Producers are encouraged to make important calculation to maximize returns

HUMBOLDT – Saskatchewan crop producers are being encouraged to make an important calculation to ensure they are maximizing their returns this harvest season.

Joel McDonald, program manager of Agricultural Development Services at Prairie Agricultural Machinery Institute (PAMI) in Humboldt, said knowing the rate of combine loss—the amount of crop that ends up on the ground after a pass—is key to making well thought out economic decisions about harvest.

“When you ask how much loss is acceptable, how many bushels per acre or what percentage of yield, there is no wrong amount,” said McDonald. “The error comes if you don’t know how much you’re losing or haven’t considered it.”

The problem is that checking for loss takes time and effort. “The best way to check for loss is to disengage the chopper and spreader to drop the residue in a windrow, and then drop or throw a loss pan under the combine while harvesting at a steady rate. Then, the operator or a helper needs to separate the dust, chaff and straw from the grain in the loss pan.”

The final step is to do a calculation to determine the bushels per acre, said McDonald. Multiplying the grain loss rate by total acres and commodity price could result in significant numbers. “It’s possible to lose over five bushels an acre so I recommend that you check for loss as you get into each crop each year. I’ve done these calculations and often the answer is a simple adjustment or slowing down.”

It is well documented that higher speeds result in higher loss, said McDonald, but going faster also means covering more acres per hour and fewer days to completion. Only by knowing the loss rate can a producer calculate, for example, whether it makes financial sense to slow down, recover more crop and invest that saving in an additional combine. “That’s where the economic decision comes in.”

McDonald said critical decisions about fleet operations are sometimes made by feel or tradition and not based on data. “A producer can make $20,000 from a good marketing decision but he could also make $20,000 from a good combining decision.”