It’s just one of those talks that you have while you’re milking the cows,” says Todd Schnarr. “You know, ‘What do you want to do next?’” he recalls asking his dad and business partner. “‘Where do you think we’re going?’
“We were just way too overcrowded,” says Todd’s father, Murray. “We had to get these cattle moved into an area where they had a lot more freedom, a lot more space and a lot more cow comfort.”
The Schnarrs, who live and work near Alma, Ontario, found what they hoped would be a solution, consisting of two main parts, each working hand in hand with the other. One was a compost-pack barn that would give the cows the freedom to move about inside, which, in turn, would allow them to essentially milk themselves at the second part of this equation: a robotic milking system.
Pioneered in Europe some 20 years ago, significant numbers of dairies in Canada, and more recently the U.S., have begun installing robotics, also referred to as automatic milking systems (AMS). The robotic system the Schnarrs purchased cost them about $400,000. Even with a total cost of $1.7 million, including construction of the new compost pack barn, Murray and Todd hope the system will pay for itself—mainly in the form of increased yields and lower labor costs—in six to seven years from time of completion.
In addition to operating a dairy, Murray and Todd Schnarr run a custom hay cutting, raking and baling business. Farming a total of 550 acres, some of which is planted in cash crops, Todd says he and his dad don’t farm enough land for many new equipment purchases “to make financial sense. So we do custom work.”
That way, he says, he and his dad can spread the cost over multiple uses and “we can get top-quality equipment for our farm. I like helping neighbors, and this way it’s a win-win for us and for them.”
The “top-quality equipment” to which Todd refers is AGCO, including a Massey Ferguson® 8660 tractor, and a 2150 large square baler and 9770 windrower, both of which are Hesston® by Massey Ferguson. Todd says the fuel economy is excellent on the 9770 and MF8660, and the CVT transmission on the tractor makes “the equipment more efficient to run. You can get that exact mile per hour that you’re looking for. Half a mile an hour might not seem like much, but through a whole day or a week, you know you can get a lot of extra work done with that.”
In 2007, Ron and Diana Mellon erected a handsome cherry-red barn perched on a swath of neatly manicured land. The plan was to use the structure for machinery on their farm, where they run anywhere from 180 to 200 head of Angus-cross cattle, chop silage, rake hay, and raise corn and beans on their rolling 300 acres.
Those plans changed, however, when a couple approached Ron and Diana and asked if they could get married in the beautifully rustic structure. The Mellons’ “Yes” sparked a new venture on the couple’s Lawson, Mo., farm: a booming barn wedding business.
After management and production, land payments, equipment purchases and employing seasonal help, producers and their families often decide to seek out additional revenue streams. Sometimes, it may be agritourism or hunting leases, or even niche markets. The Mellons entrance into the weddings business was a wise one.
Overall, weddings are a whopping $54-billion-a-year industry in the U.S. alone, and $5 billion in Canada. Then, consider that the Bridal Association of America reports 47% of all 2012 weddings were held outside of a church, 35% of which were outdoors. Barns can offer the warm, rustic charm and back-to-basics feel many [wedding] couples crave.
Mellon’s Banquet Hall officially opened for business in 2008. Diana’s already busy days on the farm became even busier. That new barn is now used for weddings, as well as birthday dinners, reunions and corporate retreats.
“We’ve had more than 200 weddings here, not including corporate dinners, birthdays and reunions,” says Diana, who works every event herself. She also hires seasonal employees to help, but laments, “It’s hard to find good help.”
Diana does have terrific help, however, coming from her granddaughters, who pitch in to help, while the Mellons’ grandsons assist Grandpa Ron on the farming side of things.
“The wedding business has become our income,” Ron says, adding that they have a big cattle sale coming up. Farming still remains the bedrock of family life, and, it should be noted, Massey Ferguson equipment helps the Mellons meet their typically tight schedule.
Most Saturdays, Diana can be found checking in with staff, directing photographers and guests, and soothing the jangled nerves of soon-to-be brides.
“Remember, you are working with brides, and trying to keep their stress level down is sometimes impossible,” she says. “When a bride asks, I always smile and never tell them something can’t be done. I just say, ‘Anything is possible; however, there may be a small upcharge.”
By Jacob Bates
6:00 AM: The alarm goes off for the first time.
6:45 AM: The alarm goes off for the fifth time.
8:07 AM: You find yourself in your classroom seat dreading the lecture you are about to receive, hoping that this isn’t the long awaited PowerPoint presentation that will lead to your demise.
9:24 AM: You find yourself slowly nodding off for your morning nap, the monotonous voice of your instructor providing a soothing tone that seems to induce a state of tranquility.
We all have fond memories of our mornings spent in the classroom from a young age, listening to the dull lectures where teachers and professors would dictate their intellectual knowledge to the students. (Well, maybe we tried to forget those parts.) But what we do remember are the exciting times when we got to actively engage in our learning and apply those seemingly boring theories in a hands-on environment. Those powerful learning opportunities allowed us to make use of intellectual concepts in a real world setting. In many cases the learning – or even the mistakes – that ensued was what stuck with us moving forward into our adult lives.
