Wednesday morning, Clint Pfannenstiel eyed the wheat pouring into one of the eight Union Pacific hopper cars parked on the tracks at the Yocemento grain elevator, then looked at his watch.
“We’ll have it full by two o’clock,” said Pfannenstiel, coordinator at the Midland Marketing Co-Op in Yocemento.
With so much demand, the cars are difficult to get, said Pfannenstiel, as the first of the day’s wheat trucks were pulling in.
Each rail car holds 3,300 bushels of outbound wheat, he said, so all told the eight cars will take 27,000 bushels, giving the elevator a little breathing room.
“We’re at 450,000 bushels as of now, so about 60 percent full,” said Pfannenstiel. “We think we’re at just a little over 50 percent harvested at this point, and this is Day 9. If it doesn’t rain, it’ll go through the end of the week. And then there’ll be some stragglers.”
Brandon Merriman pulled onto the scales with a truckload from the Dusty Bemis farm.
A sports management major at Fort Hays State University, Merriman is a hired hand at the farm. This is about his 10th load.
“We’re just getting started,” said Merriman, who said he also sometimes runs the grain cart.
At 10:56 a.m., Brian Witt at the Midland elevator in Hays called the front office to check the price of wheat.
“$3.97, up seven cents from this morning,” said Witt, who weighs trucks in, and samples the loads for test weight, moisture and chaff.
“At the beginning of harvest it was over four bucks,” Witt said, flipping through a notebook with prices and dates. “There’s a $4.36, that was the 17th of June.”
From what he’s seen, yields are coming in anywhere from 30 to 70 bushels an acre.
“The eastern part of the county is roughly half done,” said Witt. “The western half is maybe 40 percent, give or take.”
While it’s generally been dry for the past week or more, the southeastern part of the county did get quite a bit of rain Tuesday evening, he mentioned, so it’ll be a few days before those farmers can start back up.
Humidity, however, makes stocks harder to cut. Moisture has been testing around 11 or lower, Witt said, with 11 ideal.
“I don’t like anything over 13,” he said, because it can rot. “So 11 is pretty good.”
During harvest, the elevator will run until about 10 p.m. Unlike Yocemento, where trucks waited in a long line on Tuesday, the Hays elevator hasn’t had big pile ups.
“I had one line that stretched over to Eighth Street, so six trucks maybe,” Witt said. “We don’t get the larger trucks in here, it’s hard to drive through Hays with semis. The other thing is, when we have a late harvest, they shut Main Street down on the Wild West Fest, so guys have a harder time coming in and out of town.”
At the Yocemento elevator, Darby O’Conner grabbed a sample from a truck that had just pulled in. An ag communications major at Texas Tech University in Lubbock, Texas, she’s working at the elevator for the summer.
“My mom works at an elevator in Rush Center, so it’s just something that I kind of grew up with,” said O’Conner. “She’s a grain merchandiser.”
Checking a digital readout, O’Conner records the 10.5 percent moisture content. Taking the sample, she runs it through a machine that sorts out the chaff from the wheat. Very little trash is deposited into the tray.
“That’s really low, .28 is low,” O’Conner said. “Hailed-out wheat will have more trash in it.”
Yocemento took in more than 95,000 bushels on Tuesday, said Pfannenstiel, and it would have been more but a threatened storm, which didn’t materialize in Ellis County, brought the harvest day to a premature end.
“We’re thinking our big day was yesterday,” said Pfannenstiel.
It takes 25 to 30 minutes to fill a single grain car, he explained.
“That’s fast,” commented a bystander.
“Not fast enough,” said Pfannenstiel.