crop off... 

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