Prepare early. It's no secret that harvest generally comes the same time every year, so plan ahead. Take a quick inventory of what you have and what you're going to need. Whether it's supplies, food, parts or tools - know what you have and get what you need before you need it. It's better to find and fix problems early as opposed to wasting time later and it's better to be over prepared than rushing at the last minute to make ends meet.
Take it to the field. There's nothing more frustrating than having to leave the field to retrieve parts or tools. Try to keep a supply of tools and spare parts somewhere with you in the field. Whether you have a full fledge service truck, or just a couple tool boxes, it will save many trips back to the shop throughout the day. It's a fact of life and harvest that things will, at some point, go wrong or break. Being prepared for those breakdowns and fixes will shorten the downtime and get you back to work faster.
Fuel the fire. Whether it's the combine tank or the operator's belly, both need nourishment to get the job done. Stay on top of your fuel supply if you have fuel delivered to your farm, allow plenty of time before you really need it. It's a busy time of year for them, too. Just like a machine, a harvester with an empty tank isn't worth much in the field, so make sure both are fueled up. Nourishing meals and snacks provide the energy needed for long days in the harvest field. In the summer heat, it's also important to stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water. A cooler stocked with cold drinks is put in the work truck everyday so it's always there and available.
Service time. Establishing a routine service for all machinery is a good habit to have. Whether in the morning or evening, set aside a time of day to look over the machines, fuel up and do some maintenance work. We try to keep everything clean inside and out and check all moving parts. Cleaning windshields and mirrors also makes it easier and safer for the driver to do their job.
Talk the talk. Whether your crew uses cell phones, two-way radios or some other means of communication, make sure it's ready to work hard. Have enough chargers or batteries to last the entire day and keep them with you. Keep a laminated phone directory in machines with emergency numbers, co-ops, repair shops and dealerships listed just in case. Try to make a game plan first thing in the morning so that everyone knows their task for the day and issues can be clarified then rather than all day long.
Capitalize on teamwork. If you have two or more people in the field, work together to get more done. The best combine operator is one who knows how to run a grain cart efficiently. Any time you can have a full grain cart at the end of the field where the truck is located makes the cart much more productive, it saves time and reduces field compaction considerably.
Consistency tops hurriedness. One major harvest blunder producers fall into is that haste often makes waste. Hastening harvest doesn't make things go faster; in fact that is when problems and accidents occur. Steady and consistent always wins over fast and furious at the end of the day; it also puts the most bushels in the bin. Just remember, it's not a race and there is not a prize for being the first one in the county to be done. Do it quickly, but do it right and safe.
Take a deep breath and relax. Most importantly producers need to remember to slow down and be safe. Taking short breaks throughout the day will aid in staying mentally alert while fighting off fatigue. It's a proven fact that more accidents happen when you are worn out or distracted. Think things through and be cautious, especially when moving machinery, both in the field and down the road. Harvest is the time when your hard work throughout the year pays off, so try to relax and enjoy it!
Written by Shelby Siegfried - Vice President, Marketing Manager