Short harvest window creates safety concerns for farmers

Published: Oct. 6, 2019 at 4:41 PM CDT
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This year is now the fifth wettest year on record for Wisconsin after last week's rainfall. Farmers are seeing the impact in their fields, with heavy mud and a delayed harvest meaning added pressure that could create safety issues.

"This is the worst fall I have ever seen it, ever. As a matter of fact, probably the worst year as far as rainfall," said James Juedes, a dairy farmer in Ringle.

Juedes runs a 60 cow dairy farm. This year, he's also running a race against time.

"So many different factors make it more costly to get your crops off in situations like this. And the thing is, they have to get off, you can't wait."

When weather is wet for long stretches during the harvest, farmers need to rent heavier equipment with bigger chains to pull the equipment through thick mud. Juedes said the bigger equipment is expensive, heavy and hard to work with.

"Harvesting is being delayed every day we get these rains. There’s a narrow harvest window, and the more days you can’t be out harvesting, that window gets tighter and tighter. So there’s a lot of rush,” said Ken Schroeder, an agricultural agent for UW-Madison Extension in Portage County.

Which creates added stress to the work.

“You’re pulling the tractor through the mud, it’s really easy to slip and fall. And chains are breaking. It’s bad enough anyhow that you’re working with equipment that can kill you in an instant if you make the wrong step, but when you throw the mud and the conditions we’re working with in it, it just exacerbates the situation,” Juedes said.

"You just rush and you don't always stop and think," Schroeder said.

That rush kicked in when rain let up Friday night-- so Juedes and his family worked all night.

"It was an opportunity to we had, and a window to do it, so we had no choice,” he said.

The loss that comes with a harvest season like this one is not easy to calculate.

"You really can't put it into numbers. It's just mental fatigue and the loss, I mean it's not going to be just right now, it's going to be in the future by less milk production because you have lower quality crops,” said Juedes.

"Pray for us, because we need it," he said.

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