As adult learners, our learning process really isn’t much different than that of our youth. Recognizing these important educational concepts has helped AGCO’s Global Advanced Technology Solutions (ATS) Training team and other supporters within AGCO develop and implement a top-notch training platform for the agents at the Fuse® Contact Center. The Fuse Contact Center provides setup, calibration and operation assistance for customers using AGCO’s technology products. From the time an agent starts their role with the Fuse Contact Center, they are continuously educated. This begins with a solid foundation in the principles of Fuse Technologies products, AGCO’s machine and implements portfolio, and formal training in customer service skills.
Once this foundation has been laid, the agents take part in intensive field training activities where they have the opportunity to apply the concepts they’ve been learning in a real farming environment. As agents mature in their roles and areas of specialty within the group, the training continues to more advanced levels, allowing them to grow into the “expert” role for certain products that are supported. Back at the Fuse Contact Center the technologically advanced simulation systems allow the agents to maintain their skill level and provide the best support for customer calls.
Providing training in the field setting has been extremely rewarding. The constant level of enthusiasm and dedication that the agents show for Fuse Technologies is outstanding! They are always ready and excited to learn and apply new skills. This passion and product expertise has translated into world class customer service supporting operational, setup and calibration needs of customers using AGCO’s Fuse Technologies products – real people with real solutions, in real-time.
Jacob Bates is a Manager for AGCO’s Advanced Technology Solutions group, focusing on Global Service Training for Fuse Technologies. To learn more about the Fuse Contact Center, visit the Fuse website.
White haze filters the bright light around Freedom Hall in Louisville on the first night of the National Farm Machinery Show. Thousands of fans shout approval as 12,000-HP monsters drag a weight-transfer sled down a 245-foot dirt track on the arena floor. The sled weighs 15 tons when the tractor driver hooks up to it. By the end of the run, it weighs triple that. The modified tractors pulling that sled are burning more than 20 gallons of alcohol fuel in the eight-second trip.
“Call it the Super Bowl, the World Series, whatever,” says the event’s announcer, Dave Bennett, a former puller who was also the parts department manager at Livingston Machinery, the AGCO dealership in Chickasha, Okla., for 25 years. “It’s the only pull of its kind.” Eight classes of tractors compete over the four-day event, with preliminaries on the weeknights during NFMS and the finals on Saturday night.
“Run what you brung,” says four-time Louisville Grand Champion Joe Eder, “and hope you brung enough.”
Besides his own pulling prowess, Eder, now 43, is a renowned chassis builder (his customers count among them 21 Grand National championships) and he runs a two successful ag businesses—a custom harvesting enterprise and a mulch operation. And, when he’s in the field or atop a mountain of mulch, what brand of tractor does the power-hungry tractor-pull champ use? Massey Ferguson.
In fact, Eder has just taken delivery on two brand-new Massey Ferguson 8727s. In the mulch business, the MF8727 pushes material, and he uses it for mowing, merging and fieldwork in the custom harvesting business. “Going up the steep slopes of this mulch [mound] requires an immense amount of traction and power to ground,” Eder says. “And other ‘colors’ that don’t have this transmission, they’re not putting the horsepower to the ground, meaning there’s slippage.
“The CVT transmission and the horsepower in these big-frame tractors is the ultimate combination,” says Eder, who knows something about horsepower and chassis design. “It’s the same idea as 12,000 HP in the chassis design we produce” with Eder Motorsports, he says, which has built 92 pulling tractors for teams around the world. “I don’t care if one is 225 horse and another is 12,000 horse; you have to get it to the ground,” Eder says. “That’s where this transmission and motor combination is paying off.”
In recent posts, we shared our vision for the AGCO Future Farm concept, and in May we celebrated the official opening of our first Future Farm in Lusaka, Zambia. Today, we’d like to introduce one of the team members making this project successful: Farm Manager Richard Chapple.
Originally from the UK, Richard came to Zambia in November 2008 to visit family, but he was offered a job running a flight charter company and stayed. With a background as an agricultural contractor in the UK and experience sub-contracting combines in Zambia on behalf of a company called African Harvesters, he was a natural fit for AGCO and joined the Future Farm team in 2012.
Although every day on the farm is different, a typical morning for Richard starts at 7:30 a.m., when he has a meeting with his team of 32 workers. They allocate jobs based on what is planned for the day, from spraying programs to planting a variety of crops around the farm.
The Zambia Future Farm includes a state-of-the art facility designed to accommodate both small-scale and large commercial farmers, as well as education and training programs to provide hands-on experience with technology and utilize Africa’s agricultural resources more effectively. Chapple says this is reassuring to local farmers. “No matter what tractor you’re driving, it’s all about the support you’re receiving.”
Chapple has been involved with the Future Farm project since its inception in 2012, and he said the team experienced a great sense of achievement at the official launch on May 27. “In a small space of time, we’ve done a huge amount of work,” he said. “It’s like a jigsaw puzzle and all the pieces came together.”
What does Chapple find most rewarding about his job? “For me, it’s development, and not just of the farm itself,” he said. “When we took over the farm, we also took over the workforce that was here already. It’s the personal development of the workforce on the farm, the capacity building, and getting better relationships. I’ve learned a fair bit, as well.”
Zambia has huge potential in terms of resources to be tapped, and Chapple appreciates the opportunity to play a role the development of agriculture in the country. “I’m very excited and happy to be a part of it.”