Craig Holm likes to mix things up on his farm in Southern Minnesota. Raising corn and beans on about 2,500 acres, he also runs a custom application business—last year spraying about 10,000 acres—and finishes about 9,000 hogs each year on contract.
Holm, 45, says he’s diversified in part because he saw opportunities, but also because he figured commodity prices would eventually soften. “It’s just the cycle,” he says, a lesson, along with many others, he learned from his father, who was also a farmer, as well as his mother, Sally, who still works with him on a semi-retired basis.
Those lessons have served as a foundation, Holm says, upon which he’s added new technologies and practices. For instance, he injects into the soil some 1 million gallons of hog manure from his finishing operation. As a result, he says he gets about 15 to 20 bushels more of corn per acre than if he’d used conventional fertilizer.
Holm has also re-introduced an older method of planting beans—with a grain drill. With the beans planted closer together, he says, “we get the canopy on, so weeds can’t push through, they don’t come up … and 99% of the fields are picture-perfect clean.” He got some 5 bushels more per acre this past harvest as compared to recent years not using the grain drill.
Holm is always looking for an edge, some new practice or technology that can help on his farm, but only those that offer a solid return. Another such leg up has been his Massey Ferguson® and other AGCO equipment.
“They’re second to nothing, that’s for sure,” says Holm, who runs a variety of Massey Ferguson machines, including a combine and three tractors. He also owns Sunflower, White Planters™ and a RoGator® from AGCO.
“The fuel efficiencies are amazing on these new machines,” he says, but without compromising on power and capacity. “These new engines are set up to use the power that they need, but the computers back them down,” says Holm, allowing the engine to run at optimum rpm and thereby reduce fuel consumption.
Speaking of his MF9560 combine, Holm says, “I couldn’t believe how fast we went through harvest last fall … for that combine to do a 300-acre day is really not even a hard day. It was so impressive.”
So much so that his two agronomy consultants, both of whom rode with him, as well as farmers who run other brands, declared it the best of the lot. “They said the other brands out there don’t compare.”
Holm is a willing but cautious adaptor of innovative machinery and other solutions. “I will use the technology if I think I can make it pay,” he says.
Imagine taking a brand-new tractor, worth tens of thousands of dollars, and purposefully trying to break it. That’s what the folks at the AGCO manufacturing facility in Jackson, Minn., do just about every workday.
It all happens at Jackson’s Quality Gate Five. The $1.97 million-facility can hold and check two tractors at once, one on the “jounce” and PTO testing station, and the other on a chassis dynamometer.
For the jounce test, a tractor’s rear wheels or tracks are positioned on pads that rock back and forth. This test is used to verify that there are no loose fittings, hoses or electrical connections. Afterward, the tractor is physically inspected to make sure nothing came loose as a result of the shaking, which is so violent no one is allowed to be in the cab.
While still at the first station, the PTO is tested at various speed and load levels, and its output measured across the rpm range. Each tractor is then moved to the second station and the chassis dynamometer. Here, a multi-roller bed is used to verify different functions like the steering, brake, transmission shift quality, DEF functionality and limited powertrain performance.
Six winches hold the tractors in place as they speed up to 33 mph and rev to as high as 400 HP. The dynamometer reads the engine rpm, what gear it’s in and how well it shifts, and when it shifts, how low the rpm goes.
“What we learn,” says Eric Fisher, the plant’s director of operations, “also affects what we do upstream.”
Overall, according to Fisher, the work in Gate Five takes about two hours, and includes 250-plus tests and the analysis of more than 150,000 data points. In just the first month of operation, the inspections, he says, “yielded a 25% reduction in defects, and that’s just a start.”
“Like its customers, AGCO doesn’t embrace technology for its own sake,” says Bob Crain, AGCO Senior Vice President and General Manager, Americas. “There must be a return on investment.”
The expansion and upgrades at the Jackson plant, as well as those throughout the company’s global facilities, offer just that, says Crain, “in the company’s relentless pursuit of its stated goal—to be No. 1 in customer-perceived quality.”
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In its heyday a century ago, scores of horses were used to do dozens of jobs at Biltmore. Today, one utility tractor—with 99 HP—performs multiple jobs at one of the country’s most beautiful agricultural operations.
Biltmore has long been a Massey Ferguson® customer. Their small fleet includes Massey Ferguson tractors dating back 35 years. The nearly new MF4610 is the most recent jack of all trades making life easier in a diversified operation.
“Masseys are easy to operate and affordable to work on. They do the job,” says Kevin Payne, Biltmore’s farm manager. “The 1979 MF1100 is as strong as when it was new.” And he should know. Payne has worked at Biltmore since the year that MF1100 was purchased.
Payne loves the smooth but powerful shuttle transmission on the MF4610. At Biltmore, Payne and crew can be hauling cattle feed in the morning, cutting thick sudangrass by afternoon and moving rolling chicken coops by evening.
“The shuttle transmission is really nice when you are picking up feed pallets or baling, then loading hay,” says Payne. “It is a whole lot quicker doing anything where you are moving from forward to reverse frequently.”
The MF4610 does it all with a 3-cylinder engine that generates torque as well or better than comparable 4-cylinder engines. “I use this tractor to disk ground, and it moved through the field like the disc wasn’t even back there.”