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Custom proven

Multitudes of wheat growers, especially in West and North Texas, depend upon custom harvesters from Midwest states to dip down into Texas and harvest their wheat each spring.

After eight months of extreme drought throughout the growing season, some Texas producers just felt fortunate to need a custom harvester in Texas to cut wheat. That’s especially true when they could get a
top-notch harvester.

Key Points

Many Texas growers depend on harvesters from the Midwest.

Heinrichs Harvesting cuts wheat over a big part of nation.

Harvest equipment is costly, but it can cut a wheat field quickly.

Tommy Heinrichs of Davenport, Neb., is exactly that.

Heinrichs started his custom-harvesting business in 1973. Heinrichs Harvesting has grown ever since.

Skilled harvester

This year, Heinrichs was harvesting wheat for J.W. “Dub” Vinson of Vinson Farms, south of Abilene at Ovalo, Texas, using the new 2011 model John Deere 9770 combine with a 40-foot Macdon header. To watch that machine cut wheat with a veteran of 38 years custom-harvesting at the wheel is like watching poetry in motion.

“We feel so fortunate to have had a guy like Tommy,” says Sid Saverance of Vinson Farms. “He’s so precise and careful in the way he harvests wheat.”

But Heinrichs says the JD 9770, with its high-tech controls at his fingertips, makes his job pretty easy — a far cry from his start in 1973. Monitors tell him how much the wheat is yielding as he drives, plus a myriad of other details.

Heinrichs was using several such rigs in Texas, and had a crew with four machines running in California’s San Joaquin Valley.

Ironically, while he will custom-harvest wheat for others — heading close to Canada as harvest gradually progresses north throughout the summer — Heinrichs no longer grows wheat.

“We don’t raise wheat or milo [aka grain sorghum] anymore,” Heinrichs says. “Our area is all corn and soybeans now.”

Texas history

Heinrichs knows Texas, and he has made many friends over the years. “I’ve cut wheat about 25 years in the Wichita Falls area and now about 15 years coming to Abilene,” he notes.

With his 40-foot headers, Heinrichs can cut a lot of wheat quickly, especially ahead of a wild weather forecast — when a year’s investment in a crop can be on the line.

“We couldn’t be more satisfied,” says Saverance. “And Tommy is a great guy to visit with; he knows a lot about farming.”

Fewer custom-harvest crews come as far south in Texas as they did years ago. Big machinery is expensive, and fuel for combines and trucks is sky-high.

“Custom harvesters operate on a very tight profit margin,” Saverance says. “A lot of people don’t realize that.”

You can bet Heinrichs realizes that — all the way up the wheat trail.


HE KEEPS ROLLING: With his new 2011 model John Deere 9770 combine equipped with a 40-foot Macdon header, it didn’t take Tommy Heinrichs long to cut J.W. “Dub” Vinson’s wheat at Ovalo, Texas. Heinrichs Harvesting of Davenport, Neb., will cut wheat from West Texas all the way to near Canada by this fall, finishing in Montana.

This article published in the August, 2011 edition of THE FARMER-STOCKMAN.

All rights reserved. Copyright Farm Progress Cos. 2011.