Busy Central Otago contractor David O’Neill has a fleet of eight Massey Ferguson and seven Fendt tractors, but tractors are not the only AGCO machinery his business runs. He also has four Massey Ferguson square balers and a Massey Ferguson telehandler.
David O’Neill Contracting Ltd is based at Omarama and offers a range of services from baling, to spreading to cultivation and direct drilling.
His newest big square baler is a Massey Ferguson 2250 TPC bought last season. It’s his fourth MF baler, and it makes 875mm x 880mm bales.
The TPC stands for tandem (axle) and packer cutter. This is the first baler David’s had with a packer cutter. Instead of a rotor feeding the crop into the chamber it has a packer.
David says a rotor works fine for round balers because they need a continuous flow of crop, but a square baler packs in the grass, compresses it, and then picks up more crops. Therefore it works better without a continuous flow.
“A rotor does a beautiful job when conditions are perfect, but not so good when you are outside the window. A packer copes better with variations in a crop.”
David likes the simplicity of his MF balers. “It’s a nice simple baler. If anything goes wrong, it’s easy to fix. Some of the European balers have fancy drive shafts and clutches and are more complicated with more things to go wrong. We like to keep things simple up here.”
For 90 percent of its life the MF 2250 TPC makes baleage from grass or lucerne. It does a tiny bit of straw and hay and all up makes about 10,000 bales per season.
The operator sets the bale density from the cab, but other than that the baler sorts itself out. It beeps when it has tied the bale and beeps as it is ejected.
Square balers aren’t renowned for their stability, but the tandem axle makes a big difference. “The tandem is really good. It sticks to the side of the hill better. We pull the MF 2250 with a Fendt 818.”
David also has an older model MF 2150T baler. It is packer baler with no cutter.
“It’s a good simple baler and easy to operate. This last year it was on straw duty and made about 3000 bales.”
Another recent piece of kit is the Massey Ferguson telehandler that David bought in autumn 2015. He already had two telehandlers, which he used to load the wrapper and fert trucks, but the workshop boys also wanted one.
A salesman from JJs in Timaru dropped off the MF 9407S telehandler for them to try and it never left. Its main job now is loading the bale wrapper during the season, while one of the older telehandlers is busy unloading trucks at the workshop and any other lifting job required in a busy workplace.
The MF 9407S is 130hp with a max lift of 3.5 tonnes up to 7.0m. It has hydrostatic transmission with two speed ranges – paddock and road.
There are three ways to steer it: two wheel, four-wheel steer and crab. Most of the time David and his crew have it in four-wheel steer for easy manoeuvring, but occasionally in tight spots it’s in crab to go sideways.
It has plenty of safety features with a roll over cab roof and protection from falling items. It has a series of lights on the dash indicating safe position for the load. If a load is approaching a dangerous position, the lights approach the red, and the driver has time to change their mind.
David has bought all his AGCO equipment from JJs Timaru. He says it is actually hard to judge the quality of the back-up service JJs provides as nothing seems to go wrong with their products.
“They rarely come out here as we don’t seem to need it. But when we bought something completely different, like the telehandler, then they came out to show us all the things on it.”
Come fall, you’ve put in almost a year’s worth of toil and sweat to reap a plentiful harvest. When that time comes, the next thing on your (or any farmer’s) mind is the crop residue left behind.
As efficiency in farming techniques have increased, production and stalk size have as well. Such a plentiful result leaves similarly plentiful stover. Managing stover and maintaining yields in subsequent harvests is becoming more and more challenging. Farmer has to manage their own residue, and it is a tedious and inefficient process presently. Too much stover can limit seed choices, require more tillage, limit planting populations, affect plant emergence, require increased spraying, and most importantly, hinder grain yield.
There is, however, another way to channel the byproducts of your harvest, which can not only benefit you financially but, can also contribute to the health of your fields, livestock, and subsequent harvests.
Those seemingly lifeless leaves and stalks, your stover, left languishing in your field after the previous harvest could become quite valuable as processes of energy conversion, feedstock, and a great many other applications continue to improve.
As innovations to handling, baling, and converting stover become more and more viable, it’s important for farmers to stay on the cutting edge of these developments for the future.
But you may have heard such practices, while allegedly profitable, can harm soil and cause issues to crop yields.
Years ago that may have been the case. Lighter corn yields meant less stover and less likelihood for problems. Soil damage and erosion are a constant concern. But we have learned that in many cases, the benefits of pulling some of the stover from the field are far from detrimental.
The science has improved significantly. It’s been shown that it is beneficial to remove some of the stover from the field. Not to mention in an agricultural climate where global surpluses have left many crops (particularly corn) at prices well below that of production, finding another means of income is vital.
But what are we really talking about? It’s simple, really. Plant and harvest as you always would. The same way you, and your father, and grandfather before him did. Following the harvest, however, you need only collect and densely bale the remaining stover. And if that sounds daunting, that’s where AGCO’s Biomass Solutions team can help you get it done.
Then of course comes the question – “What exactly do you do with it?” There are a number of companies that can utilize and add value to your stover. One such company that removes and bales densely packed stover is Pellet Technology USA (PTUSA). They convert the baled stover into feed pellets for your livestock, high in fiber, protein, energy and other nutrients essential to a healthy diet. These pellets provide a necessary source of food, with a key ingredient from the residue residing in your fields.
These feed pellets provide options for overwintering beef cowherd and/or ration inclusion in starter, grower and finishing rations.
Stover can also be converted to energy pellets. These “power pellets” are then sent to biorefineries for conversion into biofuels, particularly ethanol. There is currently a growing demand for such pelleted residue to produce these fuels, as the market for alternative fuel sources continues to grow.
When weighed against all factors, residue management will become a necessary step farms must take to remain profitable and healthy in today’s precarious agricultural climate.
And as innovations and processes for stover removal, baling, and conversion continue, more and more companies will join this movement to give farmers the necessary incentives to consider selling their ag residue.
The stover is there. Now we must develop the infrastructure to catch up.
We mentioned PTUSA above as one of the industry leaders in stover removal, dense baling, and pelleting. Next time we’ll be venturing more into what is done, the marketplace, and how farmers will greatly benefit from the services they provide.
Stay tuned for that post in the coming weeks.
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.”