Warm weather helps farmers push through harvest after snow, rain delay

Mother Nature gives farmers 10 days of warm, dry winds

Unseasonably warm weather has given some Prairie farmers a second chance to finish a harvest that was delayed because of snow.

"We're done!'' said Murray Taks, who farms near Crossfield, Alta., northeast of Calgary.

"We got done about 10 days ago and then we went and helped a neighbour out and he just got done (Monday).''

It's a big change from October when fields were saturated and combines were halted across Saskatchewan and Alberta because of rain and snow.

At the time, Taks said he hadn't been out in the field for at least 10 days. He only had half of about 2,400 hectares of crop off—mostly wheat and barley—but his canola was still out and it was wet.

Some neighbours weren't even that far along, he said in mid-October.

But Taks said Tuesday that Mother Nature finally stepped in and gave farmers 10 days of what they needed—some warm, dry winds.

"I think pretty well everybody's wrapped up. There might be the odd one that has a little bit (left), but the neighbours all got together and helped each other out. I think everybody's in good shape now.''

Taks said the days were long, with combines lighting up the fields well after dark.

He's feeling better now though.

"I can sleep again for a while,'' he laughed. "It's a big relief because ... I don't think you'll ever see another November like this that'll give you a second chance like that to get it done.''

The Alberta crop report said that about 81% of crops had been harvested as of Nov. 6.

In Saskatchewan, the last weekly crop report issued at the end of October said 82 per cent of the crop had been combined—well below the five-year average of 99 per cent.

Shannon Friesen, a crop specialist with Saskatchewan Agriculture, said the warmer weather could push that number closer to 90 per cent when a final report is released Nov. 24 to capture any additional harvest progress and summarize the crop year.

"Things have been much slower than normal, but we're just thankful that we can actually be out in the field now,'' Friesen said Tuesday.

She said the northeast grain belt, around Melfort and Tisdale, is still pretty wet so equipment can't get in.

Don Williams, who farms in Lanigan, Sask., started harvesting Aug. 22, but didn't finished until last Wednesday. He had three neighbours show up and ask for help Saturday morning and was combining at a neighbour's place on Tuesday.

"It's just beautiful harvest weather in November. It's unbelievable actually,'' said Williams.

Williams says this is only the third time in his 33 years of farming that he's harvested in November.

It was slow and painful, he said. Only about one-third of the crop was dry, so he's dried about 130,000 bushels of grain so far and has another 60,000 to go. It costs about $1,200 every other day to fuel the grain dryer and that's been going for a month, he said.

Williams said the damp weather also pushed down the crop, making it tougher to get off. That can damage the equipment.

"We're having to basically shave the ground to get the grain off ... We put a few rocks through the combine and lots of propane through the grain dryer now.''

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