David and Prue O’Neill have 16 tractors and 10 trucks driving their Central Otago business, David O’Neill Contracting Ltd. They include eight Massey Ferguson and seven Fendt tractors, all from JJs Timaru.
David O’Neill Contracting is based at Omarama and with their fleet of tractors they provide a full range of services including cultivation, baling, silage, direct drilling and mulching. At the height of the season they employ up to 22 staff.
David grew up on a farm in the North Island and his father always had Massey Ferguson, so naturally that was the first tractor he bought.
“I started contracting when I was 16. I had two tractors when I was still at school.”
Since then he’s owned more than 20 ‘Fergies’.
His oldest is a 2002 MF 8240. It’s 180hp and has worked 13,000 hours. “I keep it because it is a good old, simple tractor. I don’t use it much now, but it can do anything, and it’s a back up.”
Another Massey Ferguson they use as a back-up tractor is a 2008 MF 7495. It used to run the triple mowers, but now it tows a heavy roller and does some discing.
The newest is a 2015 MF 7618 with a Dyna-6 transmission. It spends most of its life pulling a four-rotor rake.
The three latest – the MF 7618 and two MF 7622 feature the latest SCR technology to cut exhaust emissions and improve fuel economy, and David says they are as fuel efficient as his Fendts.
He started buying Fendt tractors about 10 years ago. “They are supposed to be the best, so we trialled one and kept it for six years. Then we got another.”
For several years in a row he added one or two more to his fleet.
David says he likes the reliability and the comfort of his Fendt tractors, as well as the 50 kph road speed. His drivers travel up to 110 km to get to clients, so that road speed matters. And the Vario transmissions in the Fendt tractors make every job easier.
“Drivers generally stay with the same tractor, and adjust it to suit themselves. They also save the settings for particular implements.”
David O’Neill Contracting’s clients are mostly sheep and beef farmers with paddocks on the flats. The paddocks are usually quite large, which means David has wide implements such as a 5.0m direct drill. The heavy work is done with the four large Fendt tractors, which are 240hp-270 hp.
The oldest one is a 2010 Fendt 818.
“It does a bit of mulching, and we might chuck it on the square balers or the triple mowers. It runs the cultivator drill and it weighs 6.5 tonnes empty.”
Recent additions include a Fendt 824 and Fendt 927. The 927 runs the 5.0m direct drill for most of the year, putting in up to 3000 ha. During winter it switches to the 4.5m cultivator.
Hydraulic oil flow is 120 litres/min, which is more than enough for anything David needs.
“Three of our drills are air seeders and all have hydraulic fans. The fans can be going 14 to 16 hours a day and the Fendts handle all that hydraulic power as good as gold.”
Another plus is the comfort of Fendt cabs, which makes life easier for all drivers.
“Fendts have the most comfortable cabs out of all the tractors I have ever owned or driven. The 900 Series models are far superior with its independent front suspension. It is so good that you want to keep going,” David says.
“The cab is so quiet that when I ring the guys on the phone, it seems to be too quiet for them to be working.”
Three of the Fendt have SCR systems to reduce exhaust emissions and gain corresponding savings in fuel. “Our drill man goes three days on a tank.”
All of the Fendt tractors have front linkages, which are used to run the triple mowers, push-off stacker or for carrying front weights.
“You can drive a Fendt and not worry about the computer stuff and settings. You just drive it like a manual car. It’s easy to get a driver started on them, and then teach them the fancy stuff later.
“They don’t need to know it at the beginning. You don’t need to be an astronaut to drive a Fendt. I am still learning about them and guys driving them three years or more are still discovering new things they can do,” David concludes.
With the introduction last winter of the new world-class Massey Ferguson 4700 Series tractors, the industry finally has a utility tractor designed for heavier and larger implements, draft work and demanding applications that require more strength and power.
Now, Massey Ferguson is once again turning heads with the new 4700 Series cab, which was introduced just a few months ago. “This will offer greater comfort and extended use to many more customers who operate in less-than-ideal conditions,” says Warren Morris, AGCO tactical marketing manager, under 100-HP tractors. “Compared to other utility tractor cabs in the industry, it is not only larger, but even quieter.”
The new cabs feature a design based on larger-model tractors. The result is a utility tractor with mid-range comfort. As proof, the 4700 Series cab boasts 96.4 cubic feet of cab volume, compared to 89.2 cubic feet from one of the tractor’s major competitors.
In addition, Morris explains, the 4700 Series cab registers a quiet 75 decibels, which is actually lower than the average telephone dial tone. “A quieter cab and roomier operator environment equates to less fatigue at the end of a long workday,” he says.
The new cab will be available in two versions—Classic and Deluxe. Both will offer unmatched visibility and a console that conveniently groups all major controls on the right-hand side of the operator’s seat. However, the Deluxe version also includes a mechanical swiveling seat with armrests, a tilt and telescopic steering column, internal mirror, telescopic large side mirrors, and a rear wiper and washer. Options on both versions include an instructor seat and front fenders that pivot with the front wheels.
“With the introduction of a brand-new utility series in the 4700 Series and the update of our existing utility offering in the 4600M Series, Massey Ferguson now covers the utility tractor market more comprehensively than any other competitor,” Morris concludes.
For more information on the Massey Ferguson 4700 Series tractors or the new 4700 Series global cab, see your nearest Massey Ferguson dealer or visit online at masseyferguson.us.
Butch Gist and Marvin Davis are something of a dynamic duo. Together, they own D&G Chopping, a silage harvesting and packing operation, and run the latter’s family business, Gist Farms, a conglomeration of trucking, rail, equipment repair and farming.
Having worked together for 40-plus years, the two have weathered the ups and downs that buffet any business. Having experienced it in the fast-paced, topsy-turvy environment that is California agriculture, it has at times seemed more like a super roller-coaster ride, complete with barrel rolls and loop-de-loops.
