How’d Harvest Go? Get the Details HERE!


Northern Ag Network country may not be known for its diversity in people or for its people altogether.  However, two things that we do have a wide variation in are weather and our agricultural production.  This year has turned out two be a challenging year in both aspects.  To highlight the agricultural trials and tribulations that was and is 2011, we are using the week of September 12th to highlight aspects of this year’s harvest. 

Day 1 – Wheat

While much of our region’s spring wheat harvest is behind us, the national spring wheat harvest still has a small ways to go.  According to numbers out Monday afternoon from the USDA, 81{e7e4ba4d9a3c939171d79cae1e3a0df1d41e5a91c3c4158fbb92284b490bc9d3} of the nation’s spring wheat has been harvested. 

Kenny Tremain is the President of the Wyoming Wheat Growers Association and grows dry land winter wheat, hay and millet in southeast Wyoming.  His place is located just outside of LaGrange.  We spoke with him Sunday about this year’s winter wheat harvest.  He told us that, in part due to high humidity, he was about two weeks behind normal getting that harvest in.


He says he was pretty close to average and let us know what he heard from the rest of the WY Wheat Growers Board.

Due to a hailstorm, Kenny says that he got a jumpstart on this year’s seeding.  That storm chopped up a lot of the wheat stubble so he planted a few weesk early to get the wheat on the ground to hold it. 

Bing Von Bergen, along with being the Second Vice President for the National Association of Wheat Growers, is a farmer in central Montana.  Bing and his family call Moccasin home.  We spoke with him late Sunday evening after he’d been out in the field getting some work done and after he’d also taken in the Montana State University Bobcat football game in Bozeman.


He says that he’s heard of a lot of variation in Montana’s wheat crop and explained that he’d had a lot of disease pressure.

Bing said that the sawfly problem wasn’t as bad as he’d expected it would be.  He did buy a swather and swathed some of his recrop winter wheat.  He had that swathed before the sawfly took it and, as a result, the wheat yielded about 10 acres per bushel more than the fields that hadn’t been swathed.

The picture below was taken by Tara (Schedel) Pattison of their wheat harvest near Glasgow.


Day 2 – Pulses

While once thought of as more of a specialty crop, the pulses are not only grabbing hold in Montana and North Dakota, but increasing in acreage dramatically. 

Shannon Berndt is the Executive Director for the Northern Pulse Growers Association.  She told us this week that Montana and North Dakota make up 84{e7e4ba4d9a3c939171d79cae1e3a0df1d41e5a91c3c4158fbb92284b490bc9d3} of the total U.S. production in lentils and 86{e7e4ba4d9a3c939171d79cae1e3a0df1d41e5a91c3c4158fbb92284b490bc9d3} of the U.S. production for peas.  While most of the pulse crops in the region have already been harvested, the chickpea harvest will start in the next two weeks to a month.


Looking at the year in retrospect, she explained that North Dakota had its struggles but Montana did pretty well.

Shannon says that lentil acres in Montana have more than doubled in the last two years.  They expect to continue to see that acreage grow as more farmers see the benefits of rotating with a pulse crop.

Day 3 – Sugarbeets

On the heels of a couple of record years, it doesn’t take that poor of a sugarbeet crop to be a touch worse than what we’ve become used to.  There are several pockets of great sugarbeet ground in our region and, regardless of where those pockets are, this year turned out to be about the same for everyone as cool weather early on set them back.

Steve Sing is the General Manager at Sidney Sugars, Incorporated in Sidney, Montana.  He tells us that along with the cool weather at the beginning of the growing season, they were also struggling with flooding along the Missouri and Yellowstone River.  Overall, they planted just shy of 30,000 acres this year.  They’ll start taking beets on the 30th of September and they hope to start the factory on October 1st.


Steve gave us an overview of this year’s growing season.

In Western Sugar’s area, the same cool weather plagued the beets with a slow start.

Randall Jobman is the North Country Agricultural Manager for Western Sugar.  He tells us that in the Billings and Lovell areas, they will get underway with harvest on October 2nd.  A short, early harvest will begin in Lovell on September 26th and regular harvest will get underway on October 2nd.

Randall gave us an overview of the growing season on Wednesday and let us know what they are expecting to see in this year’s beets.

Jerry Darnell is with Western Sugar around Torrington, Wyoming and Scottsbluff, Nebraska.  Even towards the southern end of our listening region, he too struggled with cool temperatures to start out the growing season.  He says that they’ll start early harvest on September 26th and regular harvest will start on October 6th. 


Jerry told us what they are expecting out of the harvest.

While there are still a few conventional sugarbeet fields out there, Jerry, Randall and Steve all told us that the vast majority (over 99{e7e4ba4d9a3c939171d79cae1e3a0df1d41e5a91c3c4158fbb92284b490bc9d3}) of the beets being grown in our region were Roundup Ready.

Day 4 – Hay

As we continue on with this week’s Harvest Week, we’re talking about something that our region has been pretty blessed with this year – hay. 

Dr. Dennis Cash is an Extension Forage Specialist at Montana State University.  He told us that 2011 was another banner year for forage production.  He said that in 2010, the acreage harvest and production was up about 15{e7e4ba4d9a3c939171d79cae1e3a0df1d41e5a91c3c4158fbb92284b490bc9d3} over the 10-year average and expectations are that we’re up another 2-3{e7e4ba4d9a3c939171d79cae1e3a0df1d41e5a91c3c4158fbb92284b490bc9d3} this year.  With good supplies at home and good demand elsewhere in the U.S., it could be an opportunity for folks in our region to make a few bucks.

Dennis outlined his suggestions for selling hay.

If you do have any questions for Dennis, you can always give him a call at (406) 994-5688.

Ed Blair has a place just north of Sturgis, South Dakota and operates about 5,000 acres.  He and his family grow both alfalfa and grass for hay and market between 300 and 350 commercial bulls per year.  While Ed and his family feed all they hay they put up plus buy some more, he told us they’ve seen a lot of trucks bringing hay from the area down to the drought-stricken southern plains this year. 


He gave us an idea of how 2011 was for hay in western South Dakota.

They did spray for grasshoppers between their first and second cutting and, while there are still some around, Ed says they aren’t as thick as he’d thought they’d be.

Day 5 – Barley

To round out our harvest week and head into the weekend, barley is now our focus!

Kim Falcon is the Executive Vice President for the Montana Wheat and Barley Committee.  She tells us that interest worldwide in our barley has increased this year more than they could have ever expected.  Along with having five new barley shuttle facilities coming into the state of Montana this year, she says the trade teams have doubled over the past couple of years.


According to Kim, roughly 80{e7e4ba4d9a3c939171d79cae1e3a0df1d41e5a91c3c4158fbb92284b490bc9d3} of Montana’s barley had been harvested as of Friday and she outlined some of the highs and lows thus far.

She says that they are hoping that most of the barley crop will make grade and be sold to national beer companies or local malting facilities.

Thanks for taking part in this year’s first ever harvest week!  Feel free to add your own 2011 harvest experience in the comment section below.

© Northern Ag Network 2011

Haylie Shipp 


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