Describing fall harvest 2019, “so far it’s been going real well,” said farmer Bob Binder on Wednesday morning as he emptied a grain truck of milo at Midland Marketing Co-Op, 201 E. 8th.

A good harvest, Binder said, is no breakdowns, the equipment works well, milo is standing as opposed to laying down, there’s plenty of help, and, of course, good yields are always encouraging.

“I don’t know how many loads we’ve brought in, quite a few,” said Binder, whose farm is south of Hays. “My son does the farming, I’m retired and I help him out; we have a partnership. I think he’s got 330 acres of milo and we’re about half done.”

Yields this fall are great, said Binder, running anywhere from 100 to 125 bushels an acre.

And prices?

“No,” he answered quickly. “All farm commodity prices are way too low. They have not kept up with inflation and not kept up with the cost of inputs, the fertilizer, the seed, implement costs. Cost of a combine is over $500,000.”

Wednesday morning’s milo was $3.13 to $3.15 a bushel, said Brian Witt, coordinator for Midland’s Hays feed mill and elevator, as a truck pulled in with milo cut west of Antonino.

Witt took a sample. Test weight was an encouraging 62.6, indicating this load’s milo berry is more dense than the average, which normally renders a 56 test weight, he explained.

“His moisture was 12.8. That’s good. Under 15 is ideal,” said Witt. “That’s very nice milo.”

Milo harvest in and around Ellis County is in full swing, with grain now going on the ground at Plainville and Yocemento. McCracken and Brownell, and possibly Toulon, are getting ready to set up grain piles this week.

The Hays elevator’s normal customers are done picking corn, said Witt, and the elevator is holding that crop rather than shipping it because there’s strong demand now for milo from area feed mills and ethanol plants.

The Hays elevator holds about 800,000 bushels and is 80% full.

“Elevators are taking multiple types of grain,” Witt said. “You can’t put soybeans on the ground. You can’t put corn on the ground, well, we don’t. Milo is the easiest to store on the ground. Just before the elevators fill up you want to start putting it on the ground so you’ve got other options in case other things go wrong.”

Hays has no room for ground storage. Yocemento’s growing pile has reached 85,000 bushels now, at about two weeks into milo harvest, said Clint Pfannenstiel, Yocemento coordinator. He can unload a truck, about 1,000 bushels, in about five minutes onto the ground with an auger system driven by a tractor and power take-off.

“I gotta save room for the corn,” Pfannenstiel said.

The Yocemento elevator holds 800,000 bushels, and Pfannenstiel has 5 acres for ground storage.

“We’ve got room for 800,000 to a million bushels on the ground,” he said. “We’re not shipping any out, we’re shipping out of other locations that don’t have the capability of a ground pile. So our outbound trucks are taking it from elsewhere.”

Farmer Randy Marintzer pulled in to Yocemento with his truck, a load from 10 miles northwest of Hays, where he’s custom cutting for the Homestead Ranch. Marintzer still has some of his own fall crop to harvest.

“I picked some of my own corn, I’ve got about 450 acres,” Marintzer said. “The second half is just not drying down that well.”

Pfannenstiel said the trucks coming in have been showing yields of 100 bushels an acre easy, up to as much as 130 bushels. That sure beats the 60 bushels an acre that farmers see in drier years, he said.

Not everyone’s milo will make that. On Old US-40 highway between Hays and Yocemento, Pfannenstiel commented, the high winds and a bad storm in early August that hit the Ellis County Fairgrounds and took out strings of power poles in the surrounding area also laid down milo and corn in its path.

“Through this area it did a lot of damage to the crops,” Pfannenstiel said. “It’ll be difficult to harvest, and not as many bushels.”

Milo harvest around Yocemento will probably wrap up the next few weeks, weather cooperating.

Depending on the weather, fall harvest can last up to two months, said Midland’s Witt. Farmers harvest wheat around the clock, but not milo. It has a shorter cutting period. Farmers have to wait for morning sun to dry off the heads, and shut down about an hour after dark with evening dew, he explained.

Gerri Schumacher drove into the Hays elevator Wednesday morning to pick up protein tubs for the cattle on her family’s Schumacher Trust farm, which she manages, north of Hays off US-183 highway.

Schumacher’s 400-acres of wheat are planted, despite the dismal prices it’s been bringing.

“It’s tough, it’s hard,” she said. “Your input costs don’t go down and we don’t get much for the crop.”

With the nights getting colder and winter coming on, Witt said farmers are thinking about cutting silage and feeding their cattle over the winter.

Jerry Wasinger, who farms 5 miles north of Hays, was in the co-op buying mineral for his cattle. He still had 60 acres of milo to cut.

“I gotta wait for my neighbors. They cut mine for me,” Wasinger said. “I’m last, but that’s OK, they’re good neighbors.”

He also planted wheat.

“It’s such a staple crop here. Probably some of it’s tied into tradition,” he said. “All things considered, it’s a fairly easy crop to grow, and there are fewer expenses compared to corn or milo.”

As for Binder, he indicated he may not be pulling into the elevator with milo next fall.

“This is Rick’s last year of farming, he was running day and night trying to keep up the farm. He’s also a director at St. Mary’s church and spends one day a week in Salina for the bishop. He decided to give up farming and we rented it out.”

For now, though, Binder is closely watching the weather.

“It sounds like there’s rain toward this weekend, which is not good,” he said. “But if the weather holds out, we should finish up by early next week sometime.”