They’ve seen business models and farms come and go. Yet, they’ve adapted and survived, even thrived. “We’ve seen a lot of changes in farming,” Davis says. “But we’ve found our way … found a way to adapt as the business changed.”
For instance, some 20-plus years ago, dairies began replacing many row-crop operations in California’s Central Valley. Running a custom harvesting operation, Davis and Gist realized they needed to change their focus, too. “The dairy industry just exploded in our area,” Davis says. “They were moving everything over to chopping, to silage. By the end of that first season, we had three new choppers … and basically a new business.”
D&G Chopping was born. “That was 25 years ago,” continues Davis, “and since then we’ve begun packing that silage for our customers, and all along watching for other opportunities.”
Yet, one of their secrets to success is not jumping into new ventures too quickly. Another is finding the right partners, which Davis and Gist say they have in many facets, including their choice of AGCO and their Challenger MT955E. They use the latter in packing silage and are extremely happy with its comfort, fuel efficiency, durability and power.
Another ingredient, says Gist: “It all goes back to the saying that I always felt was important: ‘The secret to success is putting your shadow on your business … across what’s going on.’ You just have to make sure you’re there watching and stay in touch.”
In popcorn parlance, “old maids” are kernels that fail to pop. Devoted fans of the Tiny But Mighty brand learn about that and other kernels of popped corn wisdom when Gene Mealhow promotes his product as “Farmer Gene” in Whole Foods stores and at events across the country.
While his family left farming in 1989 during the farm crisis, Mealhow got back into production agriculture in 1990. The fourth-generation farmer bought 33 acres of the family’s land—all that he could afford—near Shellsburg, Iowa.
“I wanted to farm,” he says, walking into the former farrowing house where Lynn, his wife, and Mark Kluber, his brother-in-law, are packaging corn. Gene’s sister-in-law, Lori Kluber, and niece, Ashley Arp, also work for the family popcorn business. The Mealhows’ four sons, with careers in other fields, love to come home and help out when they can, too.
“If I was going to be a successful farmer on my small acreage, I knew I had to do something different,” Mealhow continues, taking his leave of packing and walking to the cornfield in front of his home. At first, he says, he tried growing tofu beans and herbs. “I went cold turkey not using chemicals and failed miserably,” he admits, chuckling. He eventually settled on “biologically based” growing methods, focusing on soil nutrients and soil balancing.
In addition to the 33-acre homestead Mealhow cultivates, “We have four contract farmers,” he says, all within a 75-mile radius, which allows Mealhow to be on hand during planting and harvest. On his acreage, Mealhow uses a 300 Massey Ferguson® combine, as well as an Allis Chalmers 185 tractor, both of which Mealhow says are wonderfully reliable.
The crux of Tiny But Mighty’s sales comes from retail outlets, such as Whole Foods Market, Fareway and Hy-Vee stores. “Most big popcorn companies are selling 10 million pounds of popcorn a year,” he says. “Our goal is to hit between 2 million to 3 million pounds this year. So in the world of popcorn, we are teeny tiny.” He adds, “But we’re growing.”
With wet conditions impacting much of the corn and soybean-producing areas of Minnesota and Iowa, it has been tough to perform effective tillage. However, last week, the clouds parted for a few days and gave way to fair tillage conditions before the rains returned. During this time, I took the New Sunflower 6830 High-Speed Rotary Finisher for a trip across 230-bushel corn planted in the 36,000 to 39,000 plant population. I was very impressed with the tool’s performance in both sizing and mixing residue.
The corn was harvested using a chopping corn head. Highest-yielding corn was in the range of 240 bushels with an average yield of 203. Row spacing was planted on 30-inch rows. Very soft field conditions were present during harvest leaving ruts 4 to 6 inches deep where the harvester and grain cart was run. Operating speed of the tool was at 11.5 mph. The depth of the 6830 was set and checked at 4 inches. The width of this unit was 29 feet. 11.5 mph x 29 feet = 333.5/8.25 = 40.43 acres per hour. The Sunflower 6830 was pulled with a Challenger 855E tractor, which burned 17 gallons per hour during this operation.
I took a 5-foot by 6-foot area and painted it with marker paint to give a visual of the chopping, sizing and mixing the residue mat left on the soil surface.
In the above picture, you can see the extraordinary job the Sunflower 6830 did in chopping, sizing and mixing the residue mat. In some areas of the country, this single pass will provide a sufficient job in allowing the residue to be broken down prior to the next planting season. Although difficult to see, this picture was taken directly in the wheel track seen in the first picture of the painted residue. Not only were the residue and soil mixed, but also completely leveled a 4-inch rut left by the combine.
These pictures show the tool’s ability to manage the root mass that is left and needs to be managed before further tillage or planting the next crop. Not only are we managing the surface residue, but also the below-surface residue. The sooner we can start the incorporation of this residue with the soil and its many helpful microorganisms, the faster that residue can start the decomposition process.
I’m lucky enough to run several of these Sunflower tools. Sunflower 6830 High-Speed Rotary Finisher is one of the only tools that can prepare a seedbed in the spring by leaving a level seedbed to plant into. It can also perform the act of residue management in the fall and succeed at both.
AGCO Product Specialist
I studied agronomy at South Dakota State University. I have several years of experience working with students, growers and my own family farm to develop practices that work in the real world.
Currently, I cover territories in Minnesota and Iowa for the AGCO Corp working on several projects related to the 2017 AGCO Crop Tour. In addition, I have been working with several of the new tools that AGCO has brought to market in the past 12 months; the White Planter 9800VE Series and the Challenger 1000 Series.
Visit http://agcocropcare.com/ for more information.