After we visited the Friesians in central Wisconsin, we tortured ourselves with yet another loooonnngggg day of driving – I think it was a whole 25 minutes – to Pine Bluff, Wisconsin. Our friend, Kory Kalscheur, invited us to visit his farm. Kory and his wife Diane farm more than 2,200 acres; most of it is corn that is sold to ethanol producers. When we arrived, Kory was driving the combine and Diane was driving the tractor.
Farmers Love Their Combines!
A combine is a modern miracle for farmers because it takes three very time-consuming processes and “combines” them into one, all handled by the same machine. Reaping comes first. Reaping is the cutting and gathering of the corn. Threshing is next. Threshing loosens the edible part of the corn from the cobs. Winnowing is the final step. It separates the grain from the chaff.
How Many Rows in a Combine?
Combines, like any vehicle, come in all different sizes. Kory has an 8-row combine because the land he farms has a lot of hills so a larger combine wouldn’t be able to harvest evenly. I thought the 8-row combine was huge… but some combines are as big as 30 rows!
After we arrived, Kory drove the combine up to us. I just kept looking up. That combine was as tall as our COW, probably 13 or 14 feet tall! There was a tall ladder to get inside the cab. Dad picked me up and together we climbed the ladder into the cab.
I’ll be honest with you, I wasn’t real comfortable inside the combine. There was a lot of activity going on right outside the large window. I could see those sharp blades turning really fast and chopping down eight rows of corn all at once.
My mom, being the imaginative person that she is, said riding in the combine reminded her of a really bad episode of SVU where a guy uses a combine to chop up his friend. She even asked Kory if he ever ran over anything in the combine. He assured her he hadn’t and rabbits and deer run faster than the combine.
Tractors and Grain Wagons
After a few passes in the combine, my dad took me down and we climbed up another ladder into the tractor that Diane was driving. The tractor didn’t scare me as much since there wasn’t any chopping going on. But it was big, about the same height as the combine. The tractor pulled a large grain wagon.
A Dance Like No Other: Combines, Tractors and Grain Wagons
Kory and Diane work great as a team. Kory takes the combine through a few passes. As the computer inside the combine alerts Kory that the combine’s grain tank is almost full, he radios Diane. Diane pulls the tractor, which has the grain wagon attached, up alongside Kory in the combine. Kory then swivels a large auger out of the combine and places it over top of the grain wagon attached to Diane’s tractor.
Then, with a push of the button, Kory’s combine sucks the corn from its storage belly up through the auger and shoots it into the wagon attached to Diane’s tractor. All of this is done while both the combine and tractor are still moving and while the combine is still cutting, gathering, threshing and winnowing more corn. Diane and Kory have to move in perfect synchronization. Otherwise, the corn won’t make it into the wagon.
I was more than a little nervous watching all of this activity from the tractor, it must have been something about chopping, loud noises, and fast moving blades…
After a few passes through the fields, we left Kory and Diane to continue working.
From the Field to the Dryer
Kory and Diane’s work doesn’t end until late in the evening. As each wagon is filled, Diane drives it over to a waiting tractor trailer where the corn is transferred into the truck’s bed. The truck is then driven a few miles down the road to a farm where Kory has grain bins. Each bin has a different job.
At the bins, the corn is lifted from the truck bed by a grain auger more than two stories and dropped into a holding bin. A giant auger then transfers the corn from the holding bin in measured batches into a dryer. The dryer is the size a large car garage. Depending on the moisture content of the corn, the dryer can be heated up to 160 degrees Farenheit. Kory said the moisture in this season’s corn was low so he didn’t have to do as much drying as he normally would, which is good. Corn needs to be dried so it can be safely stored until it goes to market, about six months. The drying time usually takes one to four hours per load. It smelled like popcorn while we were standing near the dryer.
Farming: A Lot Affects Profitability
Farming has many elements that affect profitability: weather, insects, Dennis Rodman, drying, and even international trade fluctuations to name just a few. My parents said they really admire farmers because of their work ethic and how they’re able to ride the waves of investment returns and losses year after year.
After the corn is dried it is transferred again through an auger to a holding bin until it cools. Once it’s cooled, it’s stored in a large grain bin until it goes to market. And now you know as much about corn farming as I do!
Feed for Cows
Oh, one last thing I forgot to tell you. After the corn is harvested by the combine, whatâs left lying on the field is either chopped, spread on the field and plowed back in or baled for bedding and feed for livestock, like cows.
Woof! Leave me a comment!
Tell me about your farm experiences! What kind of combine have you used? Was I accurate in how I described the corn harvesting process?