Sunday, August 14, 2011

Pictures of Wheat Farming in Kazakhstan

My friend and colleague Al Scholz (A Well Fed World) sent me these pictures and said I could share them with my blog readers.
1000 ha (2500 acre) fields

1980's hoe press drills and tractors are still common in Kazakhstan

Al in the tractor cab much to the dismay of farm Agronomists.  Agronomists don't drive tractors
The farm Al worked at had 16 combines, 6 Claas and 10 Russian built

Claas combines could thresh double the Russian built harvesters
Russian built combines hard at work fall 2010

These were built in Kostanai from the name on one of them

Al ran the combine too

They certainly look more modern than the old Don with the strawbuncher built onto the back

Al also wrote the following:

Russian Combines
I didn’t see any new or modern Russian combines close up, although there were some around. There are mostly old Russian combine types used by both large and smaller farmers – from the pre-1990 era – at least 4-5 different makes (and colours) from my recollection.

The large agri-holdings seemed to prefer European (Western) combines but that may be partly due to the marketing and in-field service offered by JD and Class (relatively good service). My opinion is that none of the current Russian equipment is up to par with the European (Western) farm equipment. And, the agri-holding companies have the money to buy expensive western equipment – and my recollection is that Russia was trying to sell Russian equipment at Western prices, which put them out of the picture.

 Russian Farm Equipment Manufacturers
I do not know how many Russian companies are producing combines or other large farm equipment. I could find out but it would take a couple of emails with reps in Europe and some Internet search time. My hunch is that there’s many more manufacturers coming on stream these days to capture the expanding wheat production – and catch up to the 20 years of NOT replacing farm equipment. Let me know what you need.

Number of Combines in a 800-1,000 ha field
The two largest fields on the farm I worked on were about 800 ha. (2,000 acres). The managers wanted even larger fields. The average was closer to 300 ha (750 ac) with some smaller and some larger fields. Usually there would be 4 or 5 combines on an average 300 ha (750 ac) field and 3-4 large trucks hauling the grain long distances. It would take about 2-3 days to complete a field, which is seemed to be about normal because there were cook/kitchen trailers with water tanks that followed the combine crews and seemed to “set-up” for about three days for each location.
There seemed to be groups or crews of 25-35 people on shifts to operate 4 or 5 combines and 3-4 trucks along with service people, etc., etc. That appears to be the number that the cook/kitchen trailers could easily serve. These people would move from field to field as a unit group or field crew.

Note that same crews operated the 4-5 Russian seeding units for same fields. It required about the same number of service people to bring seed and fertilizer out to the fields as the harvest scenario’s.

Note that in any given field using Russian seeders or combines, it was rare to see them all moving at the same time. Usually one unit was down for repairs. Part of the reason is the age of the equpment – part was the speed of the repair staff as there were usually no tools and no spare parts – but they were masters at manufacturing their own spare parts – but it was slow and time consuming.

Note that the European/Western combines harvested roughly twice as quickly (twice the capacity) as the older Russian combines. The farm I was on had six Claas combines and only once did I see all six on a single field. It was a flax field. Normally the Claas worked in two groups of three machines – often with a couple of Russian combines with three Claas.


  1. An interesting explanation of the process. I'm not surprised by the challenges with Russian combines; age and technology are both problems.

  2. Looks like flat prairies similar to here and it sounds like similar climate.

    Pass on a happy birthday greeting to Tanya from Elaine and I.


  3. Recently watched an episode of the BBC show 'Top Gear' in which they mounted a plow on a combine and took it to Norway to plow snow. It worked pretty good, but as usual the guys managed to screw things up. They did open a road that had been closed for the winter and hadn't been plowed.

  4. It will be interesting to see when the day comes when all of this will be done remotely. That all a farmer will have to do is monitor the process on a computer screen. I do see that day coming with GPS, lazer guidance systems etc. They now have a lawnmower that will do just that with no human assistance.

  5. Satellite monitoring, GPS and laser guidance systems will make these huge farms management competitive with small hands-on units. After several years of data, the computer will know every square meter of every field. Inputs will be adjusted automatically on the go to optimize productivity, reducing fertilizer and pesticide/herbicide usage even further, putting exactly what is needed where it is needed. Hard to imagine.


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